Four of the world’s biggest banks have teamed up to develop a new form of digital cash they believe will become an industry standard to clear and settle financial trades using blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin.
UBS, the Swiss bank, pioneered the “utility settlement coin” and has now joined forces with Deutsche Bank, Santander and BNY Mellon — as well as the broker ICAP — to pitch the idea to central banks, aiming for its commercial launch by early 2018.
率先研发出“多功能结算币”(utility settlement coin)的瑞银(UBS)，已联手德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)、桑坦德银行(Santander)、纽约梅隆银行(BNY Mellon)——以及经纪公司毅联汇业(ICAP)——一道向各国央行推介这一理念，争取在2018年初将其投入商用。
The move is the first example of a group of leading banks coming together to co-operate on a specific blockchain technology to harness the power of decentralised computer networks and improve the efficiency of financial market plumbing.
“Today, trading between banks and institutions is difficult, time-consuming and costly, which is why we all have big back offices,” said Julio Faura, head of R&D and innovation at Santander. “This is about streamlining it and making it more efficient.”
Blockchain technology is a complex set of algorithms that allow so-called cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, to be traded and verified electronically over a network of computers without a central ledger.
Initially sceptical because of worries over fraud, banks are now exploring how they can exploit the technology to speed up back-office settlement systems and free up billions in capital tied up supporting trades on global markets.
The total cost to the finance industry of clearing and settling trades is estimated at between $65bn and $80bn a year, according to a report last year by Oliver Wyman.
Setl, a London-based group founded by hedge fund investors and trading executives, also aims to settle financial market payments with digital cash linked directly to central banks.
Citigroup is working on its own “Citicoin” solution, while Goldman Sachs has filed a patent for a “SETLcoin” to allow trades to be settled nearly instantaneously. JPMorgan is also working on a similar project.
The utility settlement coin, based on a solution developed by Clearmatics Technologies, aims to let financial institutions pay for securities without waiting for traditional money transfers to be completed. They would use digital coins convertible into cash at central banks.
The coins would be stored using the blockchain allowing them to be quickly swapped for the securities being traded.
“You need a form of digital cash on the distributed ledger in order to get maximum benefit from these technologies,” said Hyder Jaffrey, head of fintech innovation at UBS. He said the project team would aim for a “limited and low risk” commercial launch by early 2018.
The US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada are among central banks examining the potential benefits of digital currencies. But concerns include the security and the impact on banking stability.
美联储(Fed)、英国央行(Bank of England)、加拿大央行(Bank of Canada)等央行都在考察数字货币的潜在好处。但各方仍存在对其安全性以及对银行业稳定性影响的担忧。