Research Reports Research Reports

Banks and the Blockchain: What are the Opportunities? My Research Items

Everyone’s talking about it.

An atmosphere of fervent anticipation grew exponentially through 2015 when it became increasingly clear that the infrastructure supporting Bitcoin – the most established cryptocurrency today – could redefine the concepts of trust, ownership and exchange.

It was all because of the famous cover of The Economist in October 2015, the media fervour generated by the proliferation of different types of specific communities (consortia, competence centres, laboratories, etc.), the birth of a vertical ecosystem of startups and the fact that the blockchain was spoken of as the next Internet technology capable of revolutionising the architecture of a broad spectrum of services and sectors in both private and public sectors.

The shift of focus towards this technology was marked by an evolution in terminology. When Bitcoin was the only example of blockchain use, identification with the infrastructure seemed complete (even if one significant line of thought insisted that blockchain without Bitcoin had no significant potential); later, attention shifted to the underlying architecture and to the “physical” image of the chain of blocks; the moment of the blockchain paradigm had arrived. A new trend now emerging in the language of financial institutions is the use of the term Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

Aside from the evolving terminology there is unanimous interest in the possible areas of application by business organisations and banks in particular. The big hype around the blockchain is probably related to the main consequence of its use: although exchange and negotiation processes take place through a trusted third party, the blockchain allows trading processes to carry on without the need for a central intermediary. In fact, in the new hypothetical scenario the interchange transactions (of information as well as money) between two parties would happen through distributed certification that can be centralised or decentralised. This suggests a sea change that will not only generate process efficiency but will also profoundly transform the foundations of the pre-existing architecture (and chains).

The certification mechanism in a blockchain system is based on three key principles:

  • Peer to peer networks;
  • Electronic signatures or digital signatures;
  • Consent mechanism;

This research paper consists of four chapters describing each of these elements in detail.

The first chapter will focus on the key aspects of the blockchain. The second part of the document will consider a more "business oriented” sphere with an examination of the main areas of application and an assessment of specific impacts and benefits. The last chapter will incorporate the legislative component, allowing the formulation of final evaluations on possible future scenarios.

There is also a technology appendix that looks at technical aspects in more detail.