As Russia slowly emerges from a lengthy recession in the wake of collapsing energy prices, the Moscow Stock Exchange may have discovered a secret weapon in recruiting international investors – blockchain.
Couple that with the Moscow Exchange Group's relatively young technology, and a blockchain solution using Hyperledger Fabric has the potential to catapult the service ahead of more mature infrastructures and create an increased trust in the international community.
Moscow Exchange Group's head of decentralized solutions, Alex Yakovlev, explained the solution was designed in large part to give investors increased confidence by providing a cryptographic proof that the tokenized votes they cast from anywhere in the world are properly counted.
Yakovlev told CoinDesk:
The e-voting platform, as well as a blockchain solution for recording commercial papers, are now being implemented in Russia's National Settlement Depository (a division of the Moscow Exchange Group), in tandem with a proxy-voting service that lets any qualified stock owner vote without revealing any information about themselves.
To achieve the high-level of anonymity, Yakovlev said he and his team used zero-knowledge proof algorithms that are not native to Hyperledger Fabric to tabulate votes at the chaincode level. The tokenized votes can then be anonymously verified and counted, with the record of the final vote stored in a 'registry result wallet' available for download.
"Because of tokenization, you receive real trust because it is the same as cryptocurrency," said Yakovlev, yet regulators and others will still be able to see certain information as is required by law.
As recently as five years ago, some owners of stock in Russian companies had to actually come to Russia to cast votes, a serious impediment to potential investors, according to Yakovlev, who has been a member of the Linux Foundation for more than 20 years and helped lead the push within the Moscow Exchange Group to adopt blockchain.
Then, the Moscow Exchange Group, which also oversees the NCC Clearing Bank, the Moscow Energy Exchange and several other organizations, began the process of implementing a common electronic signature for the transmission of secure messages.
By December 2016, Yakovlev's work had so progressed that he presented his ideas at a Hyperledger member summit in Brooklyn, New York, during which he first publicly described his vision for an integration of zero-knowledge proofs with Hyperledger.
Now that the development of the project is complete, Yakovlev said that, in addition to increased trust and decreased operational risk, the solution will also provide more security by moving the "single point of failure" from a centralized system and a backup to a more distributed model running on "normal desktops."
This year marks the 25 anniversary of the end of communism in the former USSR and the establishment of the Moscow Exchange Group.
By comparison, the New York Stock Exchange is celebrating its 200th anniversary, and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange – said to be the oldest in the world – is 415 years old. It is the relative youth of Moscow Exchange Group's financial infrastructure that Yakovlev in part blames for proportionately low direct investment in Russia.
"Here we have just 25 years of capitalism," said Yakovlev. "And it takes us to provide additional trust that we can clear, we can settle, and we can provide to share holders a real possibility to participate in corporate actions."
Once that is accomplished, he hopes, the Moscow Exchange Group's blockchain platform can be used to help other nations "not from the first world" to leap-frog over more traditional financial infrastructures and go straight to a distributed solution.
As part of this push, Yakovlev met in London earlier this month with several international Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) to help lay the foundation for a possible more widely spread implementation.
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