Blockchain technology is now generating a big hype in particular in financial services and is envisioned as the magic solution to solve all inefficiencies in particular in back-offices processes.

Even though it is true to say that those processes are sub-optimal and that blockchain can bring a lot of optimisations, blockchain should not be considered as a magic stick!

What blockchain and smart contracts will bring functionally is huge :
  • a shared trade representation between the buyer and the seller, short cutting all the tedious reconciliations performed at multiple levels,
  • a full life cycle management of the products through automated contracts and this being shared between the buyer and the seller,
  • a realtime transaction backbone supporting all type of flows (money, securities, contracts, ...)
This will bring a lot of efficiencies only if there is in place a seamless integration of the blockchain ledger with the existing components banks may have.

To illustrate this, let's take an example on a derivative contract.
There, the blockchain could help in many ways:
  • at front-office level, simulating the product with the customer instead of exchanging excel based term-sheets,
  • once the product is fully defined and agreed, blockchain would allow an instantaneous booking, the transaction being signed by both parties (the seller in creating the product and the buyer in buying the product),
  • the code defining the product would allow to generate all the flows for different events all along the lifecycle (coupons, barriers, termination, ...)
  • reporting is also much easier, the transaction database is open and available to any application (even to the regulator ?)
As seen over this high level example, blockchain is impacting all banks' activities from front-office to accounting. Will the promise be delivered if blockchain is implemented as a separate system ? Definitely not!

If not integrated with the existing blocks, it will become a YASR (Yet Another System to Reconcile) bringing some value but creating also additional work to maintain its consistency with the existing blocks. Therefore, beside the tests banks are now conducting, before moving on further steps banks should consider the integration path with existing systems : accounting, market data, back and front office not forgetting risks and reporting.

Without those mandatory steps the full blockchain power will not be released!