Bankensurvey: (klein)banken willen samenwerken op één platform (Dutch Item)

29-03-2021 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

Enigma Consulting heeft in 2020 rondom het thema outsourcing een survey afgenomen onder vijftien in Nederland gevestigde klein- en middelgrote banken. Het betreft wholesale- en retailbanken, private banken en spaarbanken. De resultaten staan gepubliceerd in het rapport outsourcing.



Transitie vraagt om investeringen in infrastructuur

Door ontwikkelingen, zoals wet- en regelgeving, Instant Payments, Open Banking, en de toenemende concurrentie van fintech’s, bigtech’s en challengerbanken, maakt de bankensector een enorme transformatie door. Dit vereist een voortdurende investering in de bancaire infrastructuur.

Het bedrijfsmodel van banken staat zwaar onder druk. Zeker de klein en middelgrote banken zijn op zoek naar kostenverlaging en consolidatie. Door samen te werken kunnen banken een kostenbesparingen realiseren en de continue verandering het hoofd bieden. De resultaten van de survey laten zien dat banken outsourcing zeker als oplossingsrichting onderkennen:

Outsourcing leidt tot de mogelijkheid om samen te werken en het creëren van partnerships. Niet alleen met solution providers, maar ook met gelijkgestemde banken. Met als doel samen te werken aan een standaard infrastructuur waar meerdere partijen gebruik van kunnen maken. De aangesloten partijen op het platform dragen gezamenlijk bij aan de markt gedreven ontwikkelingen.

In een wereld waarin klanten steeds meer verwachten van de digitale services van hun bank, is het noodzakelijk voor kleine en middelgrote banken om mee te gaan met de enorme transformatie die de bankensector ondergaat. Klanten verwachten namelijk hetzelfde niveau van digitalisering als dat zij in het dagelijks leven ervaren. Het gemak en de snelheid waarmee eten online besteld kan worden, moet ook in de bancaire dienstverlening als standaard gelden.

Klantervaring centraal

Outsourcing kan deze klantverwachting vervullen. Door ontzorging via outsourcing kan de focus gericht worden op specifieke klantdiensten of integratie met diensten van derde partijen. De klantervaring komt op deze manier centraal te staan. Een mindset die voor kleine banken misschien wel noodzakelijk is om te overleven.

Ondanks de voordelen van outsourcing worden ook een aantal nadelen genoemd. Bijna alle banken geven aan dat ze bang zijn om controle te verliezen door de grote afhankelijkheid die ontstaat door outsourcing. Als bank ben je aangewezen op de roadmap van de solution provider. Daar staat tegenover dat door gezamenlijk op te trekken in partnership met een provider er juist grotere invloed kan worden uitgeoefend.

Banken eisen vaak specifieke aanpassingen in hun core banking en betalingsinfrastructuur. Als gevolg hiervan ontstaat er een wildgroei van aanpassingen op ‘standaard’ core-banking producten. Zo lang banken dit blijven doen, is er geen ruimte voor gezamenlijke productontwikkeling en zal onderhoud intensief zijn en hoge kosten met zich meebrengen. Juist een gezamenlijke ontwikkeling kan er voor zorgen dat er één standaard oplossing komt voor de Nederlandse markt.

Minder flexibel

Ook geven banken aan minder flexibel te zijn wanneer ze hun core-banking outsourcen. Bij veranderingen in de organisatiestructuur of ontwikkelingen in de bankensector kan er niet meer geschakeld worden naar andere of betere software. Daartegenover staat dat een bank ook nu voor core-banking een lange termijn visie hanteert. Een systeem wordt geselecteerd om een decennium, en waarschijnlijk langer, mee te gaan. Daarom is het van groot belang om een toekomst vaste (modulaire) oplossing te kiezen. Sterker nog: banken kunnen hier beter kiezen voor een aanbieder die zich opstelt als partner, die proactief de ontwikkelingen volgt in plaats van louter een leverancier te kiezen.

”Samenwerking, outsourcing en partnering op een modulair core-banking platform lijkt de toekomst voor banken”

Veel banken ervaren dezelfde veranderingen in de markt. Iedere bank analyseert de impact van deze veranderingen individueel. Ook banken met verschillende core-banking systemen kunnen gezamenlijk deze analyse fase doorlopen. Op deze manier komen banken meer met elkaar in contact. Het gemeenschappelijk analyseren van de impact van een verandering is het spreekwoordelijke ‘low hanging fruit’, als eerste stap richting samenwerking binnen het core-banking domein. Een volgende stap is het collectief ontwikkelen en gebruiken van generieke core-banking producten, maar de survey wijst ook uit dat banken willen samenwerken bij CCD en AML, reconciliatie en de Sparen administratie.

Het vervangen van een standaard core banking systeem vergt een serieuze investering en commitment. Een gezamenlijk core-banking landschap moet zodanig worden ingericht dat modulaire producten kunnen worden aangesloten en banken makkelijk kunnen instappen met een deel van hun infrastructuur.

Samenvattend

Samenwerking, outsourcing en partnering op een modulair core-banking platform lijkt de toekomst voor banken. Dit wordt door de huidige stand van de technologie meer dan mogelijk gemaakt. Dit betekent wel een paradigma verandering bij zowel banken als leveranciers. Om gezamenlijk tot een oplossing te komen moeten alle partijen zich er bewust van zijn dat langdurig commitment en een lange termijn visie vereist zijn.

Voor een totaaloverzicht van de uitkomsten, download de bankensurvey hier.

Interbank Payments Transactions (Dutch Item)

10-03-2021 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

The playing field of interbank settlement and settlement of international payments is being overhauled. In Europe, Target2, T2S and TIPS are being consolidated in a new platform. The international payment and reporting messages between banks will be switched from MT to ISO20022. Now SWIFT comes with a new Transaction Management Platform for international payments and securities transactions. That means a lot of work for institutions using the Target systems and SWIFT. Enigma Consulting can help you analyze and implement the changes.

Target Consolidatie

De huidige Target2, T2S en TIPS-systemen van de Europese centrale banken worden ondergebracht in een nieuw platform voor Europees interbancair betalingsverkeer. Naast deze drie systemen maken onder meer een centrale opzet van het liquiditeitsbeheer (CLM), centraal beheer van gemeenschappelijke gegevens en een geharmoniseerde interface met de buitenwereld (ESMIG) deel uit van het nieuwe platform. En het berichtenverkeer van en naar Target2 migreert van MT naar ISO20022. Al deze veranderingen krijgen hun beslag in een big bang implementatie per 21 november 2022.

Neemt uw instelling direct of indirect deel aan één van de Target-systemen? Dan moet u vóór die tijd uw processen en IT-systemen aanpassen aan de nieuwe werkwijze, berichtenstandaard en interface. Daarbij moet u voldoen aan de verschillende mijlpalen die de Europese Centrale Bank heeft gedefinieerd.

Migratie naar ISO20022

Het interbancaire berichtenverkeer in het kader van internationale betalingen via SWIFT migreert van de MT naar de ISO20022 (MX) standaard. Het gaat hierbij met name om de betaalberichten uit de MT1- en MT2-serie en de rapportageberichten uit de MT9-serie. Het gebruik van de MX-berichten en de vertaalregels tussen MT en MX worden in goede banen geleid door de Cross Border Payments and Reporting Plus Group (CBPR+) van de banken en SWIFT. De migratie zelf wordt uitgesmeerd over de periode november 2022 tot en met november 2025.

Initieert of verwerkt uw instelling internationale betalingen via SWIFT? Of verstuurt of ontvangt uw instelling rekening- of transactierapportages via SWIFT? Dan moeten uw IT-systemen aan de ISO20022 formaten en regels worden aangepast. En omdat de technische aansluiting op het SWIFT-netwerk met de overstap op MX-berichten ook wijzigt, moet die ook worden aangepast.

Hoe kunnen wij u helpen?

Onze interbancair betalingsverkeer experts kunnen u helpen bij het analyseren van de impact en begeleiden van de implementatie van de wijzigingen in het kader van de Target-consolidatie en de migratie van MT naar ISO20022. U kunt daarbij denken aan het volgende:

Target-consolidatie
  • Adviseren over nieuwe opzet van rekeningen bij de Europese Centrale Bank.
  • Analyseren en inrichten van de processen in het kader van betalingen en liquiditeitsbeheer.
  • Analyseren van de impact van de nieuwe ISO20022 berichten voor uw instelling én voor uw klanten.
  • Workshops over het verandergebied, de processen en de berichtenstandaard.
Migratie naar ISO20022
  • Analyseren van de impact van de nieuwe ISO20022 berichten voor uw instelling én voor uw klanten.
  • Adviseren over en analyseren van de impact van het nieuwe Transaction Management Platform van SWIFT.
  • Workshops over het verandergebied, de processen en de berichtenstandaard.

Geïnteresseerd of wilt u meer weten? Neem dan contact op met één van onze consultants.

Blockchain Technology Challenges: new Third-generation solutions

| 09-03-2021 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

Notwithstanding the various benefits of blockchain technology, there are still a number of big challenges to overcome before mass adoption can be realised. These range from low scalability to lack of regulation and limited  number of qualified people.

In some of my previous blocks I already went into more detail into these challenges and possible solutions to overcome them. In this blog I will limit myself to the main technological ones including scalability, privacy and interoperability that are limiting its uptake. But above all I will show what third generation solutions have been or are being implemented to tackle the various issues.

A. Scalability

One of the main problems related to blockchain’s technology is scalability, or better said the lack of scale. It refers to the limited rate at which transactions are being processed on blockchain compared to existing methods. Large blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum are not able to handle as a result of their technological set up. Caps are placed on the number of transactions that can be processed on-chain. This scalability issue is especially a problem for companies that have to process massive transactions and need networks that enable high transaction throughput while maintaining low latency.

Off-chain scaling solutions

For this reason, many view scalability as something to be achieved off-chain, while security and decentralization should be maximized on the blockchain itself. Off-chain scaling refers to approaches that allow for transactions to be executed without overcharging the blockchain. Protocols that plug into the chain allow users to send and receive funds, without the transactions appearing on the main chain.
There are a number of interesting off-chain solutions that are being explored to solve the scalability issue ranging from the implementation of so-called accelerated chips, the use of sidechains and sharding.

