Myanmar is at the forefront of the piloting of blockchain technology – an innovative way of making online transactions easier. The technology, that uses a shared digital ledger to record transactions across a number of computers, was used recently by BC Finance, the biggest microfinance institution in Myanmar.
Blockchain is being increasingly adopted by financial institutions, as it allows these companies to safeguard their operations from cyber-crime. Htet Tayza comments on new figures which suggest that the adoption of blockchain could save global financial services over £100bn in the next three years. Continue reading…
Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), recently announced that it will develop a pilot project, to use blockchain technology to make inter-bank payments more secure. Continue reading…
Officially opened in December 2015, the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) started trading in 2016, increasing foreign activity in Myanmar’s economy. Htet Tayza comments on reports, which suggest that a new project is looking to use blockchain technologies to make the YSX more secure in future. Continue reading…
Global technology firm IBM recently announced that it will open its first blockchain research and development (R&D) centre in Singapore. Htet Tayza explores what this development could mean for this incredibly important financial technology (fintech).
In its most recent Global Financial Centres Index, think tank X/Yen Group recently appointed Singapore Asia’s most prominent financial centre. The city-state has more than 200 banks, an increasing number of which are basing their regional headquarters in Singapore. Increasingly, Singapore is striving to capitalise on its reputation as a significant Asian financial centre to develop a thriving fintech industry.
Singapore’s central bank has pledged to invest US$167 million in fintech projects over the next five years. The city-state also recently announced it new approach to fintech regulation, which will strive to provide fintech firms with the type of business environment they need to grow. Strong governmental investment, coupled with favourable regulation, is drawing a range of fintech companies to Singapore. IBM has now said that it will work with Singapore’s Economic Development Board and Monetary Authority to open its first ‘Centre for Blockchain Innovation’ in the city-state.
This R&D Centre will strive towards delivering a range of technology pilots throughout the trade and finance industries over the next three years. It will also aim to tap into Singapore’s technical talent pool and enhance IBM’s work with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger platform, an advanced blockchain technology. By getting involved, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) aims to boost ties between the city-state’s banks and fast-growing fintech sector.
Commenting, MAS Chief Fintech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty was quoted by Fintech Extra, and industry publication, saying: “The financial sector is well-placed to play a leading role in Singapore’s vision of being a Smart Nation. Given that technology is a key enabler of financial services, MAS is pleased to continue to work with companies like IBM to promote technology innovation in finance, and encourage the adoption of safe and efficient technology with the financial industry.”
Right innovation hub
IBM will collaborate with parties such as the Port Authority of Singapore (PSA), the largest container transhipment port on earth, to develop a “trade ecosystem.” This will link the trade and logistics sectors with emerging fintech. IBM is currently in the early phases of implementing blockchain technology and bitcoin-to-fiat payments in transnational container shipment.
Speaking out, PSA International’s Group CEO Tan Chong Meng noted: “These are fields that we can add value to with our expertise as a hub port operator in Singapore and around the world. We believe new technologies such as blockchain have the potential to reinvent multi-party business transactions and that Singapore is the right innovation hub to carry out field trials of such technologies across a variety of uses.”
IBM defines blockchain as “a technology for a new generation of transactional applications that establishes trust, accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes.” Blockchain has the ability to keep data very secure, which has made it an incredibly valuable innovation for the global financial services industry, which is often a favourite target of cyber-criminals. In a recent poll of 500 financial services executives from 56 nations, 60% agreed that blockchain is the most important innovation since the internet, due to its ability to protect consumer data.
Blockchain’s potential is enormous. If businesses across the world invest in blockchain R&D, they could create innovative new solutions to the most pressing problems the global financial services industry is facing at the moment, such as cyber-crime. Through its work with the Linux Foundation, IBM is fast becoming a world-leader in blockchain R&D. By choosing to create its first blockchain R&D centre in Singapore, IBM could potentially take advantage of the city state’s increasingly thriving fintech scene to take blockchain technology to the next level.
Htet Tayza comments on new reports, which suggest that the first global blockchain conference will be held in Singapore next year.
This Blockcon 2017 conference, which will be held between the 28th and 29th March, will be organised by UBM Exhibition Singapore Pte Ltd and The Singapore Fintech Consortium Pte Ltd. It will be held at Singaporean Hotel Marina Bay Sands and on focus on innovation in emerging financial technologies (fintech) such as cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
Over 1,000 innovators and professionals from the global blockchain community, hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, are expected to attend the conference. The guest list will include everyone from investors and financial industry executives, to regulators and entrepreneurs. Blockcon 2017 will feature a variety of interacting networking events, demonstrations and inspiring talks.
