SEB: Blockchain Could Make Banks ‘Radically More Efficient’

Pete Rizzo
Sep 30, 2015 at 18:35 UTC
Updated Oct 1, 2015 at 20:09 UTC
FEATURE

Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), a Stockholm-based financial services firm with 1.7tn SEK ($202bn) in assets under management, announced yesterday that it was among 13 major banks that had joined the top-secret work underway at R3CEV.

Since R3 unveiled its mission this summer, the distributed ledger tech startup has so far signed on 22 banking partners to the project, all of whom are now participating in its bid to create a blockchain-based “Global Fabric for Finance” for banks.

Though public details about the project are relatively scarce, Rasmus Järborg, head of strategy at SEB, said that the bank saw the partnership as a way to further its ongoing research into blockchain technology, which it contends began in 2010 and intensified as the price of bitcoin spiked in late 2013.

Järborg identified payments, trading markets and securities settlements as the use cases SEB is most interested in exploring as a result of the partnership, telling CoinDesk:

“As a leading corporate and institutional bank, the business-facing applications are immediately of more interest to us. However, we are a universal bank in Sweden and the Baltic countries and as it is quite early to predict which part of our business will be impacted first. We are looking at both [consumer and business applications] at the moment.”

According to its 2014 fiscal report, SEB’s most successful product lines are in merchant banking, retail banking and wealth management, with the majority of its more than 1.5 million customers identifying as private individuals.

Järborg went on to suggest it is looking for R3 to “create an environment for rapid prototyping and testing” around the technology so it can yield solutions for its client base.

“We believe these technologies will impact our business by making a number of our processes radically more efficient and less costly for our customers,” he added.

SEB has its roots in one of Sweden’s first private banks, Stockholms Enskilda Bank, which would later merge with Skandinaviska Banken in 1972. Earlier this summer, the bank was notably involved in a controversy surrounding the sale of funds to retail investors.

Evaluating opportunity

In statements, Järborg provided insight into work at R3, suggesting the banks involved “regularly collaborate”, and that they are sharing innovations and insights as a result of the deal.

Järborg also spoke highly of R3 and its facilitation of these processes.

“R3 has a very competent team with the right mix of experience, blending banking and markets with technology,” he added.

SEB was also keen to highlight its status as one of the first banks in its region to announce a more concentrated effort in this sector of the FinTech space, while noting that the “level of interest” among its peers in Europe is high.

Järborg concluded by painting Europe as a market where conditions are ripe for an early stage technology, such as the blockchain, to be more widely adopted, concluding:

“The Nordic market is tech savvy and electronic and mobile banking is extremely well-spread. This makes our consumers more prone to adopt new technologies and our entrepreneurs to start businesses in that space.”

Image credit: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.com

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