Founders of crypto firms have noble motivations, one of which is to make the world a better place by creating a decentralised, permissionless financial system. Much of the inspiration usually comes from a place of frustration with the rent-seeking intermediaries that straddle the traditional finance world. But the irony is that crypto companies that have been set up to make the financial system better are still beholden to the antiquated ways of traditional finance.
One pervasive pain point are payments, a basic building block, an essential primitive of financial infrastructure. This seemingly simple process has been made excruciatingly complex to serve the needs of the middlemen over the parties involved in the transaction that is being paid for. These buyers and sellers are dependent on banks, which have cut-off times and don’t work on weekends and other holidays.
There is also no consistent operations process, especially when it comes to international payments, where each jurisdiction has its own rules, procedures, costs and timing. Navigating this procedural nightmare can be a full-time job for firms that need to make regular payments to a wide variety of counterparties. And so yet again the call goes up: “Surely, it doesn’t have to be this way?”
The truth is that it no longer has to be that way. BCB Group’s real-time payments network BLINC shows that it is possible to have free, real-time, 24/7/365 payments within its network. BLINC can be seen as a multi-currency fiat ‘layer 2’ network in which payments within the network are independent of the traditional banking network and in which BCB has built the entry and exit bridges to domestic and international payment rails such as SWIFT, SEPA, Faster Payments Services etc.
The BLINC network is available for all 29 of the currencies BCB’s FX trading desk offers, including GBP, EUR, USD, CHF, CAD, SGD and JPY. It also provides segregated client accounts in fiat currencies and segregated digital asset wallets.
“The crypto industry runs 24/7, but traditional financial markets and the payment rails which underpin it are still largely constrained by office hours,” says Ankur Sharma, product director of payments and banking, at BCB Group. “It is essential that the always-on crypto markets have always-on settlement infrastructure, which is the core problem BLINC solves, at scale.”
All BCB Group customers are members of the BLINC network. There are no constraints on size or frequency of payments, which gives members complete freedom to choose between settlement models that suit their operating models, whether classic deferred net settlement or real-time gross settlement (on a millisecond scale through BLINC).
A key aspect of BLINC is the elimination of settlement risk by virtue of the fact that all BLINC balances are mapped 1:1 with cash balances in the underlying bank accounts with no exceptions. All counterparties are validated clients of BCB who have gone through rigorous KYC (know-your-customer), CTF (counter-terrorsist-financing) and AML (anti-money-laundering) checks.
BLINC has already proven its utility with hundreds of active institutional accounts processing thousands of transactions worth billions of dollars. From this base, BLINC is on track to become one of the main financial conduits of the Web3 world, linking with other payment and settlement systems and products.
“We are creating the infrastructure for the storage and movement of any kind of value; a value superhighway,” says Ashley Pope, executive director of product, crypto, at BCB. “Having an instant payment capability allows a free, more liquid movement of value and use of that value in different ways.”
The four elements that define an integrated payments system are its reach, its limits, its speed and its trust. On all four of these, BLINC is a vast improvement from the way payments are now conducted in the traditional financial arena. Once again, the crypto industry is showing us a better way forward.
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