DTCC president and CEO Mike Bodson indicated today that the US clearing and settlement giant plans to embark on additional distributed ledger technology tests.
The comments came as part of Bodson’s opening remarks at the 2016 Blockchain Symposium, a one-day event held by the DTCC in New York City today. The event features participants from financial institutions such as Barclays, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and the SWIFT Institute.
Word that DTCC is planning additional work with blockchain tech followed the company's announcement of a partnership with industry startup Digital Asset Holdings on a distributed ledger test focused on repo markets applications.
When referencing the Digital Asset trial, Bodson hinted that further announcements are forthcoming, potentially as the result of work with additional industry partners.
"We’ll be unveiling more information on these efforts over the next couple months."
The keynote was preceded by a video presentation documenting industry leaders discussing the hype around blockchain technology – but Bodson was not always optimistic in his remarks about its potential impact.
Bodson sought to stress that, despite the fact that parts of the financial system are "unnecessarily complex", the post-trade process in place today is "efficient and relatively low cost" while providing "stability, reliability and certainty".
"Blockchain isn’t a hammer and every problem isn’t a nail. There will be opportunities to improve the post-trade process, but it may be more efficient to expand existing tech such as the cloud," he said.
Bodson voiced his belief that any innovations the tech can bring will need additional "investment, time and money" to bring use cases to fruition, but that more coordination between major players is needed.
"Virtually every firm is exploring how to use a consensus technology individually. This level of activity may spark innovation … but it is not without it’s pitfalls. So many firms are working on this, the industry runs the risk of creating a maze of distributed ledger silos," he said.
Need for coordination
Bodson went on to hint at his vision for the DTCC and its role in what he described as a future in which blockchain changes business, positioning it as a solution to an overcrowded environment.
“Let me stress collaborative,” he said. “Traditional trusted authorities should play a leading role in supporting distributed ledger implementations.”
Bodson posited that such involvement would help enhance efficiencies and drive cost savings, while helping the industry deal with scale and performance challenges – which he argued remain issues with the new technology.
As evidence of the ongoing questions surrounding the scalability of distributed ledgers, Bodson cited discussions surrounding bitcoin, which has been locked in a debate on whether certain network features should be altered to allow for more transactions at a time.
He noted that a recent surge in transactions on the bitcoin network increased verification times to as high as 43 minutes, which he suggested was a sign that blockchains more broadly would perhaps struggle to accommodate the volume of existing technologies used by firms like DTCC.
"We believe that distributed ledgers like blockchain can revolution, but that they’re not a foregone conclusion," Bodson cautioned.
Image via Pete Rizzo for CoinDesk