Accelerated chips

Accelerated chips could be used to speed up confirmation and transaction times. A forerunner in this is Skynet Core.

Skynet Core

Skynet aims to resolve the issues of blockchain adoption and the functionality of the Internet of Things (IoT). They aim to deliver an end-to-end system that includes a hyper-scalable IoT blockchain network and the licence free blockchain IoT chip named Skynet Core. The project that includes billions of licence free blockchain chips will deploy to devices worldwide, connecting via the Skynet blockchain network.
This blockchain chip can replace an existing CPU and features a core optimized for blockchain technology as well as the Internet of Things. The hardware makes it possible for Skynet Core devices to run blockchain networks with high throughput while providing secure protection from theft of cryptocurrency.  

Side Chains

Another tool to speed up scalability are so-called side chains. A sidechain is a separate blockchain. However, it is not a standalone platform, as it is pegged in some way to the main chain. The main chain and the sidechain are interoperable, meaning that assets can flow freely from one to the other

Side chains are aimed to reduce the load on a given blockchain by sending transactions via these connected sidechains and putting the end state of the transaction on the main blockchain – thereby offloading all the processing of transactions from the main blockchain. There are a number of ways to ensure that funds can be transferred. In some cases, assets are moved from the main chain by being deposited into a special address, and a matching amount is issued on the sidechain. A more straightforward (albeit centralized option) is to send funds to a custodian, who exchanges the deposit for funds on the sidechain.

Next to the first and second generation solutions like Bitcoin’s Lightning network and Ethereum’s Raiden Network, there are a growing number more advanced applications to upgrade scale including AION protocol and Neo’s Trinity.

Sharding

Another scaling solution being worked on is sharding. Main example is the Ethereum Blockchain. Sharding is a way of spreading out the computing and storage workload from a blockchain network into single nodes. This technology divides a blockchain network into many separate areas, called shards, with each shard assigned a small group of nodes to maintain. Each node no longer has to process the entire network’s transactional load. Each node will only maintain the info related to its specific partition or shards, removing the need for all nodes in a network to be apart of a transaction.

Sharding includes transaction sharding and state sharding. Transaction sharding refers to assigning different transactions to different shards. This way, parallel processing becomes possible, leading to high TPS. In contrast, state sharding allows the data state to be stored in different pieces on different nodes. In essence, it means that a single node is only responsible for saving a portion of the ledger.

Multi-layered structure

Another solution to upgrade scale is the use of a multi-layered structure, which is the isolation of transaction processing and data storage. Main projects are Cardano and CPCChain.

Cardano

Cardano (ADA) is the most well-known project which proposes this multi-layered structure. Cardano that can be categorized as a third-generation blockchain (with Bitcoin and Ethereum considered the first and second-generation chains.

Cardano is an open-source and decentralised blockchain project with a layered architecture that is composed of two main elements, the Cardano Settlement Layer (CLS) and the Cardano Computational Layer (CCL), which makes Cardano truly unique. Most other existing blockchain platforms only function with a single layer, which often causes network congestion, slows transactions and drives fees higher.

The settlement layer powers Cardano’s unit of account. This is where peer-to-peer transactions are facilitated, such as the transfer of tokens between users. The settlement layer is responsible for transaction confirmation and the flow of the coin. The computational layer maintains the chain’s security, deploys smart contracts and is programmed to recognize the ID of the data. This layer also serves as a framework that is designed to ensure regulatory compliance with various jurisdictions.

CPCChain

Another promising solution to tackle the scalability issue is CPCChain. CPChain, which is partnered with High Performance Blockchain (HPB), VeChain, Qtum, and ETP Metaverse, intends to build a blockchain-based data platform for next generation IoT systems in combination with distributed storage and encryption computation.

It is aimed to provide the whole process solution from data acquisition, storage, sharing to application, for large-scale distributed IoT systems, enabling high TPS and low transaction latency. CPChain thereby separates its blockchain layer from its application layer, so the blockchain only has to store data IDs (which are on a cloud) rather than the data itself – thereby reducing block sizes.

B. Privacy

Another important challenge to overcome is the privacy issue. Blockchain is built in such a way that all transaction are transparent while its actors can be identified. This is especially a problem for public blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, where the network ledger is open to anyone and all transactions are transparent – so they can be tracked. This lack of privacy might be an issue for certain types of transactions, for instance in the case of confidential corporate deals.

Protocols

In the meantime several protocols have been developed as alternatives to Bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymity. The three main ones being CoinJoin, Ring Signature and Zero-knowledge proof.

Coinjoin

CoinJoin is the technology used by Dash, developed to introduce a layer of privacy to otherwise public Bitcoin transactions. It is an anonymization strategy that protects the privacy of Bitcoin users when conducting transactions with each other. The protocol requires multiple parties to jointly sign an agreement to mix their coins in a single Bitcoin transaction, making the transaction more difficult to trace. The process is also known as coin mixing.

In the meantime, in order to prevent masternodes from being attacked, Dash introduced Chaining and Blinding, allowing senders to choose multiple masternodes randomly with which to send the transaction. The system enables the mixing of transactions among these master nodes, and transactions appear to be sent by the masternodes and not by the users themselves.

Ring signature

Ring Signature as used by Monero is one of the most famous privacy protocols. A ring signature is a type of digital signature in which a group of possible signers are merged together to produce a distinctive signature that can authorize a transaction. It is composed of the actual signer, who is then combined with non-signers to form a ring. Monero utilizes ring signature technology to protect a user’s privacy in the input side of a transaction by helping the sender mask the origin of a transaction by ensuring that all inputs are indistinguishable from each other.

Because Monero makes use of ring signature technology, it must include a feature that allows for the verification of outputs that are being spent in a ring signature transaction, or else, a user would be able to spend the same transaction output twice i.e. a double-spend. This potential issue is addressed by Monero’s use of key images.

A key image is a cryptographically secure key that is derived from an output transaction being spent, and is made part of every ring signature transaction. This process masks the origin of the transaction, and ensure that all inputs are indistinguishable from each other. Only one key image exists for each transaction output on the Monero blockchain.

On top of the Ring Signature, Monero also utilizes Stealth Address technology to automatically generate one-time addresses for every transaction initiated on the Monero network to ensure the privacy of the recipient. It prevents outputs from being linked to a recipient’s public address. Thanks to Stealth Addresses, this transaction process occurs without publicly linking any transaction to the merchant’s wallet address.

Zero Knowledge Proof

Another solution for blockchain privacy issues, used by Zcash to allow anonymous transactions, is Zero Knowledge proof (ZKP). It is a technique by which a prover can convince the verifier of a fact without revealing the actual content. The technology automatically conceals transaction information, such as sender information, receiver information, and the amounts. Only users who own the private keys of the smart contract being performed have full access to the information. In such cases ZKP can ensure that others only know that a valid transaction has taken place, but no information is available to them about the sender, recipient and type/quantity of asset transferred.

Alternative Methods

At the same time other alternatives are available, such as Permissioned or private blockchain platforms like Quorum, Hyperledger Fabric and Corda, which provide the capability of executing private transactions between two or more participating nodes. This ensures that the transaction details pertaining to the sender and recipient are part of a private ledger and will not be revealed to unauthorized participants.

Or self-Sovereign Identity management platforms that provide the concept of pair-wise decentralized identifiers and verifiable claims that can be presented to third party service providers without revealing all the details of a person or entity and thus protecting privacy

C. Interoperability

While blockchain was conceived as a decentralized technology, individual blockchain networks are not inherently open and are not able to communicate properly to each other. There are a large number of blockchain projects, all of which have different characteristics – such as the type of transactions, hashing algorithms, or consensus models – and which focused on a particular area.

The problem is further deepened by different networks and financial institutions running completely different governance rules, blockchain technology versions and regulatory controls. This has resulted in a series of unconnected blockchain ecosystems operating alongside, but siloed from each other, preventing the industry from reaching its full potential.

Isolated inter-blockchain communication can put a strain to blockchain’s scalability and mainstream adoption. To solve this problem, various new-generation cross-chain technologies that could help different blockchains to interconnect are being explored.

Top Interoperability projects

Most blockchains enable the creation of sidechains, that are blockchains running in parallel to the main blockchain. Next to the more well-known examples of cross-chain communication that are mostly first- or second-generation, like the Bitcoin Lightning Network, or the Raiden Network of Ethereum and the Ripple Interledger Protocol, there is a growing number of interoperability projects that are exploring third-generation solutions such as Cosmos, NeoX and Polkadot blockchain.

Cosmos Blockchain

Cosmos blockchain is an interesting blockchain interoperability project, running on the fault tolerance protocol – Tendermint Byzantine. The blockchain project is aimed to become the hub of many projects  Cosmos blockchain architecture consists of several independent blockchains called Zones, attached to a central blockchain dubbed as the Hub. Zones, which are independent blockchains are plugged into the Cosmos Network. These zones can interact with each other because of the Cosmos Hub and new ones can be connected.

A salient feature of Cosmos is permitting zones to preserve their consensus mechanism. Tendermint Core that enables high-performance as well as consistent and secure Practical  Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT)-like consensus engine, powers each zone in this case.

The cosmos Hub connects blockchain projects to enhance interoperability via the Inter-Blockchain communication protocol. Because of the interconnection, people can send tokens from one zone to another in real time and securely, without engaging the services of a third party. Cosmos blockchain can connect different zones from public to private project thanks to the IBC connection.

NeoX

NeoX is a protocol that implements cross-chain interoperability, to allow multiple participants to exchange assets across different chains and to ensure that all steps in the entire transaction process succeed or fail together. But instead of most protocols NeoX is divided into two parts: cross-chain assets exchange protocol and cross-chain distributed transaction protocol.

Essentially NeoX is the functionality of fusing the concept of Atomic Swaps with Smart Contracts. This means it can allow cross blockchain contract collaboration in a single smart contract. In order to achieve this function, one needs to use NeoContract function to create a contract account for each participant. If other blockchains are not compatible with NeoContract, they can be compatible with NeoX as long as they can provide simple smart contract functionality.

