Multi-currency cash settlement system provider CLS is building a payments netting service that will enable cash trades on IBM's Fabric blockchain.
Unveiled today at the Sibos financial industry conference in Geneva, the service will mark the entrance into a new business category for New York-based CLS, which is historically known for providing settlement for traditional currency trades.
Early banks that have agreed to support the new blockchain platform include Bank of America, Bank of China (Hong Kong), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.
During a press event announcing the service, CLS Group CEO David Puth argued that the company's wide customer base and global presence gives it an edge in bringing a new blockchain-based solution to the market. In addition to the more than 60 members of its settlement service, CLS does business with 21,000 institutions worldwide, he said.
Puth told event attendees:
The project, currently underway, is expected to take 12 to 18 months to build.
Of the initial 14 participants, 12 come from the sell side, and two from buy-side, with a number of other clients close to announcing participation. CLS managing director Ram Komarraju said the offering will be built on a closed blockchain.
Traditionally, CLS has helped ensure counterparties who are conducting foreign exchange trades receive funds by simultaneously settling the payments on both sides using its payment-versus-payment settlement service, linked to a real-time gross settlement system.
But with CLS Netting, the new product will rely more heavily for security and efficiency on the private distributed ledger.
Though today's news marks the announcement of CLS's first internal product to be based on a blockchain, the firm isn't new to distributed ledgers.
CLS is a founding member of the Hyperledger initiative, along with fellow member IBM.
While IBM has been one of the larger code-contributors to the open-source project, CLS head of technology and operations, Tom Zschach, told CoinDesk his company has sought to serve a different purpose within the Hyperledger ranks.
Zschach said he expects most of the business for the yet-to-be launched service to come through CLS's existing platform.
The road to blockchain
Founded in 2002, Continuous Linked Settlement helps its members ensure that all the parties in a multi-party currency exchange actually get what they want from the deal.
To build on that, CLS announced earlier this year it would extend its business partnership with IBM to help mitigate risk on the platform. But it turns out, that partnership now extends to blockchain services as well.
IBM global business services manager Sarah Diamond said that the topic of blockchain emerged from earlier discussions between the two companies.
Photo by Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.