Propel Your FinTech Ambition

Jo Parker

Group CEO

VCPP Business

Blockchain is FinTech’s major new buzzword. But what exactly is it, and what difference is it going to make?
The concept of blockchain was first postulated in 2008 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto (not his real name, although there is plenty of speculation as to his true identity) as the open-source software behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. It was designed to make transactions quick, cheap, easy and most importantly, trustworthy between people who didn’t know or trust each other on the dark side of the Web.
Like a crowd-sourced book-keeping ledger, the blockchain is a decentralised digital platform that records ownership and transactions, who has paid who (although identities are anonymised as ‘keys’), how much and when. It uses duplicated ledgers across a variety of servers, meaning if one is compromised the data is still intact.
When the parties involved sign-off a transaction, details of it are sent to every computer (or ‘node’) in the Bitcoin network, where it is simultaneously and independently verified by applying an algorithm known as a ‘puzzle’. This is the equivalent of having a group of independent witnesses to a single event. Nodes that perform this authentication function are known as miners and are rewarded with Bitcoins, as an incentive to keep the blockchain going and the system operational.
When the transaction is verified, the data is coded using complex cryptography which means it cannot be changed or erased once it’s added to the blockchain. Over time, as the blockchain grows, and as more nodes join the network, so does the assumed strength and security of the system.
Whilst ‘the’ blockchain is all about bitcoin, the processes and principles of it are being adopted by a wide range of organisations and institutions, from financial services, health and transport to manufacturing, computing, legal and professional services and retail.
They are looking to private blockchains, also known as Sidechains, to which a limited number of people have access but which work on the same principles and deliver similar benefits.
According to Chad Cascarilla, CEO of New York-based blockchain and Bitcoin company itBit: “In a public blockchain, you’re trying to get everyone all over the world to agree to changes at the same time. In a private one, you’re not. You’re really just saying you trust everybody that’s on that network because you’ve all agreed to join it. You don’t have these same computational issues that you do when it’s public.”
Accenture has debuted a prototype of an ‘editable’ blockchain for enterprise and permissioned systems. The consultancy is seeking a patent for its ‘chameleon hash’ technique to allow a central administrator to edit or delete information on a blockchain, which would be used in. Whilst this has angered purists who argue that immutability is a fundamental tenet of blockchain,
Accenture argues that some form of editing is essential for cases such as the ‘right to be forgotten’ legal right, human error and illegal actions. Every business which relies on probity, privacy and security for its reputation and its regulatory compliance will have a blockchain project in the pipeline – or at least be taking it seriously at the highest levels of the organisation. That includes every multinational bank, the consultancies and the global investment community, which in 2015 invested a record $13.8 billion in fintech, of which $474 million was in Blockchain
and Bitcoin start-ups, according to a joint report by KPMG and CB Insights.
What is particularly interesting is the speed at which the banks have come together to agree that blockchain is the way forward, and are collaborating around standards and best practice.
You can download the full PDF version of the report using the download button above.

Previous article

Fintech: Disrupter or Business Accelerator?

Next article

Underwriting, Automation And The Customer Journey

Get access to valuable thought leadership from the financial services marketing industry

Keep up-to-date with current trends and changes across marketing and financial services is vital in this fast-moving business environment.