NeoX makes it possible for cross-chain smart contracts where a smart contract can perform different parts on multiple chains, either succeeding or reverting as a whole. This gives excellent possibilities for cross-chain collaborations

Polkadot blockchain

Polkadot blockchain is a high-profile multi-chain technology that is aiming to advance blockchain interoperability. It seeks to enhance the transfer of smart contract data through various blockchains. Polkadot’s ecosystem contains of multiple parachains which are individual blockchains thar differ in characteristics but have become part of the Polkadot environment. In Polkadot blockchain, transactions can be spread over a wide area given the number of chains in the network. All this is done while ensuring high levels of security on dealings. A relay chain is the central connector between these parachains.

Polkadot Blockchain interoperability project seeks to ensure a seamless connection between private chains, public networks, oracles as well as permission less interface. Aim is to enable an internet where independent blockchain solutions will be able to exchange information via a Polkadot relay chain. 

Blockchain Industrial Alliance (BIA): Teaming up

What we also see is that a growing number of these projects are teaming up in order to allow their blockchains to communicate with each other. One main example is the Blockchain Industrial Alliance formed by ICON, AION, and WANChain. This teaming up is aimed at solving the blockchain isolation problem. The Alliance has the shared goal of promoting interconnectivity between the isolated blockchain networks. The Alliance’s main priority is collaborate on research on interchain transactions and communication. The Alliance will focus on developing common industry standards, sharing researching, and protocol architecture. All three blockchain projects that are participating in BIA have the common goal of connecting blockchain protocols.

AION

The AION network is a multi-tier federated blockchain network designed to interconnect the various blockchain entities, making it possible to integrate disparate blockchain systems in multi-tier hub. AION aims to become the common protocol used for these blockchains, enabling more efficient and decentralized systems to be built.

At the core of AION blockchain is a “purpose-built, public, third-generation” blockchain called AION-1,  specifically designed to not only be self-sustaining but connect with other blockchains as well. The AION protocol enables the development of a federated blockchain network, making it possible to seamlessly integrate dissimilar blockchain systems in a multi-tier hub-and-spoke model, similar to the internet. This protocol will enable the transfer of value and data between all AION-compliant blockchains by utilizing bridges.

In essence, AION allows networks to communicate with each other, allowing any DApp to run on any blockchain within the network. On top of that, AION will also allow the participating blockchains to create common chains between them in order to conduct on-chain transactions.

Through AION each participating blockchain will be able to transact with all the chains connected to the ecosystem. Along with solving the interoperability problem, AION also wants to create a system which can work with both private and public blockchains and help in solving scalability. In addition AION helps organizations create blockchains which are interoperable but can have its own unique consensus mechanisms, issuance, and participation.

ICON (ICX)

The second partner is ICON, an  interconnected  blockchain technology and network framework designed to allow independent blockchains to interact with each other. In other words a system of sidechains in order to connect all industry chains to the main network.

ICON is supported through a cryptocurrency token, ICX. Communities are connected to the ICON Network through a decentralized exchange. That allows for the maintenance of a verified ledger shared within the community network itself, allowing participants in a decentralized system to “converge” at a central point. That is done by connecting a community to other communities through the ICON Republic and Citizen Nodes.

WanChain

WANCchain is an online interoperable blockchain solution, with secure multi-party financial platform computing. It relies on a proprietary protocol, the WANBridge model, that allows interconnection of private, public and consortium chains, making it easy to transfer digital assets between different blockchains. The blockchain interoperability solution seeks to rebuild finance by housing all digital assets on one blockchain, aiming to unite the world in isolated digital assets. The current WanBridge model allows for digital assets and data to securely and cheaply be transferred between different ledgers using cross-chain smart contracts.

Based on Ethereum, WanChain enables the deployment of private blockchain smart contract execution aiming to unite the world’s isolated digital assets. Privacy on the blockchain is enhanced by the use of Ring signatures as well as one-time stealth addresses. The Wanchain DeFi ecosystem includes WanSwap and WanLend, as well as several other major products that are now under development such as WanFarm and other DeFi applications. This will allow for much more efficient use of collateral and for WanBridge technology to salescalablyably connect any number of different blockchains.

Forward looking

For blockchain technology to become mainstream and implemented at a larger scale, the bottlenecks current blockchain platforms suffer from – scalability, privacy, and interoperability – need to be addressed. While blockchain technology has undergone rapid improvement since its creation, it’s a relatively young technology and some of the main problems still remain today.

Fortunately, many projects are working on some of the solutions proposed above. As more efficient techniques get invented in the near future these technological barriers will likely be overcome sooner rather than later.

 

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher

 

 

 

 

Source

Bitcoin and Regulation: Towards a Balanced and Coordinated Approach

| 02-03-2021 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

Cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, are facing increased regulatory scrutiny, and that is not strange. Warnings from regulatory watchdogs all over the globe have come amid a wildly volatile ride for Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. Bitcoin prices quadrupled in 12 months’ time reaching an all-time high of more than $ 40.000 on 8 January after falling back even below $30.000. This is feeding concerns by financial regulators over the lack of a robust and a clear regulatory framework for this rapid evolving crypto marketplace. Regulators worldwide are sharpening their focus on cryptocurrencies and are increasingly looking for a stable framework of regulations and monitoring.

Issues that come up are: why is regulation of the crypto market needed at all and what should be the best regulatory approach?

Existing regulatory patchwork

Crypto regulation in many countries is still lagging behind whereas crypto’s regulatory puzzle is far from complete. Many jurisdictions have looked into regulating cryptocurrency related operations. Thereby they however have taken different approaches on how to go about regulate these which has led to a regulatory patchwork.

These approaches range from a complete outright ban, to a wait-and see approach how matters would play out, while others have introduced some sort of regulation. Major countries and bodies continued introducing regulation just for one area or aspect of the cryptoasset industry at a time. And areas of crypto asset regulation vary from one nation to another, according to each nation’s priorities and values.

Many major countries haven’t yet introduced specific legislation or regulatory guidance that covers the sector as a whole, while others are taking a step-by-step approach. Looking at the G7 countries, they are in varying stages of implementing cryptocurrency regulation, revising existing laws, and providing more clarity to investors and companies in the space. But that is changing.

But why is crypto regulation needed at all?

There is increasingly conviction amongst regulators worldwide that crypto currencies in some form or another are here to stay and continue to play an increasingly normalised role for investors. So we are well beyond the stage where countries could completely ban crypto currencies or adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

We have reached a point where regulators should step in, motivated by the growing interest in cryptocurrency globally and the inherent risks associated with digital assets because they are largely unregulated. Cryptocurrencies should therefore come on the regulatory radar and be held the same standards as the rest of the financial world.

Main stream adoption

There is increased interest by institutional investors in crypto and expectations are that this will continue, triggered by the growing number of new use cases and wider acceptance by traditional banks and financial institutions. This has attracted a strongly growing number of private investors and as aa result to mainstream adoption.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly seen as a legitimate hedge against fiat currency weakness and inflation risk, and low returns from traditional safe havens such as sovereign debt. As a result investors are looking more closely at cryptocurrencies. So these cannot be neglected anymore by regulators.

Protection to investors

Though their total market value is still limited compared to fiat currencies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are described by central banks and regulators not as a currency, but much more as a highly volatile and speculative asset. Cryptocurrencies’ volatility are largely a function of thin market volumes and concentrated holdings, possibly in the hands of a few early-adopters known as ‘whales.’ Retail investors should be protected against too much volatility. Providing a regulatory framework will give protection to investors and stakeholders

Closer interaction with the real world

Another argument for more regulation is that, on an increasing basis, cryptocurrencies are becoming part of the incumbent financial system and are increasingly integrated into the existing financial infrastructure. Cryptocurrencies took a step closer to interacting with the real world in October last year when PayPal announced that its US customers can buy, sell or hold four cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.

Combat illegal activity

Because of its cross-border crossing character and the lack of surveillance regulators suspect that these cryptocurrencies can be used for criminal activities like money laundering. How many Bitcoin are from a criminal order is hard to predict. But estimates range from 1 percent to 44 percent. Regulators should therefore provide assurances and impose requirements on operators to follow stringent rules to combat illegal activity.

Changing regulatory attitude

But the attitude of regulators worldwide is changing. Recent developments have triggered officials all over the world, including the G7, ECP president Christine Lagarde and the UK CFA, to express their worries about the unregulated growth of Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.

The overarching regulatory trend in 2021 will be for governments and regulators to be more favourable towards crypto, increasingly shape crypto into a consumer-friendly and less risky product.

Regulators increasingly recognize that cryptocurrency is here to stay, realizing the true potential of the crypto sector, with their actions being adapted accordingly. They highlighted the need to intensify their work for more stringent robust regulations for cryptocurrencies and create a much improved regulatory landscape to control the crypto markets.

G7 Meeting

At its recent meeting early January the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors reiterated support for their joint statement on digital payments issued in October underlining the need to regulate cryptocurrencies. They discussed ongoing responses to the evolving landscape of crypto assets and other digital assets and national authorities’ work to prevent their use for malign purposes and illicit activities.

ECB President Christine Lagarde

At that same G7 meeting Christine Lagarde, president of the ECBwarned investors about the risk of these cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. She also dismissed Bitcoin’s claim as a currency. According to her there is urgent need to implement legislation relative to cryptocurrencies.

“Bitcoin is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity”. Christine Lagarde

UK Financial Conduct Authority

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), issued a stark warning for consumers and retail investors about high-risk crypto investments and the surge of related scams in the industry. The FCA’s concerns include price volatility, the complexity of products offered and the lack of consumer protection regulation around many of the products. Consumers have no recourse to UK regulators for “cryptocurrency bets that turn sour”.

“If consumers invest in these types of product, they should be prepared to lose all their money.” CFA

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

Crypto regulation will also be a top priority for the Biden team. The Biden Administration is expected to bring a renewed focus on regulation and enforcement of the crypto market. The new US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen – former Federal Reserve Chair – described Bitcoin as a ‘highly speculative’ and not a stable store of value’ when still at the Fed in 2017.

New regulatory initiatives

From a G7 perspective, we already have seen some interesting examples of regulatory initiatives in both the EU and the UK, while the new Biden Administration is certainly coming with their proposals.

