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Wall Street’s blockchain obsession hasn’t produced a global revolution so far, just a lot more consulting work

Obsession
Future of Finance
Obsession
Future of Finance

Bring on the thought leaders.

Blockchain technology holds out a promise to dramatically reduce back-office costs, increase transparency, and speed up antiquated processes such as settling and clearing trades in a variety of asset-classes. With so many potential benefits, here’s how enthusiastically banks in US, Canada, and Europe are looking into that technology, according to a survey by Accenture:

The survey is by no means exhaustive: Accenture says it surveyed 32 commercial banking professionals, representing 18 banks. But it’s clear that folks in finance think blockchain tech is the next big thing—the World Economic Forum has even predicted that the tech will become “the beating heart” (paywall) of global finance.

Before the global financial system is overhauled with blockchain tech, there are some obstacles in the way. Half the banks in the survey reported they were facing resistance from their colleagues for their blockchain projects. These are the reasons behind that resistance:

Underlying this resistance, the Accenture report says, is skepticism about blockchain tech’s supposed benefits. One respondent summed it up thus: “The value proposition is not perfectly clear.”

In response, banks are hiring in-house consultants and external experts to get everyone aligned on blockchain’s benefits. Some 77% of banks in the survey had blockchain experts on staff. Banks are supplementing these by hiring outside consultants; 73% of banks reported having done so.

Simon Taylor, a co-founder of fintech consultancy 11:FS in London, runs blockchain projects for his firm, and used to lead blockchain research at Barclays, giving him a good view on the market for advice. He says blockchain is “definitely a buzzword,” but one that’s lacking solid business use-cases. “I see a lot of surveys and the same old [proofs of concept] and not a lot of expertise,” he says.

Of course, a big bank will have to pay for that expertise, whether it’s coming from a boutique consultancy like Taylor’s or a big one like Accenture.

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