Financial firms continue to explore distributed ledger opportunities

An increasing number of industries seem to be dipping their toes into the blockchain arena. According to a recent report from PwC, 84 percent of respondents said their company is involved with blockchain in some capacity, whether that be testing new capabilities in a lab setting, building proofs of concept or running full-scale deployments. The World Bank and the United Nations have introduced blockchain initiatives, as has Red Hat customer, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), following the lead of companies in communications and media, retail, energy and utility, healthcare, and other industries.

Blockchain seems to be everywhere. However, according to the PwC survey, there’s still one industry that’s seen as leading the pack: financial services. That financial services leads the pack makes sense, given the fact that blockchain started out as a way to record currency transactions for Bitcoin, a type of digital currency that operates independently of a central bank. And while the initial leading industry for blockchain application was financial services, it’s clear that the technology has moved well beyond this, and financial services organizations are exploring the use of blockchain in different ways.

Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the United States, has alone filed more than 50 patents related to blockchain technology as of June 2018. And a host of other industries are expected to follow suit, according to a recent report from CB Insights. We explored several of these use cases more deeply in an earlier blog post.

Despite the enthusiasm for blockchain, and the fact the discussion and implementation has moved beyond bitcoin, there are still hurdles to overcome in all industries, including financial services. According to the PwC report, there is still confusion about what blockchain is and what it can do for businesses.

“Blockchain’s role as a dual-pronged change agent — as a new form of infrastructure and as a new way to digitize assets through tokens, including cryptocurrency — is not easy to explain,” the report says. In addition, trust remains an issue. Is it reliable and secure enough? Will it dull application performance? Will it scale? A lack of standards and interoperability issues add to the list of concerns, according to the PwC report.

Red Hat’s collaboration with BlockApps is seeking to make building distributed ledger applications easier.

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