European Commission: Markets in Crypto Assets Regulation

The European Commission recently published its first draft for Markets in Crypto Assets or MiCA. A package of legislative proposals for the regulation of crypto-assets, updating certain financial market. The draft regulation should create a clear legal framework for crypto assets and more broadly for Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), providing regulatory clarity for the industry and ensure unified legislation on cryptocurrencies throughout the EU.

It wants to support innovation while also creating a secure and trustworthy framework for cryptocurrencies, with the same level of protection for consumers and investors as for traditional financial products. The legislative process for MICA within the EU will continue before this becomes a definitive regulation. Expectations are that this draft regulation will be finalized in legal texts in 1,5 to 2 years’ time.

Basic principles

MiCA wants to create the same safe framework as the one we already know from classic financial services. This is mirrored in many of the principles that MiCA imposes on issuers and service providers of crypto assets, such as the prohibition of insider trading and market manipulation.

MiCA is primarily creating a new licensing system for crypto asset issuers and service providers at a European level. It provides substantive rules of conduct and many aspects of consumer protection. MiCA is also introducing a new EU-wide passport for operators licensed under the MiCA regime in their own Member State.

Pilot regime for market infrastructures

The European Commission therefor proposed a pilot regime for market infrastructures that wish to try to trade and settle transactions in financial instruments in crypto-asset form. The pilot regime allows for exemptions from existing rules and allows regulators and companies to test innovative solutions utilising blockchains.

For other crypto-assets that do not qualify as “financial instruments” such as utility tokens or payment tokens, the Commission proposed a specific new framework that would replace all other EU rules and national rules currently governing the issuance, trading and storing of such crypto assets. The proposed regulation covers not only entities issuing crypto-assets but also firms providing services around these crypto-assets such as firms operating digital wallets, as well as cryptocurrency exchanges.

UK Treasury: crypto consultation paper

The UK Treasury has launched a consultation paper that details a series of proposals addressing the crypto community. With the consultation, the Treasury is initiating a “regulatory approach to cryptoassets and stablecoins” for 2021. Aim of this consultation paper is to gather feedback from stakeholders concerning the government’s regulatory approach to crypto asset and stablecoins in payments and investment, as well as the use of blockchain or distributed ledger technology in financial markets.

More broadly, the UK intends to take a “staged and proportionate approach” to new crypto asset developments. Underlying the UK approach is a desire to avoid applying “disproportionate or overly burdensome regulation to entities”, particularly where the financial stability risks are low, stressing the importance of a risk-led approach to regulation.

The Treasury expects to collect insights from the “industry and stakeholders” in the crypto sphere until March 21, 2021. Input received will feed into the government’s response, which will include more detail on how the proposed approach may be implemented in law. The legislation would take the form of high-level principles, leaving it for financial regulators to specify detailed requirements through rules or codes of practice.

Focus on stablecoins

The consultation focuses particularly on developing a “sound regulatory environment” for stablecoins, which the U.K. government considers have most “urgent” risks and opportunities. Stable coins could “pose a range of risks to consumers and, depending on their uptake, to the stability of the financial system. It is not proposing to regulate further any other types of cryptoasset for now, except in relation to financial promotions (in relation to which it has already consulted and will report in due course).

This approach stands in stark contrast to the European Commission’s legislative proposals which already include a comprehensive framework to regulate the entire crypto industry (MiCA) as well as a pilot regime for the creation and testing of digital security infrastructure.

Biden Administration

The regulatory landscape took on new uncertainty as a result of the power shift in Washington to President Joe Biden and a Democratically controlled Congress.

The new US President Joe Biden has frozen all federal regulatory proposals from Trump’s Administration, including some controversial proposed rules from former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s on self-hostedcrypto wallets, until his new administration can review them. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin drew heavy criticism from cryptocurrency insiders with his privacy-hostile regulatory proposals.

President Biden is putting together a team of financial leaders that should provide more clarity and guidelines for crypto regulations, get clear rules for the entire crypto industry and a better coordination between the various agencies like SEC, CFTC and. The new team brings their stated support for reasonable and equally balanced cryptocurrency regulatory model.

Three of Biden’s top-level financial staff members, including Janet Yellen, the new US Treasure and former Fed chair, Gary Gensler, the new head of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and former chair of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and professor Chris Brummer as new chairman of the CFTC  all have a proven understanding of how blockchain and cryptocurrency assets actually work.

Yellen pledged to do a deep review of cryptocurrency markets in collaboration with many other banking and finance regulators, hoping to establish an effective set of rules that limits “malign and illegal activities” while supporting powerful fintech innovations based on blockchain technologies.

What regulatory approach is really needed?

Notwithstanding these new regulatory initiatives, there are still many challenges. At the heart of the legal challenge is how to define cryptocurrencies; as a currency, security on par with stocks and options, tradeable commodity, or a brand new asset class of its own. Settling the thorny issues of legality, taxation, and trading rules will take time, adding to the uncertainty and volatility of the global crypto market.

To be really effective, also given its cross border character, any future regulation asks for both a balanced and above all global approach. Intelligent, well thought-out regulation communicated effectively and uniformly applied can help level the playing field and unleash innovation and further mainstream adoption.

Balanced approach

Providing a balanced regulatory framework should be a necessity for jurisdictions to protect themselves from abuse, while recognising that legal certainty can also be provided through a regulatory regime, which will in turn enable the sector to flourish. Just looking at cryptocurrencies for regulatory purposes may frustrate the underlying technology and its innovative character. The real value in cryptocurrencies is not the currency itself but the potentially disruptive technology that makes them possible, which has the potential to drive innovations. Next to that, because with cryptocurrencies, the technology behind it may develop at a space that is much faster than regulations develop, any regulation would need to be capable of continuous development.

Global coordinated approach

Global regulation continues to be top of mind at the recent G7 meeting. ECB president Lagarde also emphasized the need for countries to work together to regulate Bitcoin. Instead of competing in terms of who can provide the most attractive regulatory regime for the crypto industry, as we have seen in the past, more global regulatory cooperation and coordination and multilateral action is urgently needed. As cryptocurrencies move further into the mainstream, Lagarde therefore called for regulations of Bitcoin and other currencies to be agreed “at a global level”, potentially at the G7 or G20 groups of rich countries.

We are not there yet!

If done in this way, such balanced and coordinated regulation will help protect investors, enable growing competition, tackle cryptocurrency criminality, reduce the potential possibility of disrupting global financial stability stimulate continued innovation.

Looking at these recent regulatory initiatives, one may conclude that there are still big differences in each approaches. The European Commission proposals are the nearest to become effective meeting both the requirements of balance and overall and unified approach in the EU countries. In the UK, whilst new regulations have been introduced, they are still largely behind all the new developments happening in the crypto space. And for the US we still have to wait till the Biden Administration is coming into action. We are not there yet!

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher

 

 

 

 

Source

Corporates: Caveat IBOR and Build-Up Your IBOR Knowledge!

01-03-2021 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

Last year November we published the article ‘Corporates: Caveat IBOR!’ regarding the IBOR phase out and the impact on corporates. Let’s have a look why today’s corporate treasurer should be even more aware of IBOR interest rate benchmarks.

It is highly likely that your organisation will be affected by the IBOR transition. Most corporate organisations underestimate the impact, thinking that the ‘only’ thing that will change is a base rate and its calculation method. Before you join their ranks, take some time to reflect on the following:

The IBOR will cease to exist, starting on the 31st December 2021 and be replaced by Risk-Free Rates (RFRs) with a different basis for calculation:

  • These changes will impact financial (e.g. bond, (intercompany) loan, (multi-currency) credit facility) contracts as well as commercial contracts with an IBOR related ‘late payment clause’
  • This in turn will impact processes in the Treasury functions, with knock-on effects to supporting departments, Legal, IT systems, accounting, and tax reporting to name just a few
  • IBOR transition is progressing at a different pace across jurisdictions and financial products (e.g. loans, bonds, and derivatives), adding to the complexity of managing the transition
  • The Working Group on Sterling Risk-Free Reference Rates (RFRWG) published the following milestones regarding GBP LIBOR:
    • By end-Q1 2021, all legacy GBP LIBOR contracts expiring after end 2021 that can be actively converted need to be identified, and progress active conversion where viable through to completion by end-Q3 2021
    • Active steps to enable a shift of volumes from GBP LIBOR to SONIA in non-linear derivative markets: by end-Q2 2021, initiation of new GBP LIBOR linked non-linear derivatives that expire after the end of 2021 will be ceased; and, by end-Q3 2021, complete active conversion

The good news is that there is still time to assess the impact of the pending IBOR changes on your organisation and to act upon it if needs be. The sooner you have a plan for the potential consequences for your organisation, the sooner you will be able to mitigate these. This understanding will also give you more leverage in the coming discussions with your bank(s).

Moreover, the IBOR phase out may bring a golden opportunity for corporates to re-evaluate the current contract agreements and look for better deals. Consider this: during the IBOR migration contracts are in fact ‘renegotiated’ and banks will need to come up with a new offer. Will you take that offer as a corporate client? That all depends on your level of understanding and preparation.

What should you do to prepare?

As the deadline approaches, you will need to know your level of exposure and impact in order to prevent surprises. What will the impact of the IBOR transition be on your TMS and ERP systems, your credit facilities, bank loans, cash pooling, bonds, ISDA agreements and intercompany agreements? What impacts will these have on your processes and supporting systems? Which complexities will need to be managed?

 

 

Having this information at hand will enable you to be a proper sparring partner for your banks when they renegotiate contract terms.

Depending on the complexity of your contracts, the IBOR phase out could substantially affect your corporate organisation. Prevent unnecessary loss by preparing yourself, following this five-step approach:

 

  • IBOR phase out knowledge build-up

Corporates should start to build-up their knowledge regarding the IBOR phase-out and get up-to-speed with developments related to different kind of products and RFRs in order to be able to assess the IBOR phase-out impact. Each corporate organisation has a different situation and a variety of financial contracts. Complexity depends on the type of business. A larger organisation active across multiple regions in the world with more complex non-Euro instruments will be impacted higher than a smaller organisation that only is active locally within the Eurozone. Thorough knowledge about IBOR is a key starting point to assess the impact on your organisation and to be able to assess, plan and implement the migration to alternative reference rates.

