nChain CEO David Washburn was the latest guest on The Banker’s Tech Talk series, where he discussed a range of blockchain-related topics with Tech Talk host/managing editor of The Banker, Joy Macknight. These topics include blockchain developments in the banking and capital markets space, how blockchain is unlocking value in this area, and what is needed to see mass adoption of blockchain technology.
Here is what we learned from the discussion between Washburn and Macknight.
Trends in the banking and capital markets space
Digital identification is getting a lot of attention in the banking and capital markets space. “We think this is going to be a huge trend in the banking industry, as KYC onboarding processes become more digital, and we are really excited to develop interoperable digital KYC technology,” Washburn said.
Another area receiving a lot of attention from the banking and capital market sector is advanced key management (digital key management). “We have some really innovative applications [in that space],” Washburn said, “and we think that [sector] has the potential to change dramatically over the next ten years as a result.”
How is blockchain unlocking value in capital markets?
The two areas that are being focused on the most are settlements and digitization or tokenization of financial assets. When it comes to settlements, the primary focus is reducing errors and increasing certainty. “If you can achieve that, you can improve the velocity of money,” Washburn said.
When it comes to tokenization, “the early focuses have been around financial assets, but we think there is the opportunity to expand that to almost any kind of asset. The key to getting adopted by real businesses is finding a stable and secure platform to build this technology on, we think we have that in the form of Bitcoin SV.”
The words of Washburn echo a statement made by nChain Director of Business Service Simit Naik earlier this week during his Wales Tech Week presentation. During his presentation, Naik discussed why Bitcoin SV is the blockchain of choice for nChain: “On an enterprise level we (nChain) understand that there is going to be a huge volume of data and value being transferred, so we need a blockchain that is scalable.”
Central bank digital currencies
Washburn and Macknight also discussed central bank digital currencies (CBDCs)—a topic that can generally be approached from two angles. On one end of the spectrum, you have retail, which means the bank is trying to optimize payments, allowing users to receive payments in near real-time, inexpensively.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have wholesale, where a central bank is interested in using a CBDC to optimize the liquidity and balance sheet of central banks and their corporate banking partners.
Digital currency adoption
The last topic that Washburn and Macknight discussed was adoption, and how there are mainly two approaches we see being taken in the market when it comes to adoption. Macknight asked: “There’s a lot of hype around the cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and more recently Facebook’s Libra, what is it going to take to spur greater adoption of these cryptocurrencies?”
“I think ultimately there are two key nuances here, I think number one, the question is about replacing centrally issued currencies with a native Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, personally I think we are a long way out from that happening,” Washburn said.
“There are a lot of barriers in place there, central banks, in particular, do not want to lose control of monetary systems and I think those are the key issues facing Libra because they were starting to look like a reserve bank. The other end of the spectrum which I think has a much higher probability is where Bitcoin becomes the invisible rails to electronic commerce, in that form, individuals and businesses will be doing things on Bitcoin without even knowing they’re doing it. That’s the much more likely shoe to drop in terms of adoption.”
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