美国区块链应用缘何停滞不前? - 互联网金融门户 未央网

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美国区块链应用缘何停滞不前?

区块链国际资讯

美国区块链应用缘何停滞不前?

金融服务业对于区块链技术的热情似乎正在冷却。

上周二有传言称,摩根大通拟将其自主研发的开源分布式账本项目Quorum分立为一家独立公司。

匿名消息源向《金融时报》表示:"某些对家银行因为Quorum与摩根大通联系过于紧密而不太愿意使用该项目,因此摩根大通认为Quorum作为独立企业更有可能成为行业标准。"

摩根大通拒绝了采访请求。某发言人并未否认此传闻,但为Quorum做了声辩,并重申了摩根大通对于此基础技术的投入。

该发言人说道:"我们仍然相信分布式账本技术将在金融服务行业中起到变革作用,这也是我们积极研发多种区块链解决方案的原因。即便是在金融服务以外的领域,Quorum也成长为极为优秀的企业平台,我们对它的潜力感到振奋。"

摩根大通分享了基于Quorum技术在行的项目单,其中包括其于10月宣布的银行间信息网络(Interbank Information Network)。该项目是其与加拿大皇家银行以及澳大利亚和新西兰的银行集团合作开发的,旨在利用区块链技术解决全球支付问题。

荷兰国际集团也正与路易达孚、荷兰银行以及兴业银行合作创建以Quorum为基础的农产品区块链。荷兰国际集团表示,其已助力完成了路易达孚向山东渤海实业的大豆运送交易,交易中没有用到纸质合约、证明或人工核查,五倍于传统纸质交易速度。

此外,金融服务领域中还有数起零星区块链项目。

北方信托去年给予Linux基金会的Hyperledger Fabric搭建了分布式账本,处理海峡群岛根西岛的私募股权投资交易。迄今,只有一名瑞士顾客使用该技术。北方信托称此现象是其有意为之,原因在于该企业仍在为此平台添加额外功能。

存款信托及结算结构(DTCC)正努力争取自2019年第一季度起将其信贷违约掉期仓储至于以Hyperledger Fabric为基础的分布式账本中。

DTCC的CEO Michael Bodson于该集团周二举行的金融科技讨论会上说到:"如果未来有人要革DTCC的命的化,那个人将是我们自己。知就是我们在推进分布式账本技术中率先垂范的原因。"

DTCC还与数字资产控股(Digital Asset Holdings)及R3联盟合作厘清其技术是否适用于DTCC应用。

此外,区块链之于银行业的应用仍处于愿景、讨论于概念验证阶段,仍鲜有落地应用模式。

为何迟迟未有应用

被问及针对区块链技术的主要忧虑,参加DTCC讨论会的银行家与高管提及了缺乏明显商业动因、技术成本不明以及各大区块间互用性等问题。

1. 缺乏明确的商业用例

普华永道一名负责人Grainne McNamara说道:"我认为投资回报率将许多创新项目扼杀在大型银行门外。人们在了解你所持有的东西之前就已经在考虑投资回报率的问题。对自己都不清楚的东西又怎么计算投资回报率呢?"

然而银行的弹性预算也略有放松,McNamara如是说道。"我们看到更多的资金投入技术与创新。"

Tabb Group资深分析师Dayle Scher表示,其最近针对银行家、经理人以及购买侧企业进行了调查,结果显示区块链技术在其优先次序中排名较低,而人工智能与机器处理自动化却名列前矛。缺乏商业用例与投资回报率并不明朗是区块链技术排名较低的原因。

Scher说道:"它们(银行等机构)开展了许多内部项目精简操作,但实行网络驱动的外部项目投资回报率并不明晰。没有明确的投资回报率,它们就不会这么做。"