  • Assess impact

The second step you should take is to analyse the IBOR related contracts in use throughout your organisation. Determine which contracts have an IBOR related component and the size of the exposure. Once you have assessed the complexity of your IBOR related contracts, analyse the impact on related areas (ranging from Tax and Legal to IT systems, and procedures, reporting, accounting (e.g. hedge-accounting), and the like).

  • Become a prepared discussion partner for your bank(s)

The third step is to be prepared for a call with your bank to discuss an RFR offering! The magnitude of change is well-recognised by banks and financial institutions, and they are demonstrating an increasing sense of urgency to address contracts maturing after 2021. More and more newly issued IBOR related products by your bank(s) will refer to a new alternative reference rate during 2021.

  • Plan actions

Knowing the alternative RFRs is an important input on creating a detailed action plan. Define a project team governance to manage this action plan and the status of the transition across different areas, business lines, and geographical locations. In particular, take care to ensure external resource availability regarding e.g. Legal counselling and system provider experts, as demand for these specialists will rapidly increase as the IBOR transition deadline approaches.

  • Act and implement

Step five is the implementation of your action plan throughout the affected areas of your organisation. In this ‘Act’ phase it is important to maintain the conversation with external parties, such as banks and system providers. It is also of vital importance to support the implementation across all relevant business lines and functions, maintaining support for go-live readiness in line with the defined action plan and deadlines.

A golden opportunity starts with IBOR knowledge build-up

Enigma Consulting supports you in knowledge build-up by providing ‘tailor-made’ workshops in order to discuss the impact on your corporate organisation related to different RFRs for different products based on your specific situation and to help you to prepare and become a discussion partner with your bank.

IBOR may well be a golden opportunity, but it is up to you as a corporate treasurer to seize it by acting rather sooner than later! Corporates: Caveat IBOR and build up your knowledge!

If you are interested in how we can help you to build-up your knowledge and to assess your IBOR related contract complexity or if you want to understand how we can support your corporate organisation in the IBOR phase out transition, you can contact us on:

dpluta@enigmaconsulting.nl or look at www.enigmaconsulting.nl

Daniel Pluta

 

 

 

Blockchain and the Corporate Treasurer: towards Smart Treasuries

| 16-02-2021 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

Blockchain is gaining growing attention in the Treasury world. Corporate treasurers are intensively looking at blockchain use cases to improve the effectiveness of their treasury management activities.

Notwithstanding the various benefits for corporate treasuries, there is still a great reluctance to adopt blockchain technology in their treasury departments. And that for various reasons. The technology is still immature, most of the projects are still in the conceptual phase while tangible real-world blockchain applications for the corporate treasurer’s day-to-day activities are still scarce. But that is – slowly – changing. A growing number of tangible treasury solutions are moving forward and being brought to the market. And there is increasing awareness amongst blockchain solution providers to come up with more integrated smart treasury solutions.

Complex treasury environment

Today’s business environment for internationally operating corporates is highly complex from a treasury point of view. These corporates have undergone many transformations in their treasury organisations triggered by technology innovations, regulatory initiatives and changed client behaviours.

In order to gain greatest visibility over their business critical functions and reach greater strategic control, corporate treasurers are significantly increasing their spending on treasury technology and innovations, to speed up and streamline their company’s cash, liquidity, risk and working capital management. Key challenge is to obtain consolidated real-time insight in group-wide multi-currency cash positions across a fragmented banking network in a timely manner, and manage credit facilities across all bank accounts of the group. Today’s model of international correspondent banking thereby strongly limits the ability to manage cash in a real-time environment.

As a result many corporate treasurers are still mainly using manual processes for their global activities.  Especially the world of international payments looks cumbersome. They are slow, expensive and hard to track. Operating in multiple currencies has a substantial impact on the operational capabilities of  treasury teams, and on the treasury’s ability to work efficiently.

From isolated proof-of-concept projects ……

The emergence of new technologies such as blockchain would enable corporate treasurers to take smarter, more data-driven approaches to core processes and better support the strategic side of the business.

During the past few years we have seen many blockchain Proof of Concept (PoC) trials for various use cases in corporate treasuries. Corporate treasury-related areas with potential use cases for blockchain range far and wide. From activities such as cross border payments, trade finance, electronic bank management, reconciliation, data storage and smart contracts to supply chain management, KYC, financial reporting, regulatory compliance intra-day liquidity management and cash management. But they mostly remained in the proof-of-concept stage. A majority of these projects have not even gone beyond the testing phase. And those that have made it and past that stage are yet to see extensive usage. Besides that most of the blockchain-based applications are focused on single parts of the treasury activity. They are mostly isolated and are not interoperable – so do not communicate with each other.

……. to practical treasury-focused Blockchain solutions

Blockchain development is however entering a new phase. Slowly, but definitely, the focus of many blockchain developers and providers is now turning from proof of concept projects to proof of work trials and further to the creation of more practical, treasury-focused blockchain solutions. Thereby they are trying to solve the various challenges such as interoperability, scalability etc. As global trades evolve and become more intertwined, we are also seeing the upcoming of collaborative blockchain models that can streamline and automate complex processes – like many aspects of treasury, thereby bypassing the cumbersome correspondent banking system.

Over time, a growing number of authentic real-world blockchain-based solutions – worthwhile looking at – have been introduced thereby using collaborative models like Ripple (global payments), R3 Corda (data management), Marco Polo (trade finance) and We.Trade (trade finance) to name a few.

Adjoint’s Smart Treasury

One of the most interesting recent blockchain offerings for corporate treasurers is Smart Treasury launched by Boston-based fintech Adjoint. Adjoint has combined blockchain technology with related smart contracts and APIs (or application programming interfaces) to create a solution that aims to dramatically speed up settling intercompany transactions in a secured way while significantly reducing the costs.

Table 1 Key features of Smart Treasury

Adjoint’s Smart Treasury is implemented as an overlay and should be seen as a multi-bank, multi-currency virtual account platform for real-time gross settlement and continuous reconciliation. This should allow corporate treasurers to untap liquidity in their various subsidiaries’ bank accounts thereby improving the liquidity management of the corporate treasurer.

Smart Treasury does not seek to replace existing ERP and TMS systems but rather compliment them by using APIs and by speeding up transaction settlement so that the data is much more timely and secure. Thereby pushing and pulling data to connected enterprise (ERP) and treasury management systems (TMS), and creating a real-time window to treasury management. Workflow might be streamlined across various use cases, and can be automated — such as for generating international transfers, calculating accrued interest, generating invoices for a loan payment, and submitting to the systems of records to ensure accuracy and reconciled data.

 What may Smart Treasury bring?

The Adjoint Smart Treasury solution could bring a number of important benefits for the corporate treasurer thanks to greater transparency, improved efficiency in current treasury processes, reduced risk and as a result much lower costs.

Table 2 Benefits of Smart Treasury

First of all Smart Treasury will contribute to improved liquidity management thanks to greater transparency, allowing greater control over key treasury workflows. It may enable real-time insight in a corporate’s liquidity position and in how quickly they can provide liquidity to the corporate. Treasurers may see balances across the corporate group, across multiple entities, corporate departments and banks (accounts), in different geographies, and at any point in time. Via using Smart Treasury, this visibility may expand to partners, subsidiaries, vendors and customers allowing them access. The insight gained may further help drive more reliable cash flow forecasts for corporate treasurers.

Using Smart Treasury may significantly reduce current complications in the various treasury processes, including cross-border payments and billing. Using smart contracts could thereby streamline present cumbersome processes and eliminate costly third-party transactions. It allows tracking transaction status and confirmations in real-time, thanks to the greater transparency brought about by blockchain technology between the various players. As a result such transfers can be done much quicker and in some instances even instantly, thereby optimising the whole reconciliation process across various subsidiaries ERPs in terms of time spent and manual effort.

By removing the long chain of disintermediation, Smart Treasury allows outside companies within the supply chain to pull relevant information directly from the blockchain with no settlement network in between. This may create significant collateral savings thanks to shortened (or even instant) settlement cycles. Intra-group obligations may be settled instantly and at no cost. Smart Treasury will also enable full-auditability of transactions, thereby realising greater savings in both time and costs. Such immutable auditable record of transactions may for instance provide real-time ownership of underlying cash, so there will be no double spending of cash. Also intra-company loans are auditable “for arms-length transaction history” by time-stamping reference able FX conversion rates.

Smart Stream can help corporate treasuries improve risk management through data redundancy, auditability and smart-contract permissions. As the credibility of debtors and creditors is supposed to be known at all participants it will contribute to more security, while blockchain will also enable secure data storage across nodes to prevent a single point of failure. The transactions’ regulatory and compliance requirements are automatically satisfied by smart contracts, and application programming interfaces (APIs) transfer information and data between siloed corporate entities and their banks and data providers.

But also from a strategic point-of-view, Smart Treasury could bring a number of great benefits. Having a clear and real-time picture of assets and cash flows, finance has the ability to make strategic investments in a shorter period of time, helping to capitalize on potential investment opportunities and evaluate important future transactions, thereby expanding the types of transactions that can be done. In international operating companies, smart contracts may help the treasury play a critical role in successfully conducting business overseas. All these improvements could ultimately lead to a firm reduction in costs. Large savings could thereby be got from transaction costs and labour costs (esp. back office), while corporates could significantly reduce fees and costs to third parties.

Forward thinking

Adjoint’s Smart Treasury is a very interesting proposition. Some see this blockchain-based solution as a game-changer for corporate  treasuries. If well used it could bring great benefits while solving a number of present challenges.

But Smart Treasury however will not be the only proposition in this field. Still, looking further into the future, we will see the arriving of more collaborative global and interoperable blockchain networks offering more mature real-world applications that will meet the actual challenges of scalability, interoperability, and as a result lead to greater confidence at and more mainstream adoption by corporate treasures. Treasurers would thus do well to keep up-to-date with new solutions that may leverage this blockchain technology, bringing process efficiencies and improve their new role, that has become much more strategic.

