This is part 3 of our multi-part series on the blockchain. In parts 1 and 2 we talked about the specific effects of blockchain and cryptocurrency on the finance industry as well as how it will impact asset management and investing. Today we are diving into payments and banking.
You Get a Currency and You Get a Currency
While many banks are skeptical of bitcoin, none are skeptical of blockchain. But the marriage of the two is where it gets dicey. Because while central banks are looking into issuing digital currency, the biggest banks think the technology isn’t evolved enough to handle the world’s biggest payment systems.
Case in point: while Bank of America won’t allow their customers to trade bitcoin futures, the company itself has received at least 43 patents for Blockchain, the most of any other payment firm. Why? Because the slow processing of cross-border payments is one of the areas most commonly identified as ripe for blockchain-based innovation. And everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.
“…in a world where you can stream video from the space station, but you can’t move your own money from point A to point B…how do we take advantage of technology available today to dramatically accelerate the nature of how transactions and payments happen?” – Brad Garlinghouse, CEO, Ripple
Right now capital is sitting in pre-funded accounts all around the world. When you decide to work with someone, you transfer your currency and they transfer theirs. But what if you didn’t have to pre-fund those accounts? Ripple wants to disrupt this model with sub second cross-border payments and automated best pricing from its network. Since Ripple payments are nearly instant, their model removes credit and liquidity risk from the process, thus lowering bank (and societal) costs considerably.
Ripple sees an opportunity to make payments faster and cheaper by connecting different ledgers and thereby creating a universal protocol and solving the multi-trillion liquidity problem. And they’re not alone.
Feeling the Need for Speed
Payment providers getting into the blockchain space have the distinct benefit of doing the fund transfers so they can funnel users’ funds into purchases of the underlying currencies or to accounts at exchanges. This allows for significantly lower settlement time and lower costs for both providers, thereby lowering costs for the end user.
But, it’s not just about sending cryptocurrency payments. IBM is looking into platforms that allow blockchain payments of mainstream fiat currencies instantly, cutting down on the time it takes to set up and send wire transfers. And making it cheaper.
And IBM has started numerous pilots in this area. From their collaboration with startup Stellar, which uses blockchain technology to connect flat currencies to enable instant international transfers, to New Zealand-based payments company, KlickEx, they are hard on the heels of several blockchain endeavors.
What’s Next for Blockchain?
As we wrap up this series, one thing is for sure, Blockchain is going to have a huge impact on Fintech and that impact will likely change almost daily as the technology develops and gets more widely adopted. According to Goldman Sachs research, companies that switch to digital could see $57B in net cost savings globally each year. In other words, the financial profit and time-saving applications are enough of a game-changer to make all this fluctuation in the space worth it in the long run.