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The pervasive adoption of digital technology for financial transactions has spawned new markets within the financial services industry, and blockchain applications represent one of the more transformational technologies to emerge — one that has the potential to change how financial institutions manage their data, applications, transactions, and business processes.

A blockchain is a distributed, decentralized transaction ledger saved by each node in the network. It is a peer-to-peer system with no central authority or database managing the transaction flow. Just how will this technology, most notably known as the open source crypto-currency underpinning bitcoin, transform financial services?

It is certainly an exciting time to think of the many ways financial institutions can use blockchain applications to meet the growing demands of international customers while creating a strategic advantage in the marketplace by delivering more agile and flexible solutions that protect business assets. Because the entire network is refreshed every few seconds and every node in the network maintains an exact duplicate of all transactions recorded on the network, financial institutions will find significant value in the security available over traditional, centralized systems.

Within the financial services industry, there is a wide variety of potential applications. Blockchain can be used to record and track the details of any transaction or ownership of any asset, including tangible assets such as real estate and intangible assets such as intellectual property. It can also be used to automate contracts, dramatically simplifying the process of creating and executing them. Some of the other tangible applications that come to mind include:

  • Smart contracts
  • Physical asset registration
  • Trade execution and settlement
  • Asset exchange
  • Cash reserve management
  • Supply chain management

Leaders in the industry are heating up the conversation about blockchain.  I recently attended IDC Directions in Boston, and had the opportunity to hear Brian Fearnley, IDC's research director for compliance, fraud and risk analytics, talk about the opportunities for blockchain and distributed ledger technology within the financial services industry.  He spoke in particular about the opportunity for blockchain to significantly reduce clearing and settlement time. A recent Accenture report estimates that blockchain could save investment banks up to $12 billion a year.  The report suggests using blockchain to run some processes, like finance reporting could reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent. And there are also a growing number of blockchain solution providers, including  BlockApps, a provider of Ethereum blockchain enterprise software and a Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform, with whom Red Hat  just announced a joint offering.

As a new Red Hatter, I am so excited to see the work that Red Hat is doing to embrace blockchain as demonstrated in this new partnership with BlockApps. Red Hat believes in blockchain's potential, and that a flexible open source and container-based platform offers an ideal platform for blockchain and fintech applications. In fact, Red Hat's Rich Feldmann, global director, financial services, said as much in a press release in early February announcing Red Hat's collaboration with BlockApps. We are working together to make blockchain applications scale for hybrid cloud environments, with Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform serving as the foundation for the Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) solution. OpenShift Container Platform is the container platform software for customers to deploy and manage on their own in an infrastructure of choice. The BaaS solution is designed to help developers build applications that combine the capabilities of the blockchain in hybrid cloud environments, and help organizations create production-ready Ethereum applications more easily.

Meanwhile, Red Hat continues to participate in the Hyperledger Project, an open governance project centered on advancing blockchain technology through an open, decentralized platform. Through this upstream work, Red Hat is contributing to the development of distributed ledger technology that is well-suited for a variety of financial service providers, including: securities, banking and insurance. Red Hat is also participating in blockchain proof-of-concepts (POCs) and involved in several BaaS prototypes.

In a future blog post, we'll discuss how financial institutions can plan for and capitalize on blockchain, so stay tuned. And let us know your thoughts on blockchain, and any initiatives your organization might be involved in, in the comments section below.

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