Table 1 Key features of Smart Treasury

  • Auto reconciliation
  • Virtual accounts
  • In-house self-service bank
  • Smart Treasury Dashboard
  • Smart contracts
  • API integration with ERP/TMS systems
  • API integration with banks

Table 2 Benefits for corporate treasuries

  • Optimize liquidity management
  • Optimize reconciliation process
  • Shorten settlement cycle
  • Full auditability of transactions
  • Improve risk management
  • Strategic benefits
  • Cost reduction

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher

 

 

 

New MiCA regulation further tightens regulations for crypto companies (Dutch Item)

23-12-2020 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

Op 21 november 2020 verliep de deadline waarop cryptodienstverleners, die in of vanuit Nederland opereren bij toezichthouder DNB, geregistreerd dienden te zijn om hun crypto-activiteiten te mogen voorzetten. Bijna vijftig partijen hebben een aanvraag ingediend bij DNB, maar tot op heden heeft DNB ‘slechts’ dertien partijen in het openbaar register bijgeschreven. Het volgende reguleringskader staat echter al in de steigers: de zogeheten Europese verordening ‘Markets in Crypto-Assets’ (MiCA). Deze verordening moet vanaf 2024 voor alle lidstaten van de EU gaan gelden. Erik van der Leer van Enigma Consulting beschrijft welke impact MiCA kan hebben op de bedrijfsvoering van (crypto)bedrijven.

MiCA zal de van toepassing zijnde regelgeving voor cryptoplatformen verder uitbreiden en aanscherpen. Onder MiCA zullen ook verschillende cryptodiensten die voorheen buiten het reguleringskader vielen moeten voldoen aan Europese regelgeving. Zo definieert MiCA drie verschillende soorten uitgevers van crypto-assets en zeven verschillende cryptodienstverleners. Naast  de cryptodienstverleners die zich vandaag de dag reeds dienen te registreren in Nederland worden daarmee ook andere cryptodiensten binnen bereik van de wetgeving van de Europese lidstaten gebracht.

MiCA typeert aanbieders van een of meer van de volgende diensten als cryptodienstverlening:

  1. Diensten waarbij advies wordt gegeven over crypto-assets;
  2. Diensten waarbij orders in crypto-assets worden ontvangen en uitgevoerd;
  3. Diensten waarbij crypto-assets in de markt geplaatst worden;
  4. Diensten waarbij orders in crypto-assets worden afgewikkeld door derde partijen;
  5. Diensten waarbij crypto-assets in bewaring worden beheerd;
  6. Diensten waarbij een handelsplatform voor crypto-assets wordt geëxploiteerd;
  7. Diensten waarbij crypto-assets worden verhandeld tegen fiatgeld of andere crypto-assets.

Hoe staan de eisen uit MiCA in verhouding tot het in Nederland geldende registratie-regime?

Onder MiCA moeten cryptodienstverleners, net zoals dat geldt binnen het DNB registratieregime, een bedrijfsplan opstellen, procedures inrichten voor de integere bedrijfsuitoefening, de betrouwbaarheid en geschiktheid van bestuurders en beleidsbepalers laten testen door de toezichthouder en over een transparante zeggenschapsstructuur beschikken.

Deze verplichtingen worden uitgebreid met o.a. de volgende zaken:

  • Het aanbrengen van een strikte scheiding tussen het vermogen van de dienstverlener en het geld in beheer van de klant;
  • Het opstellen van een uitbestedingsbeleid, waaronder het formuleren van een herstel- en exitplan;
  • Het opstellen en naleven van een, aan de wettelijke eisen voldoende, klachtenprocedure;
  • Het beschrijven van de geïmplementeerde IT-systemen en beveiligingsprotocollen;
  • Het voldoen aan strike eisen omtrent marktmisbruik en insider-trading.

Ook zullen cryptodienstverleners een cliëntenacceptatiebeleid moeten opstellen voor diensten waarbij crypto-assets worden geplaatst, alsook moeten voldoen aan verschillende transparantievereisten voor diensten waarbij crypto-assets worden verhandeld tegen fiat geld of andere assets. Naast deze zaken zal ook een eigen vermogenseis gaan gelden van minimaal € 50.000.

Wat zal de impact zijn van MiCA op de Nederlandse cryptosector?

Zoals blijkt uit de bovenstaande zorgt MiCA voor een flinke toename in regeldruk binnen de Europese en Nederlandse cryptosector. De cryptodienstverleners dienen niet alleen hun bedrijfsvoering verder aan te passen, maar dienen ook over een aanzienlijk minimum eigen vermogen te bezitten. Met name voor de kleinere Europese spelers in de markt kan dit potentieel een grote impact hebben.

Desalniettemin brengt MiCA ook voordelen met zich mee voor de Nederlandse cryptosector. Het huidige Nederlandse registratieregime staat binnen Europa immers te boek als relatief streng, waardoor de Nederlandse cryptosector zijn concurrentiepositie ten aanzien van Europese concurrentie heeft zien verslechteren. Doordat MiCA het Europese speelveld nu gelijk maakt verbetert de internationale positie van cryptodienstverleners in Nederland. Ook beoogt MiCA dat een verkregen autorisatie gepassport kan worden naar andere lidstaten, iets dat momenteel niet mogelijk is. Omdat Nederland al relatief strenge eisen stelt zullen Nederlandse registratiehouders naar alle waarschijnlijkheid beter voorbereid zijn op de additionele MiCA-vereisten.

Ten slotte zorgt MiCA ervoor dat de uitgifte van crypto-assets en het verrichten van crypto dienstverlening een duidelijk en universeel reguleringskader krijgt binnen Europa. Alhoewel de hieraan verbonden eisen streng zijn en wellicht een negatief effect zullen uitoefenen op de bedrijfsuitvoering van sommige spelers in de sector, brengt MiCA ook zekerheid voor de markt én de consument. Het ontvangen van een MiCA-autorisatie zal daarmee ongetwijfeld deuren openen die tot op heden gesloten waren en nieuwe commerciële kansen met zich meebrengen voor de Europese en Nederlandse cryptosector.

15 blockchain trends in 2021: Expect the unexpected

| 22-12-2020 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

The year 2020 has almost come to an end. It has been a historically tough year for many. A number of events happened that were not included nor expected in my – and many others – 2020 blockchain trends. Especially the COVID-19 pandemic that not only intensified trends that were already underway, but also generated new trends.

It is a tradition to focus my last blog on what to expect for the next year. We will look at the top trends we may expect for the blockchain and cryptocurrency landscape to watch out for 2021 and beyond? So, how will the landscape be look like for blockchain technology in the years to come?

1. Global blockchain market size will exponentially grow

What was not forecasted is that blockchain technology exploded in popularity this year. Businesses from a multitude of industries showed a growing interest to adopt this technology for enhancing their business processes. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation drive in many areas, especially via the use of blockchain or distributed ledger technology.

As a result the global blockchain market size is expected to expand from USD 3.0 billion in 2020 to USD 39.7 billion by 2025, at an effective Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 67.3% during 2020–2025.

Expectations for 2021 are positive” “It is estimated that next year, at least 25 percent of the Forbes Global 2000 will use blockchain as a foundation for digital trust at scale.” 

2. Covid-19 will further accelerate blockchain transition

We will see a reorientation of the various blockchain projects. Experts predict that 90% of blockchain projects will require replacement within a year.

That is because most are ignoring key features such as tokenization, smart contracts, and decentralised consensus. Next to that, the pandemic has caused more realistic and pragmatic approaches to blockchain initiatives specifically focused on the day-to-day business “to continue their growth path”. Blockchain projects with clear benefits are expected to do that next year at an even faster pace. There has also been an uptick in the number of companies interested in participating in networks that specifically help to address some of the supply chain issues that the pandemic has put forward.  

3. Long-term strategic projects will be put on hold

Volatility and uncertainty sparked by COVID-19 has led many corporates to pull back from some of  their more long-term DLT-related projects for the time being. These long-term strategic projects, in particular those requiring changes to market structure or regulatory changes, are mostly working to extended timetables now. Budgets for purely experimental and R&D projects – run in isolation from the business- are becoming harder to obtain and have been cut this year. And this will cause an even larger number of these projects will be put on hold.

4. Corporates need to accelerate their digital transformation

Digital transformation is no longer a choice for businesses – it is essential to survival. Due to the increased strain that the COVID-19 pandemic put on day-to-day business, there is a dire need at corporates to accelerate their digital transformation process to emerge stronger than before. Blockchain technology is very likely to make the most transformative and dramatic changes in the way businesses function, during the coming years. Many industries are therefore intensively looking at blockchain as a helpful tool to become all the more digital.

5. Globally, 30% of projects will make it into production. 

It is forecasted that a growing number of blockchain-based projects will switch to the production stage. This number doesn’t just reflect the more realistic approach to projects and the increasing maturity of the technology but also the pandemic-induced acceleration and initiation of projects that may bring “measurable benefit within a short timescale”. According to Gartner more than 40% of the surveyed corporates has at least one blockchain pilot running. They predict that 30% of global projects will make it into production, partly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of networks that transition from pilot to production will thereby run on private enterprise blockchain platforms. 

6. Private (permissioned) blockchains will dominate

Another trend we will observe is that private blockchains will become the main contributor to the blockchain market growth and are assumed to retain the largest market size in 2021. Enterprise blockchain solutions are developed customized according to a corporate’s business needs. Private blockchain provide more opportunities to corporates in terms of utilizing the blockchain technology for business-to-business use cases. They deliver higher efficiency, privacy, reliability, and transparency, while security is provided to a private blockchain using private keys that are known only to authorized persons in the organization.

7. China will make the fastest progress  

From  a regional perspective China is leading the global blockchain game and will continue this role in 2021. Blockchain is taking China to the level, which is well beyond the present reach of other global market players. China’s “new infrastructure” national initiative, its state-backed Blockchain Based Service Network, is aimed to make blockchain an integral part of the country’s digital infrastructure. China’s further ambition is to provide a global public infrastructure via this Network. Beyond that, while other countries or regions like Europe are thinking to launch their own Digital currency, China is almost ready to issue their Crypto yuan.

8. The banking and financial sector further dominates the market

Amongst all the industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial sector is one area that has been hit particularly hard. Falling profits and tightening margins have forced banks to adapt and increasingly meet their customers need in a growing digital world. The adoption of fintech and blockchain technology, enables them to streamline their operations and modernize their operations. This may lead to a firm growth in contactless transactions and redesigned financial services. The banking and financial sector is expected to show exponential growth in blockchain adoption in the coming years. As a result this sector is going to hold the largest market size in the global blockchain market during the coming years.

