The blockchain technology has successfully disrupted many industries, and the banking sector is one of the main beneficiaries, dare we say. The fintech sector is truly up and running, and companies everywhere are building blockchain solutions. With use cases such as international payments, KYC, and optimized cash management, the blockchain is truly the next big thing when it comes to the finance.
According to surveys, 90% of executives surveyed said that their firm was looking into using blockchain for their operations. Due to the decentralized nature of the blockchain, it is easier to form a global banking network where international transactions and other operations could be carried out easily. Santander, a Spain-based bank, reports savings of USD 20 billion a year if blockchain is incorporated. Different consortiums and organizations have started taking collective steps toward blockchain adoption. Talking about the current scenario, there exist many potential use cases for blockchain in the banking sector. What follows is a brief description of each of these use cases, their comparisons with traditional methods, and their benefits.
Know your customer (KYC) regulations
As of now, banks and other financial institutions spend up to USD 500 million per year to comply with KYC regulations. KYC is intended to reduce or completely eradicate terrorism or money laundering, with comprehensive background checks of all bank customers, in accordance with some requirements. The current scenario is that every company has their own independent KYC procedures. With the introduction of the blockchain, the independent verification of a particular client could be accessed by different companies, so that the whole KYC process need not be done again.
For instance, if Carl opens an account in Axis bank, and has a KYC done over there, his details are stored in a blockchain node on the global network. This way, when he wants to open another account in Citibank, the staff then need not carry out the KYC process all over again; instead, they just read the data from the blockchain, and Carl’s identity is confirmed.
Payments: local and international
Low security and a lot of intermediaries in the payment processes are two factors hurting this area in the present scenario. more and more commercial banks are looking to introduce blockchain into the payment process, without waiting for central banks to make a move. For example, UBS of Switzerland has come up with a utility settlement coin, which is a digital currency for use in international financial markets.
The blockchain firm Ripple developed a payment application that settles transactions, even international, instantly, and partnered with a consortium of 61 Japanese banks for the same. According to Ripple, this app would make it extremely easy for banks to settle round-the-clock transactions and payments. The customers will just require a bank account, phone number, and a QR code/barcode to use the application.
While Ripple was created in an attempt to solve the problems related to international payments, Stellar Lumens (XLM) was created to solve Ripple. Stellar was initially built keeping Ripple’s system as the base with the aim to make the global economy much more inclusive. But, looking at the complexity of the said system, Stellar redesigned itself with a brand new system.
For Ripple, banks and MNCs need to transfer the XRP token through the Ripple network, whereas Stellar allows individuals to trade money directly with one another using XLM (Lumens) as a medium, and “anchors” to take care of the fiat currency aspects.
Basically, suppose you need to transfer money overseas, using Ripple, your bank will directly send the Ripple to the recipient’s account and the payment is made at whatever exchange rates and fees the bank decides. Whereas, using Stellar, the currency conversion takes place first, after which an “anchor” helps in transferring the converted currency to the recipient’s account. Anchors are basically money transferring companies, and you can pick the anchor of your choosing.
All in all, Ripple allows MNCs and large banks to make cost-effective international transfers and currency conversions, Stellar allows individuals to make much more cost-effective currency and money transfers. Stellar is a non-profit with the goal of increasing the inclusiveness in the global payment system.
This is one area of banking where multiple institutions have come together to form consortiums to facilitate blockchain adoption. Credit Suisse is one of those 19 institutions, which are working towards putting syndicated loans on the blockchain using distributed ledger technology, more commonly known as blockchain technology. Currently, this is an area which is still quite behind in terms of the technology used. Fax communications, large delays in settling loans and other hurdles are faced while processing syndicate loans. What blockchain technology aims to do is create a method of communication between different institutions, so that loan ownership changes can quickly be reflected across all of them. The aforementioned consortium already has plans to put out one or two loans within the next year on this blockchain concept.
The current banking scenario, even after cutting-edge innovations in security, is not safe from fraudulent activities. Due to being based on centralized databases, banking systems are susceptible to cyber-attacks and hacks, as all the information is stored in one place. Frauds and malicious activities lead to huge losses for both banks and their customers. What blockchain technology can accomplish here is that due to its distributed nature, it substantially reduces the risk of network failure due to one or two nodes being taken down or hacked. Storage and encryption of every single byte of data is carried out on the blockchain, in addition to the verification process. In the event of a data breach or hack, each node which has access to the transaction data is made aware of the breach and can take remedial steps immediately.
Access to basic banking services is still a herculean task for many poverty-stricken and underdeveloped nations of the world.. More than 200 million small business owners still do not have access to basic financial institutions, and financial inclusion will only help in making them independent.
Blockchain technology can help in a few different areas here. As discussed earlier, use cases like KYC are already a step in the right direction. Low-cost transactions, seamless international payments, and easy loans are just a few of the many banking processes that can be made easier using blockchain, thus helping us achieve financial inclusion.
The blockchain technology has indeed a bright and exciting future. As real-time, open-source, and trusted platforms that transfer data and value without hassles, they can help not only reduce the cost of processing payments, but also help develop new services, products, and solutions that can generate new revenue streams.