Blockchain Technology Can Transform Banking: Blythe Masters

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Blockchain technology can be used to help financial-services institutions accomplish their most important goal — improving customer service, Blythe Masters said Tuesday.

In the opening keynote at American Banker's Digital Currencies + the Blockchain conference, the former JPMorgan Chase executive also said the first application of blockchain tech will be post-trade processing, rather than payments, securities or derivatives solutions. Processing is something banks need to accelerate, she said.

"I believe that [blockchain] technology has the potential to truly change the way the financial world operates, to reduce costs, improve efficiency, reduce risks and ultimately provide better customer service, which ultimately is what financially services needs to be all about," Masters said Tuesday.

After 27 years at JPMorgan, running global credit and later global commodities, Masters is chief executive of blockchain technology company Digital Asset Holdings. She was also recently named chairman of Santander Consumer USA Holdings, the subprime auto lender controlled by Spain's Banco Santander.

One of the most obvious problems in the banking industry is "the simple fact of settlement latency," Masters said Tuesday, referring to delays in the transfer of assets between the time of commitment and the finalizing transaction.

Back-end processing of financial transactions can often take days to complete, or even months. Costs associated with inefficiencies and recordkeeping are substantial and the industry is under enormous pressure to reduce its operational costs, she said. Blockchain tech has the potential to solve this problem.

However, blockchain tech has limitations, she acknowledged.

"Thinking carefully about tradeoffs between permissioned and non-permissioned networks is a key debate in this space," she said.

Permissioned, or private, networks are those in which participating parties are selected, and are limited to known or trusted entities. The idea of distributed ledger technology has evolved in direction of restricted access, Masters said.

"The thinking in this space is evolving very rapidly," she said. "I have no doubt there are roles in life for both types of technology."

The blockchain "has the potential to be highly disruptive of certain business models, but also has the potential to be highly empowering of others," she concluded.

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