The atmosphere at the Blockchain for Finance Conference on Monday was a positive buzz of excitement and apprehension, as forward looking financiers turned to the experts on how blockchain can revolutionise banking.
However, for all of the ‘hype’ surrounding the virtues of a self contained and virtually distributed system, the speakers endeavoured to remind us that a revolution doesn’t happen overnight; the implementation of blockchain technology is more likely to happen within the next two to five years.
But why the delay, if so many seem to believe this is the way forward? Ferdinando Ametrano, Head of Blockchain and Virtual Currencies at Intesa Sanpaolo, offers an explanation: the excitement around blockchaining has overshadowed the reality that many of its promising features are not quite ripe for exploitation. For example, there is no system of reference implementation in the blockchain which would support a ledger program, and other benefits like a shared data set and improved automation are not easy to obtain.
However, Viewfin Metaverse, a Chinese company building its own blockchain technology from the ground up, remains optimistic about the future. Researcher Ahmed Al-Balaghi explains that through a careful process of testing their technology through guinea-pig enterprises- such as working with a Chinese art gallery to sell shares in various artworks through their system- and working with security professionals, Viewfin are striving to ensure that their programme will pioneer an efficient, practical and safe blockchain system in good time.
Furthermore, Executive Director Eric Gu re-emphasises the widely-held belief that a blockchain based future is inevitable: not only has his company raised $2m USD in IPO, but “this is the first time anyone from the finance industry has been interested in tech: we didn’t see this level of anticipation with the advent of the internet”.
While this surely points to a shift in cultural attitudes rather than the efficacy of blockchaining, one concedes that the attention it has captured is indicative of its potential.
L3C is a key player in making the blockchain system under Viewfin easier to integrate into current banking systems. They provide developers with access to the hardware which is widely used in finance so that they can build their programme from a pre-existing base, and will in future allow them to keep up with any real-time difficulties by using cloud technology to emulate the remote conditions. Nevertheless, CEO Lubo Cheytanov addends another explanation for the slow rate of implementation: “The UK is simply unprepared for the amount of energy that running a system like blockchain will take”. This may indeed be a problem for the Viewfin, which hopes to traverse global borders to become the leaders in such technology.
Despite the kinks which undoubtedly need to be ironed out, everyone at the conference seemed to concede that this is normal for a tech revolution of this scale: for now, the priority is to educate financiers about the perhaps inevitable future for decentralised databases, so that when the technology is ready it can be implemented with ease.