Some of the world's biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Barclays, are exploring the use of bitcoin's underlying technology to overhaul financial markets.
The group has joined forces with R3, a startup run by a former ICAP executive, to develop standards and protocols for deploying blockchain — as the ledger technology is known — to speed up the execution and settlement of trades in markets such as syndicated loans and repurchase agreements. R3 and the banks plan to test and validate how the software can be applied to markets, according to a statement Tuesday.
Wall Street is becoming enamored with the potentially transformational way blockchain could overhaul how derivatives, bonds, loans and other asset classes work, dramatically simplifying the process of tracking ownership and accelerating the transfer of assets from one person to another. To work, however, the banks, hedge funds and asset managers that comprise the main players in a given financial market need to be using the same network.
"Right now you're seeing significant money and time being spent on exploration of these technologies in a fractured way that lacks the strategic, coordinated vision so critical to timely success," Kevin Hanley, director of design at Royal Bank of Scotland, another member of the bank consortium, said in the statement. "The R3 model is changing the game."
Other banks collaborating on the project include Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse Group, State Street and UBS Group.
R3 is headed by Dave Rutter, the former chief executive officer of ICAP's electronic-broking unit.
"This partnership signals a significant commitment by the banks to collaboratively evaluate and apply this emerging technology to the global financial system," Rutter said in the statement.
Other firms investigating finance-related uses of blockchain include Symbiont, Nasdaq, Ripple Labs, the New York Stock Exchange and Digital Asset Holdings, which headed by former JPMorgan Chase banker Blythe Masters.