Commenting, Singapore Fintech Consortium Co-Founder Gerben Visser said: “Blockchain has the potential to redefine numerous value chains, exchange platforms and business processes. We observe fascinating ‘proof of concepts’ being tested and user cases being developed not only within the financial service industry, but across other major industries and public sectors.”
Speaking about the topics and focus of Blockcon 2017, Visser was quoted by Econo Times, a digital finance portal, continuing: “Some of the key themes, topics and applications that are being explored are related to identity, authentication, fraud, record keeping, ‘smart’ self-executing contracts and various forms of transfer of digital assets, value and data.”
Unique knowledge platform
Econo Times reports that 60 speakers are expected to hold sessions at Blockcon 2017. Conference attendees will be able to learn more about blockchain collaboration, culture, competition and regulation at these events. It will also feature live panel discussions which will explore how blockchain solutions can be successfully implemented in the modern global financial landscape.
These discussions will also broach the topic of how blockchain can be applied by financial services companies to facilitate accessibility, consumer trust and safeguard data integrity. Commenting, UBM Exhibition Singapore Managing Director Paul Wan said: “We believe Blockcon 2017 will provide a unique knowledge exchange platform, facilitate partnership opportunities across the Blockchain ecosystem, as well as educate financial participants and stakeholders on the potential applications.”
Capitalising on blockchain
Blockchain is a technological ledger which records data. Blockchain ledgers cannot be altered or tampered with, making the technology a very effective data protection tool. Cyber-security is a major problem for the global financial services industry, according to Symantec, an online security firm, because these businesses are very attractive to cyber-hackers. With global mobile banking users set to increase, a report from KPMG writes, from 0.8bn in 2014 to 1.8bn by 2020, it is critical that financial services embrace technologies like blockchain to keep consumer financial data safe.
Financial services executives are fast-realising the value of blockchain. It was recently hailed as the most important innovation since the internet, in a poll of global financial services sector executives carried out by Marketforce. Within this context, Blockcon 2017 could prove hugely beneficial for the worldwide financial services sector. By exploring blockchain and cryptocurrency innovations, the event could provide the sector with new solutions for improving customer service going forward.
Htet Tayza reports on the findings of a new survey, which showed that a majority of global financial services industry executives believe blockchain is the most significant innovation since the internet.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a technological ledger which records data. However a blockchain ledger is not stored in one place, it’s distributed throughout thousands of computers across the planet, so blockchain technology is incredibly transparent. When the ledger is updated this change occurs for everyone in the network at the same time, so it cannot be altered or tampered with.
Explaining the effectiveness of blockchain, the BBC writes: “The distributed nature of a blockchain database means that it’s harder for hackers to attack it – they would have to get access to every copy of the database simultaneously to be successful. It also keeps data secure and private because the hash cannot be converted back into the original data – it’s a one-way process.”
This has made blockchain technology somewhat appealing to the global financial services industry. This finding comes from a recent study carried out by Marketforce and commissioned by information technology provider Cognizant and business applications supplier Pegasystems. The firm questioned 500 financial services executives from 56 countries throughout the world.
Technology portal Beta news reports that the survey found that 60% of respondents with some knowledge of the technology said that blockchain is the most important innovation since the internet. However, 35% of financial services executives surveyed admitted that they have not heard of blockchain. Among those respondents who have heard of blockchain, 23% admitted that they do not understand what the technology actually is.
Jury is out
Marketforce also found that blockchain is seen as a threat in some quarters of the financial services industry. Over half (53%) of respondents argued that blockchain will have a disruptive impact on the worldwide clearing and settlement markets going forward. Nearly half (45%) of those questioned think that coupled with peer-to-peer lending, blockchain wallets could “end banking as we know it.”
Commenting Pegasystems Director Graham Lloyd said: “For many, the jury is still out on whether or not blockchain will be a force for good or not. However, we do know there’s no longer room to be complacent about such a potentially significant source of disruption. Banks and insurers must prepare themselves for the day when they might have to manage blockchain-stored customer data — whether it be their personal information, details of their assets, or even real-time data from virtual currencies.”
Htet Tayza’s analysis
Increasingly, consumers are utilising technologies to execute financial transactions. A report from KPMG, for instance, indicates that the number of global mobile banking users will rise from 0.8bn in 2014 to 1.8bn by 2020. A paper from Symantec, an online security firm, indicated that financial services businesses are a top target for cybercriminals. As consumers turn to new financial technologies (fintech), cybercrime could become a more pressing problem for the financial services.
Explaining, Symantec noted that “attacks against the finance industry are becoming increasingly sophisticated and highly targeted.” Therefore, blockchain could serve as an asset, rather than a detriment, to the international financial services sector. It is harder for hackers to break into a blockchain database, so financial services companies could use the technology to safeguard vital consumer data from cybercriminals. This would ensure that they can capitalise on the rapidly emerging global digital finance revolution effectively.