9. Growing DLT-offerings by non-traditional financial institutions

Another trend we will see during 2021, and also triggered by COVID-19,  is the rise in the number of non-traditional financial institutions. They will be triggered by a growing number of corporates but also consumers that are going more into online blockchain-based mode of transactions and financial services. These groups nowadays have more non-bank options delivered by institutions ranging from non-bank lenders, to crypto-currency based banks to fully decentralised financial (DEFI) services alternatives.

10. Fast upcoming trends: DEFI …..

Next to a firm acceleration that is expected in the acceptance of tokenisation i.e. the digital storage of assets on blockchain, another interesting upcoming trend in 2021 and further on will be DEFI or decentralised financial services. If we look at DEFI it shows how blockchain could be used for financial use cases which up till now has been “the missing point” for enterprise blockchain offerings. DEFI illustrates successful process of smart contracts for financial services. This alternative form of financing perfectly fits into the fintechisation of the economy.

This year we already have seen a firm rose of DEFI services. The total value of fulltime decentralised financial services (based on cryptocurrencies) witnessed an impressive growth and even surpassed USD 10 billion. It is seen to be further speeding up in 2021 and beyond.

11. ……  and ZKP

Another important trend we may see in 2021 is the arrival of Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP). ZKPs are urgently needed to meet challenges with preserving confidentiality that are currently holding blockchain projects back. Blockchain-based ZKPs allow companies with different record-keeping systems to be verifiably “in sync” on a record-by-record basis without sharing sensitive information. Much progress has been made recently around ZKPs. There are increasingly coming all sorts of solutions on the market to deploy ZKPs in a broad way. For instance to put mortgage requests on blockchain and, via ZKPs as a sort of notary, automatically grant or reject such a request. Big challenge however remains the complexity of the developments. ZKPs are much more complex to develop than coding a smart contract without privacy, but for security reasons corporates are expected to shift from developing DApps  to developing ZApps.

12. Cryptocurrencies may reach new heights

2020 has proven to be a good year for all crypto markets, and expectations are for 2021 to be even a better year for Bitcoin and other cryptos. These cryptocurrencies have taken center stage as investors search for new safe haven assets, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so much uncertainty in the market, and being largely unaffected by external factors like government policy thanks to its decentralized nature, Bitcoin has proven itself to be a “valuable form of digital gold”, qualifying itself as one of the strongest players in the digital currency world. As we enter 2021 and adopt to a new normal, social distancing and cashless transactions may further set the stage for cryptocurrencies. However, with the constant fluctuations in the crypto space, anything could be expected.

13. Crypto fraud is rising

While 2020 being great year for investments in cryptocurrencies, the downside is a firm rise in crypto frauds. Global crypto exchanges, have suffered high-profile hacks, whereas hacks on decentralized finance (DeFi) companies accounted for more than 20% of the total theft volume in 2020. Expectations are that this will continue during 2021. We may see various types of cyber fraud, including fake crypto investment platforms, fake crypto wallet scams, new forms of malware targeting lesser-known cryptocurrencies and crypto-jacking.

14. The number of CBDC projects will accelerate

There is a proliferation of central banks worldwide that are exploring the possible launch of their own central bank digital currency (CBDC). According to a recent BIS report 80% of central banks worldwide are researching the pros and cons of such a currency. This process will further intensify in 2021, driven by the diminishing use of cash, the digitalisation of the economy, the upcoming of private digital currencies like Libra etc. The Chinese government is well in advance, recently indicating  to accelerate their process triggered by COVID-19. They have already executed dozens of experiments amongst citizens and corporates and are even ready for a worldwide roll-out. The ECB will take a clear decision on their Digital euro project mid-2021.

15. Governments Will Tighten Regulations Related to FinTech

A final trend we will see in 2021 and beyond is that regulators will intensify their search for stricter and tighter regulation. Long time being absent, governments around the world are sure to implement a myriad of fintech regulations over the next few years. The growing digitalisation of the economy triggered by the COVID-pandemic is an issue that is now narrowly monitored by regulators worldwide. Digital banking, cryptocurrency, and blockchain will likely be the greatest topics of concern.

As an increasing number of finance transactions occur outside of traditional institutions and mechanisms, issues like DEFI cannot be ignored anymore by regulators. Meanwhile, European Union legislators are pursuing an EU-wide regulatory system for crypto assets markets, including the proliferation of token investments as a sophisticated investing vehicle.

 

Concluding my blog and wishing all of you a merry Christmas and a good and healthy 2021:

“If we’ve learnt anything from 2020, it’s the fact that we should always expect the unexpected”.

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher

 

 

 

Savings and investment banks have a lot of potential for improvement in the onboarding process for customers

24-11-2020 | treasuryXL | Enigma Consulting |

(Dutch Item)

Hoe digitaal en gebruiksvriendelijk verloopt het proces om klant te worden bij spaar- en beleggingsbanken? En wat kunnen zij opsteken van banken die een betaalrekening aanbieden? In een nieuw onderzoek van Enigma Consulting komt naar voren dat spaar- en beleggingsbanken hun onboardingsproces naar een hoger niveau kunnen brengen door te leren van de klantreis van banken die reguliere betaalrekeningen aanbieden. Wat vooral opvalt is dat de onboarding bij spaar- en beleggingsbanken nog hoofdzakelijk via de website verloopt, terwijl betaalbanken de onboarding via de app aanbieden en overduidelijk meer inzetten op innovatieve oplossingen. Een bijdrage van Marc Groot, Managing Consultant bij Enigma Consulting en expert binnen het onboardingsdomein.

Als expert in het klantonboardingsdomein publiceerde Enigma Consulting in juni 2020 een artikel over de onboardingsprocessen van de belangrijkste ‘betaalbanken’ in Nederland. Dit onderzoek heeft een vervolg gekregen, waarin naar de onboarding van spaar- en beleggingsbanken is gekeken, die worden aangeduid als ‘niet-betaalbanken’. Banken die  – onder andere – een betaalrekening aanbieden, noemen we betaalbanken.

Wanneer onboarding niet via de app mogelijk was, is de onboarding uitgevoerd via de website op de smartphone. Het onboardingsproces is per bank doorlopen en beoordeeld aan de hand van verschillende criteria. De onderzoekers hebben zich in het onderzoek geconcentreerd op de klantervaring, waarbij niet achter de schermen is gekeken bij de onderzochte banken. De klantreis is beoordeeld op basis van drie categorieën:

  • Innovatie: door handig gebruik te maken van innovatieve technieken, zoals een selfiefilm en de NFC-chip voor het uitlezen van legitimaties, kunnen gebruiksvriendelijkheid en fraudepreventie bij elkaar gebracht en versterkt worden.
  • Gebruiksvriendelijkheid: het gemak waarmee de klant het proces doorloopt, de doorlooptijd, de begeleiding van de klant door het proces en de aanwezigheid van technische barrières.
  • Veiligheid en fraudepreventie: alle banken hebben de verantwoordelijkheid om fraude te voorkomen en de klant correct te identificeren. De banken zijn beoordeeld op basis van hoe de klant wordt geïdentificeerd,  klantidentificatie- en verificatiemethoden en in hoeverre deze  aan de voorkant voldoen aan de geldende wet- en regelgeving.

De volgende afbeelding geeft weer welke spaar- en beleggingsbanken zijn meegenomen in het onderzoek en welke het beste zijn beoordeeld per categorie.

Niet-betaalbanken weinig innovatief

Allereerst is gekeken in hoeverre niet-betaalbanken innovaties gebruiken in het onboardingsproces en hoe dit zich verhoudt tot betaalbanken. Bij de identificatie van een klant gaat de bank af op de door de klant verstrekte gegevens. Een voorbeeld is een kopie of scan van het paspoort. Vervolgens verifieert de bank de identiteit door vast te stellen of de opgegeven identiteit overeenkomt met de werkelijke identiteit, bijvoorbeeld door een selfie-foto. Innovaties in het onboardingsproces zijn onder meer vernieuwende klantidentificatie- en verificatiemethoden en het uitlezen van de legitimatie via een foto in de app of via een NFC-chip.

Bij de niet-betaalbanken bieden alleen beleggersbanken DeGiro en Semmie de mogelijkheid aan om via een foto het legitimatiebewijs te delen met de bank. Bij de overige niet-betaalbanken dient de klant een scan van het legitimatiebewijs te maken en deze vervolgens te uploaden of te mailen. Daarbij moet de klant de persoonlijke gegevens handmatig invoeren op de website. Dit leidt tot een langer proces en kan leiden tot incorrecte invoer van de klant. Verder bieden de niet-betaalbanken geen van alle een selfie-foto, selfie-film of stemopname aan als middel voor klantverificatie.

Daarentegen gebruikt een meerderheid van de betaalbanken wel innovatieve identificatie- en verificatiemethoden. Vijf betaalbanken laten hun nieuwe klant een selfie-foto maken, drie kiezen voor een selfie-film en twee voor een stemopname. Verder worden bij vier betaalbanken de persoonsgegevens automatisch overgenomen in de app door middel van een scan van het legitimatiebewijs of door het uitlezen van de NFC-chip van het paspoort.

Onboarding via app bij niet-betaalbanken nog in kinderschoenen

Kijkend naar gebruiksvriendelijkheid is het bij vrijwel geen enkele niet-betaalbank mogelijk om de volledige onboarding te verrichten via de app. Dit kan alleen bij vermogensbeheerder Semmie. Deze jonge fintech-onderneming maakt in alle categorieën een goede indruk. Bij de overige gevallen gaat de klant grotendeels door het proces via de website. De klant vult de persoonlijke gegevens handmatig in via een webformulier. Bovendien heeft een deel van de niet-betaalbanken überhaupt geen app waarin zij hun diensten aanbieden.

Bij de niet-betaalbanken onderscheiden BinckBank, DeGiro, Lloyds Bank en Semmie zich positief qua doorlooptijd. De klant weet binnen een uur wat het spaarrekeningnummer is. Bij Semmie moet aangetekend worden dat het rekeningnummer nog niet direct actief is na de onboarding, vanwege de afhankelijkheid van de acceptatie door hun depotbank.  Bij de andere spaar- en beleggingsbanken varieert deze doorlooptijd van binnen een dag tot binnen een week.

