Rob Palatnick is a managing director and the chief technology officer at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, one of the world’s largest financial market infrastructure providers.
In this opinion piece, looking ahead to next week’s annual Sibos conference, Palatnick takes stock of blockchain technology’s progress in transforming the plumbing of global markets, and explains why cooperation is critical for further advancement.
While 2016 was referred to as the year of the blockchain proof-of-concept, 2017 has become the year of the blockchain pilot. While the progress has been remarkable, it’s important to be mindful of the critical role that industry collaboration has played in accelerating development and advancement.
Shortly after the blockchain conversation started across the financial services industry in 2014, a number of participants began to realize the value that distributed ledger technology could bring to the financial markets.
For DTCC, distributed ledger technology represents a generational opportunity to reimagine the post-trade infrastructure through its potential to harmonize and streamline the costly, burdensome reconciliation process the market currently operates in. By providing a single version of the truth to all parties, DLT can fundamentally alter how financial transactions are entered, stored and shared.
Just three years later, the industry has made significant strides in turning blockchain from a concept to reality. We’ve seen initiatives move from PoC to pilot, and a number of efforts are underway to operationalize the tech.
Although still in the early stages of implementation, the industry has learned that collaboration is critical. The key to reaching the full potential of blockchain technology lies in fostering industry-wide collaboration and aligning the technology with the industry’s longstanding core principles of mitigating risk, enhancing operational efficiencies and driving cost efficiencies.
From realization to reality
After all, the underlying technology itself calls for collaboration. Interoperability and standardization in utilizing blockchain can only be achieved when the industry joins in support of a common goal and a single ledger.
DTCC believes the core of any distributed ledger solution for the global financial industry must be based on open source, not owned by any single vendor and aligned around best practices and established standards.
Until recently, there were no viable open-source models for distributed ledger technology. However, that is quickly changing due to the development we’ve seen this year from organizations like Hyperledger and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.
Hyperledger, the first enterprise-oriented open-source collaboration project created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies, recently gained support from 10 new members, including the Gibraltar Stock Exchange and DLT Labs, bringing its total membership to 18,765 members.
The recent release of Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 is an example of what the industry can achieve through community effort, where 159 developers from 28 organizations joined together to incubate the project. The release marked a significant milestone in the evolution of distributed ledger technology, proving the critical need for collaboration.
Having been established just earlier this year, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance has quickly gained 120 members to its consortium, which has the mission of evolving ethereum into an enterprise-grade technology. The rapid growth in membership and support from major players such as State Street, JPMorgan Chase and BNY Mellon, as well as DTCC, shows the evolving acceptance and deployment of open-source distributed ledger technology in the global marketplace.
DTCC believes this is one of the many ways in which the industry has and will continue to benefit from collective contributions, and is why we’re leveraging the Hyperledger network to provide a DLT framework to drive further improvements in derivatives post-trade lifecycle events.
Through our work with IBM, Axoni and R3, we’re rebuilding our trade information warehouse, which provides processing services for about 98 percent of all credit derivative transactions globally. The initiative is underway and, in 2018, nearly the entire global $11 trillion market for credit default swaps will run on a distributed ledger.
Are you in?
As the adoption of distributed ledger technology grows, as in any open market, many different innovations will be proposed and pursued. The challenge for the financial industry, and for an emergent technology like distributed ledger, is about creating networks that share information and technology, and the need for continued collaboration.
Without collaboration, DLT solutions will leverage proprietary, separate models that will ultimately recreate the many silos and disjointed systems that already exist today. In the financial industry, this could lead to bifurcated markets, reduced liquidity, greater risks and a suboptimal experience for the investing public.
It is essential that we work together across industry organizations, technology providers, market participants and market structure providers to develop best practices and interoperability standards for this technology in order for DLT to truly live up to its potential.