Goldman Sachs wants to create its own version of bitcoin

Goldman Sachs is getting more interested in virtual currencies like bitcoin.
Goldman Sachs is getting more interested in virtual currencies like bitcoin.
Image: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Goldman Sachs has developed its own cryptocurrency for a settlement system for trading stocks, bonds and other assets, according to a recently published patent filing.

The New York-based financial giant made a patent application last year for a new virtual currency called SETLCoin, which makes it easier and faster to trade securities and settle those trades. (The patent application was published only recently, a typical lag between patent applications and when they are made public by the US Patent and Trademark Office.) The patent was first reported by Bitcoin Magazine.

While the trading desks at the world’s top financial institutions often rely on lightning fast technology to execute trades, it can still take days before the promised cash and securities—such as stocks and bonds—actually change hands, a process known as settlement.

That gap between the time the trades are executed and the settlement of the trade is a risk for traders. (It’s always possible that the person you were trading with goes bankrupt before they deliver the cash or securities you are expecting.) Goldman Sachs says in the patent application that SETLCoin guarantees ”nearly instantaneous execution and settlement” for trades.

While SETLCoin is a virtual currency, it isn’t bitcoin, which adds to the growing evidence that financial institutions are less interested bitcoin itself and more interested in the technology behind bitcoin, known as blockchain.

A global consortium of banks is working with blockchain startup R3 to develop approaches to using blockchain in global finance. American Express recently took part in a $12 million investment in Abra, a start-up that uses blockchain to transfer money internationally. In September, Blockchain startup Chain raised a $30 million Series B round with big names like Visa, Nasdaq, and Citi taking part in the investment. Goldman Sachs itself has also been actively exploring the bitcoin space. The firm was recently part of a $50 million investment round in Circle, a payments app that utilizes bitcoin and the blockchain.

Goldman’s patent application for SETLCoin might suggest that as they become more familiar with the technology themselves, banks and financial institutions could step-up their own development of blockchain technology.