Uit het onderzoek komt naar voren dat banken waarbij de onboarding via de app verloopt beter scoren op gebruiksvriendelijkheid en innovatie. Het grote voordeel van mobiele apps in vergelijking met mobiele websites is de betere klantervaring. Mobiele apps zijn geoptimaliseerd voor een grote hoeveelheid aan smartphones en schermresoluties, apps werken sneller dan websites en apps kunnen gebruikmaken van apparaat-eigenschappen, zoals camera of GPS. Bij onboarding via een website zijn deze apparaat-eigenschappen niet mogelijk.

Een belangrijk element van een goede gebruikerservaring is dat de klant zo snel mogelijk gebruik kan maken van de rekening en diensten. Bij een aantal betaalbanken is de rekening binnen een uur al actief en kan de klant transacties uitvoeren. Om dit te realiseren is een gedigitaliseerde klantreis noodzakelijk. Bij de meeste betaalbanken is het mogelijk de onboarding volledig te doorlopen via de app. Duidelijk is dat bij de niet-betaalbanken een flinke stap valt te maken in het aanbieden van de onboarding en dienstverlening via een app.

Veiligheid kan gebruikersgemak verlagen, innovatie is de oplossing

De derde categorie is ‘veiligheid en fraudepreventie’. Voor banken is het van groot belang dat zij op de hoogte zijn van de laatste wet- en regelgeving en de processen volledig compliant zijn in relatie tot KYC en AML.

Zowel betaalbanken als niet-betaalbanken gebruiken de identificatiestorting regelmatig. Bij niet-betaalbanken is het primaire doel van de identificatiestorting het moeten verifiëren van een vaste tegenrekening. Bij betaalbanken gaat het om afgeleide identificatie van de klant.

Bij de niet-betaalbanken komt de identificatiestorting acht keer terug. BinckBank, DeGiro  en Semmie maken het mogelijk om via iDEAL te betalen, terwijl de overige niet-betaalbanken nog steeds een handmatige overboeking hanteren. Deze handmatige overboeking is tijdrovend en gaat buiten de directe flow van de klantreis om. iDEAL is de oplossing hiervoor.

De betaalbanken hebben iDEAL nagenoeg standaard opgenomen in de klantreis. Bij zes betaalbanken die de identificatiestorting gebruiken, kan de klant bij vijf de storting uitvoeren via iDEAL en bij één gaat dit via een handmatige overboeking.

Innovatie en app zetten betaalbanken op grote voorsprong

Uit het onderzoek kunnen een aantal conclusies getrokken worden. Ten eerste lopen niet-betaalbanken ver achter op betaalbanken op het gebied van innovatieve  klantidentificatie- en verificatiemethodes. Ten tweede bieden niet-betaalbanken het onboardingsproces hoofdzakelijk aan via de website, terwijl de onboarding bij betaalbanken verloopt via de app.

Kortom, spaar- en beleggingsbanken hebben veel verbeterpotentieel als het gaat om klantervaring en digitalisering van het onboardingsproces. Tegenwoordig voeren steeds meer bedrijven een ‘app first-strategie’ waarbij alle diensten, en dus ook onboarding, via de app verlopen om zodoende een vlekkeloze mobiele online ervaring te kunnen bieden. We zijn immers tegenwoordig meer online via onze smartphones dan via andere apparaten.

Innovatie en gebruikersgemak zijn op een positieve wijze nauw met elkaar verbonden. Door gebruik te maken van innovaties, wordt de veiligheid van het proces bevorderd zonder dat dit ten koste gaat van de gebruiksvriendelijkheid.

Ripple Blockchain and Payments Report 2020: from rippling to spreading out

| 11-11-2020 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

Ripple, the blockchain payments platform, recently launched its third annual “Blockchain in Payments Report 2020: From Adoption to Growth”. The survey that was conducted in the August-September period this year amongst 854 respondents from payment services providers in 22 countries gives us some interesting and positive insights in the global adoption of blockchain-based payments and digital assets. Ripple believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated positive change in the global payments industry towards accepting blockchain technology.

Present challenges in payments

The respondents in the survey highlighted blockchain’s increasing role in payments. They are nowadays confronted with a number of challenges limiting their growth possibilities, including finding international partnerships, pre-funding accounts, accessing working capital, and building payment technology. According to the respondents blockchain technology could be the solution that would enable payment providers to overcome these challenges.

State of Adoption

The report found that the blockchain industry is in its final phase of adoption. Survey results show that the majority of the survey respondents are adopting blockchain for production use. It shows that 34% of participants are in the production of some solution with blockchain technology. 24% of the participants expect to complete production and move on to a pilot test and a proof-of-concept (POC) within the next two years. The rate of adoption across business types differs slightly, with digital banking/fintech businesses leading. They are followed closely by retail banks, and money transmitter or payment providers.

In emerging markets, 37% of participants are in production to implement blockchain technology. Asia and the Pacific (APAC) is thereby the leading region with 41%, followed by Latin America (LATAM). Emerging markets are recognizing that responsible usage of blockchain and digital assets can “unleash tremendous potential for their economy”. Both will drive greater financial inclusion and economic growth. Mature markets stand to benefit as well.

Use Cases

Of the respondents 59% is in production or near production for blockchain-based payments related use cases. Slightly over one-third of the report’s respondents currently use blockchain technologies for sending or receiving payments for customers.

But a key point revealed by the Ripple report is the diversification in use cases by companies using this technology. The survey showed that blockchain is now scaling beyond just payments. 98% of respondents running a payments blockchain POC have also deployed the technology for non-payments use cases – the most common ones being supply chain management (62% in production) and trade finance (51% in production). This demonstrates that blockchain can be leveraged across the enterprise.

Cross border Payments

Blockchain technology is not just adopted for in-country uses. As blockchain payments solutions continue to solve for many of the pain points related to cross-border payments, adoption has steadily grown. In fact, real-time settlement for cross-border payments is seen as a business necessity for many, as well as in demand by consumers and businesses.

Digital Assets

Another key finding in the report is that digital assets are increasingly being considered for facilitating payments, especially when connected with blockchain technology. As there has been an increase in education and blockchain experience in the industry, both payment providers and consumer confidence in digital assets have risen. Business interest in digital assets has grown sharply as early adopters look to increase the speed in payment settlements. Across the board, the report found openness to more digital asset types whereby various whereby  cryptocurrencies, as well central bank digital currency and stablecoins were considered. Almost all respondents (99%) said that their respective institutions would consider using digital assets to instantly process cross-border payments or as a medium of exchange (up from 94% recorded in 2018).

“Companies view digital assets as a means to accelerate expansion to other countries and currencies. Interestingly, 82% of respondents not yet in pilot or proof-of-concept responded with the second highest interest in leveraging digital assets in cross border payments. Early adopters recorded the highest interest. Respondents are seeing the success of early adopters and looking to kick start their own adoption—with a large majority open to leveraging more digital forms of currency.” Ripple Report

For those making cross-border payments using digital assets, financial inclusion, reduced cash usage and availablity of liquidity are strengths that rank relatively high as well, but still below the transaction features of speed and security that make blockchain so popular for domestic payments.

What is driving adoption?

There were four key benefits mentioned driving blockchain adoption, namely, improved data quality, increased data security, cost savings, and business growth.

For digitally-led businesses, transparency, security and networking are key benefits of adopting digital assets in payments. Those who are not digitally-led especially value factors like speed. Many of these institutions surveyed adopted blockchain technology to increase speed to make cross-border payment transactions (40%), achieve high levels of reliability (27%), improve data transparency and realize long-term operational cost savings (32%). Interestingly, respondents from Latin America stood out by ranking growth as the highest benefit, followed by cost-savings, whereas more mature markets ranked cost savings and data transparency as the greatest benefit of blockchain adoption. Other key contributors to the success of blockchain are a variety of blockchain technology providers that are facilitating easier implementation through APIs, hosted services, and standardization.

Growth drivers

Ripple’s report identified that blockchain adoption is key to successful growth strategies for financial institutions. Nearly half of the respondents have said that they view blockchain technology as the fuel for business growth. Nearly four out of five (79%) of blockchain-based payment businesses reported growth in 2020, despite the impact of COVID. Blockchain solutions continue to scale as businesses introduce new services to existing customer segments or expand existing services into new regions. 44 percent of respondents have said that they have recorded strong business growth in the past year, citing innovation in payment tech as a key growth driver.

Early adopters of blockchain-based payment solutions have witnessed the highest levels of growth year over year. In the past 12 months, early blockchain adopters reported nearly twice as much business growth over other respondents. 45% of survey participants that were processing digital transactions, recorded a large amount of growth. The market opportunity for innovators in fintech/retail banks and those located in emerging markets is quite significant with expectations of strong, continued growth. First movers in blockchain payment adoption and less mature markets are likely to see the most growth going forward according to the report.

Obstacles/Barriers

Among the main obstacles to blockchain adoption, participants mentioned a lack of regulatory clarity, the amount of investment required to implement the technology, and security. This year, the report also revealed that price swings experienced by the top two digital assets (Bitcoin and Ether) influenced respondents’ perception of volatility, which posed an issue. However, the results show that digital assets are increasingly becoming an important part of the development of the blockchain industry especially in emerging markets. Less than half of the respondents in Latin-America and APAC worry about price volatility, possibly these regions use digital assets as a hedge against their own local fiat currency.

Forward Thinking

“What the Blockchain in Payments 2020 report makes abundantly clear is that blockchain is no longer an exotic, emerging technology. It is a mature technology that is being battle-tested and continues to advance, both in terms of use cases and adoption. And if 2020 is any indication, blockchain will play an increasingly vital role in payments in the years to come.” Ripple Report

What is also clear is that blockchain proof of concepts (POC) are becoming a thing of the past. Today, blockchain initiatives are “leap frogging into production, moving swiftly along the adoption curve towards the late majority phase”. Not only is growth indeed possible for blockchain and digital assets initiatives, but familiarity and positive sentiment continue to spread as well, accelerating the adoption growth path.

Ripple is also spreading out!

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher