Even some of the largest proponents of blockchain agree that distributed ledger technology (DLT) is still in its early days, and its impact on the financial services market probably won’t be fully understood for some time.
Making it even more difficult to discern exactly how blockchain might shake up the industry is the fact that the vast majority of exploratory and experimental blockchain projects end up failing. Deloitte research released earlier this month found that only 8 percent of blockchain projects have actually seen some type of activity in the last six months. About 90 percent of blockchain projects that start on GitHub, researchers found, become idle and inactive within a year.
But there is a minority group of blockchain projects that move from proof-of-concept phase into beta testing, and some even onto the main stage of a working solution.
This week, some of the most high-profile blockchain projects have at least moved into the testing phase that so many initiatives fail to reach. In PYMNTS’ Blockchain Tracker, we take a look at the solutions that, against the odds, are on their way to becoming working services in the corporate finance space — along with a few that have already made it there.
Less than a year after announcing its collaboration with distributed ledger technology firm Ripple, India’s Axis Bank has revealed that its instant, international payments platform, developed using blockchain infrastructure, is now live.
The payments service is available to consumers and businesses, but is not quite far-reaching — yet: Consumers will have access to instant, international payments between India and the UAE via Axis Bank’s partnership with RAKBANK, while corporates now have access to the service for payments between India and Singapore via a partnership with Standard Chartered Bank.
According to Axis Bank President, Transaction Banking, Himadri Chatterjee, it seems the financial institution (FI) has its sights set on expanding the service as it focuses on streamlining cross-border payments.
“While there have been significant innovations in domestic payments, cross-border remittance has seen limited developments,” the executive said in a statement this week. “Using APIs and distributed ledger technology, there is an opportunity to radically change the way international payments are handled. We are excited with the potential the technology has to bring innovative services to the market and help us enhance value to our customers.”
Key to expanding the payments service will be added partnerships with other banks around the globe that must have similar faith in blockchain. Standard Chartered Bank Global Head, Digitization and Client Access, Transaction Banking, Guatam Jain said the FI holds that faith in DLT, too, especially when it comes to corporate global payments.
“The successful launch of our commercial cross-border payment service marks a significant milestone in the financial industry’s progress in applying distributed ledger technology for corporates,” Jain said.
Spanish bank BBVA, meanwhile, announced that its blockchain technology-based trade management service is now in pilot phase. The FI has developed a solution with blockchain company Wave to digitize letters of credit to accelerate global trade transactions. According to a BBVA announcement made this week, its solution can reduce the time it takes for companies to submit, verify and authorize a cross-border trade transaction from as long as 10 days to just 2.5 hours.
“The pilot we carried out with Wave represents a leap forward in improving the efficiency of international trade transactions,” said Patxi Fernández de Trocóniz, BBVA head of Global Trade & International Banking, in a statement. “The time it takes to manage the documentation was reduced to a process that lasted just a few hours, in which all parties — the banks, the importer and the exporter — were constantly aware of the status of the documents.”
The FI did not say when the project might move out of pilot phase, however.
It’s not just the major, traditional banks that are moving forward with their blockchain projects. California-based FinTech Remitware Payments revealed plans to launch MoneyOS, a mechanism to support cross-border B2B payments using blockchain technology. Financial institutions and other financial service providers can use the OS to develop their own cross-border payment solutions too.
According to news from Inc 42 this week, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Global Market center will be testing the solution during an upcoming graduation Progamme of RegLab, ADGM. Remitware didn’t say when it would take MoneyOS out of testing phase and onto the main stage. Still, with ADGM’s backing, the solution already has support for launch.
“ADGM is committed to supporting the development and deployment of FinTech solutions that have the potential to make financial services more accessible, affordable and secure,” said Wai Lum Kwok, executive director of Capital Markets at ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority in a statement this week. “We look forward to working closely with Remitware to test its innovative technology in a controlled and supervised environment.”
There is no guarantee that any one blockchain project will make it out of proof-of-concept phase and into beta testing and, eventually, to real-world launch. But one project that has a solid launch date is BnkToTheFuture, a digital marketplace that will enable accredited investors to bet on the blockchain projects and companies they believe will make it to market.
BnkToTheFuture is reportedly planning to launch its marketplace in the second quarter of 2018, reports in Bloomberg Technology said this week. Not only will it allow investors to back blockchain startups on its platform, but the platform itself is using blockchain technology to keep a ledger of investments for clients, reports said.
According to Chief Executive Officer Simon Dixon, there are high hopes for the marketplace.
“By year end, we could have 50 percent of major companies in the sector on our platform,” he told the publication.
It’s a lofty ambition, and, like all blockchain initiatives, one that may not be believed until it’s seen.
Yesterday (Nov. 27), reports also surfaced of a new blockchain project in the works. According to Reuters, open source blockchain network IOTA revealed plans to launch a digital data marketplace. The initiative sees major corporate names including Volkswagen, Samsung and Cisco participating, according to cofounder David Sønstebø. Germany-based IOTA plans to use the marketplace as a way to monetize data for companies across industries and promote “a free flow of data between entities,” the cofounder told the publication. While the IOTA network itself has been operational since 2016, IOTA did not reveal when its marketplace would launch.