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Banking on blockchain

Rhonita Patnaik
Filed on August 31, 2020
Blockchain is a shared digital record of transactions or information of value, between two or more parties.

Research indicates that investment banks worldwide could save up to $10 billion by using blockchain to enhance the efficiency of clearing and settlement.

Digital ledgers and peer-to-peer networks are fast becoming the "new normal" among future-facing companies, reshaping how the world transacts. Banks can consider which processes may be ripe for blockchain transformation-for instance, Know Your Customer (KYC), derivatives or securities trading, payments, and customer experience.

Blockchain is a shared digital record of transactions or information of value, between two or more parties. Traditionally, online validation requires multiple systems that can be coordinated by multiple parties. Blockchain potentially enables a more integrated solution. It is a decentralised, distributed ledger. This potentially means that transactions are shared, replicated and authenticated in real time on computers located at every node, thus promising verifiability independent of a single source.

Transactions are stored in batches inside "blocks" that become part of a contiguous "chain," with each block time-stamped and continuously verified by the blocks that precede and follow it. This makes the ledger permanent and virtually tamper proof. Many organizations across the UAE have embraced blockchain. For instance, Emirates NBD's 'Cheque Chain' has integrated blockchain into issued cheques to strengthen their authenticity and minimise potential fraud. Cheque Chain utilises a unique quick response code which is printed on every leaf of newly issued cheque books. The code registers each cheque on the bank's platform. After the cheque is received and cleared, bank staff can validate the cheque's authenticity and access its source at all times, thereby helping to reduce the risk of forgery.

Ahead of the curve
Meanwhile, the Dubai Land Department, in partnership with UAE-based Mashreq Bank, has released a blockchain-based mortgage platform, which can serve as a repository for mortgage records. It is also designed to enable confirmation that mortgages comply with registration policies. Dubai is also aiming to be the first city to offer blockchain-based payment solutions to its residents. Emcredit, a state-backed subsidiary of the Department of Economic Development, is working on releasing 'emCash', a digital currency. After all, the intention of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin was to work "on a new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party", and to create a network that prevents double spending.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published a white paper analysing learnings from more than 60 governmental and nongovernmental entities across the UAE that are actively exploring or implementing blockchain. It estimated that "by adopting blockchain technology, the UAE government expects to save Dh11 billion ($3 billion) in transactions and documents processed routinely, 398 million printed documents annually and 77 million work hours annually."

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