Scher表示,其中还存在网络效应,即直到出现进一步应用前,人们将采取观望的态度。

2.法律方面的考量

DTCC讨论会参会人员还指出了针对法律与监管方面的忧虑。

R3联合创始人Todd McDonald描述了荷兰国际集团与瑞信在Corda分布式账本上进行证券借贷交易应承担的法律义务。

McDonald说道:"该交易从技术与监管的角度来看都是成功的。然而从法律角度看,进行该交易需签署七份或九份文件,均不容易签署。我们需引入现有法律制度,需要做的仍有许多。

3.安全问题

DTCC总经理兼首席技术架构师Robert Palatnick说道:"如果所有人都在一条锁链上,而锁链有所腐坏,那么整个世界都随之崩塌。因此未来的模式可能与互联网类似,即有着统一的标准,统一的协议与不同的专有网络。"

Palatnick表示金融服务业人士通常坚持称其只对硬化专有账本感兴趣。

4.技术挑战

数字资产控股CEO Blythe Masters表示该企业已与澳洲证券交易所合作了三年,才终于将澳大利亚现金证券市场交易后处理系统移结算所电子附属等级系统(Clearing House Electronic Subregister System,CHEESS)入分布式账本。Masters表示,完成该系统可能还需两年时间。

Masters指出,交易中还需明晰交易清算顺序,因此分布式账本中的所有交易都需具备此特征。数字资产已为区块链技术创制了编程语言,以提供保护,降低编程漏洞被利用的可能性,避免发生类似DAO的问题。

5. 无法大规模应用

Bodson为DTCC讨论会致开幕辞中说道:"我相信你们都记得不久前有关使用区块链平台进行全款结算的讨论。或许这在小型不成熟的市场可得以成型,但对美国来说不可能,或者说现在不可能。DTCC每天无缝处理6000万交易,在像上月一样的高峰期处理的交易高达9000万起。如今用分布式账本完成这样的任务是不可能的。"

IBM、微软、R3等机构均正竭力搭建大型分布式账本。

Palatnick表示,与此同时,DTCC也开始抓住较小的机遇,实行明确的标准。

6.技术尚不成熟

Palatnick说道:"如果你的孩子三岁,不管这孩子多聪明,你都不会送他/她上大学。"他表示,技术从成熟走向实用一般要花费十五到二十年的时间。

"你可能说这项技术始于2008年,那么也不过发展了九到十年而已。" Palatnick如是说道。

Enthusiasm for blockchain technology in the financial services industry seems to be ebbing.

JPMorgan Chase, which developed its own open-source distributed ledger, Quorum, was rumored on Thursday to be spinning off the Quorum unit into a separate company.

Unnamed sources told the Financial Times that “some rival banks may have been reluctant to use Quorum because it was so closely associated with JPMorgan, leading the U.S. bank to conclude that its chances of becoming the industry standard were greater as a standalone entity.”

JPMorgan Chase declined requests for an interview. A spokeswoman did not deny the report but defended Quorum and reiterated JPMorgan's commitment to the underlying technology.

"We continue to believe distributed ledger technology will play a transformative role in business, which is why we are actively building multiple blockchain solutions," she said. “Quorum has become an extremely successful enterprise platform even beyond financial services, and we’re excited about its potential.”

The bank shared a list of projects in the works based on the Quorum technology, including the Interbank Information Network it announced in October. This is an initiative in which it’s working with Royal Bank of Canada and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group to use blockchain technology to handle global payments.

In another example, ING is working with the global merchant Louis Dreyfus Co., ABN Amro and Societe Generale to create a Quorum-based blockchain for agricultural commodities. The companies say they have already handled a shipment of soybeans from Louis Dreyfus to the Chinese buyer Shandong Bohi with no paper contracts, certificates or manual checks — at five times the speed of a paper-based trade.

There are a few other scattered examples of blockchain projects in the financial services industry.

Northern Trust a year ago developed a distributed ledger based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric that handles private-equity deals in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. So far, one Swiss client is using it. The bank says this is on purpose, as it is still building out additional features for the platform.

The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. is working to put its credit default swap warehouse on a distributed ledger based on Hyperledger Fabric starting in the first quarter of 2019.

