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Despite Patent Push, BoA’s Own Tech Chief Doubts Blockchain

Bank of America is the largest investor in blockchain patents, but according to CNBC reports on Tuesday (March 26), the company’s own technology leader is herself skeptical of blockchain.

The publication said Bank of America tech and operations chief Cathy Bessant has led the bank to secure more blockchain patents than any other firm in the financial services sector. Reports last year revealed the FI had acquired or was actively pursuing a total of 43 patents related to blockchain technology. Today, that figure is 82, CNBC said.

The investments have accelerated over the last several years, but Bessant told reporters that she is not entirely convinced of blockchain’s future.

“What I am is open-minded,” she told CNBC. “In my private scoreboard, in the closet, I am bearish.”

“I haven’t seen one [use case] that even scales beyond an individual or a small set of transactions,” Bessant continued. “All of the big tech companies will come and say ‘blockchain, blockchain, blockchain.’ I say, ‘Show me the use case. You bring me the use case and I’ll try it.’”

Her remarks add fuel to critics of blockchain technology that say the tool, like bitcoin, is over-hyped. CNBC reports pointed to economist Nouriel Roubini, who slammed blockchain as “the most overhyped” technology — ever.

Yet blockchain remains a popular target among investors, with startups operating with the technology securing $5.4 billion in venture capital last year alone, CNBC said, citing Autonomous Research. That compares to just $1.5 billion raised among startups in 2017.

“I want it to work,” added Cathy Bessant about blockchain. “Spiritually, I want it to make us better, faster, cheaper, more transparent, more, you know, all of those things.”

Bank of America’s blockchain-related patent filings suggest the institution remains confident the tool can achieve those goals. JPMorgan, which recently debuted what it called the first bank-backed cryptocurrency, has just six patent applications, reports said.

According to Bessant, despite her skepticism, she wants the bank to “be ready.”

“We want to reserve our place in the IP chain for, or if, blockchain fulfills what some people believe its potential is,” she noted.


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