“If anyone is going to disrupt DTCC in the future, it’s going to be us,” Michael Bodson, CEO of the DTCC, said at the group’s Fintech Symposium on Thursday. “That’s why we’ve taken the lead in advancing the use of distributed ledger technology.”

The group is also working with Digital Asset Holdings and R3 to figure out where their technologies might make sense for the various things the DTCC does.

Otherwise, blockchain activity in the banking industry is hope, talk and proofs of concept, but little in live production mode.

What’s taking so long

When asked about their top concerns about blockchain technology, bankers and capital markets executives in attendance at the DTCC’s symposium cited lack of an obvious business purpose, uncertainty about how much the technology will cost, and interoperability issues among the major biggest stumbling blocks.

Lack of a clear business case. “I think [return on investment] kills a lot of innovation projects right out of the gate at a big bank,” said Grainne McNamara, principal at PwC. “People are looking for ROI before you even have a sense of what you even have. How can you calculate ROI when you don't really know what you have?”

However, banks’ discretionary budgets are beginning to open up again a little, she said. “We’re seeing more money being spent on technology and innovation.”

Dayle Scher, a senior analyst at Tabb Group, said she recently conducted a survey of bankers, brokers and buy-side firms in which blockchain technology came out low on their list of priorities. Artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, on the other hand, were high on the list. Lack of a business case and uncertain return on investment was the reason blockchain ranked low.

“They're doing a lot of internal projects to streamline their operations, but for doing an external network-focused project, the ROI isn't there,” she said. “If there was a clear ROI, they would be doing it.”

There's also a network effect here — until there's further adoption, people are going to wait on the sidelines, Scher said.

Legal considerations. Legal and regulatory concerns were also cited in the DTCC’s audience poll.

Todd McDonald, co-founder of R3, described the legal obligations around a securities lending transaction between ING and Credit Suisse that took place on the Corda distributed ledger.

“That transaction from a technology and regulatory perspective was successful,” he said. “But from the legal side, there were about seven or nine pieces of paper that had to get signed for that one transaction. None of this is easy. We need to bring in the existing legal constructs. … It's still a lot of work that has to be done.”

Security issues. “If everyone is on one chain and that chain is corrupted, then the entire world goes down,” said Robert Palatnick, managing director and chief technology architect at the DTCC. “So the model of the future is probably going to be similar to the internet, where there are common standards, common protocols and many different private networks.”

Financial services industry people often insist that they are only interested in hardened private ledgers, he said.

Technical challenges. Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, has been working with the Australian Stock Exchange for three years to eventually migrate its system for post-trade processing of Australia's cash equity market, known as CHESS (the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System), to a distributed ledger. It will probably take another two years to get the technology completed, she said.

In trading, there has to be clarity about the order in which transactions are cleared, she noted, so that has to be built into any exchange’s distributed ledger. Digital Asset has also had to create a programming language for its blockchain technology that provides guardrails to reduce the likelihood of errors in programming that could be exploited, as happened in the case of the DAO.

Can't be done on a large scale. In his opening remarks at the DTCC conference, Bodson said: “I’m sure you all remember the talk not long ago about using blockchain to perform real-time gross settlement. In a small, immature market maybe. But in the United States — not a chance, at least right now. At DTCC, we seamlessly process 60 million trades each day, and during peak times like we saw last month, we handled as many as 90 million transactions. It would be impossible to do this today using a distributed ledger.”

IBM, Microsoft, R3 and others are all working to build scalable distributed ledgers.

Meanwhile, the DTCC is starting with opportunities that are smaller in scale and have very well-defined criteria, Palatnick said.

Immaturity of the technology: “If you have a 3-year-old child, no matter how smart that child is, you wouldn't send it to college,” Palatnick said. Technologies typically take 15 to 20 years to mature to usefulness, he said.

“You could say this technology started in 2008, so it is just 9-10 years old,” he said.


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