Exclusive: Blockchain platform developed by banks to be open-source

October 20, 2016 6:41 AM EDT

UBS employees work in the UBS "fintech lab" at Canary Wharf in London, Britain, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Hannah McKay


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By Jemima Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) - A blockchain platform developed by a group that includes more than 70 of the world's biggest financial institutions is making its code publicly available, in what could become the industry standard for the nascent technology.

The Corda platform has been developed by a consortium brought together by New-York-based financial technology company R3. It represents the biggest shared effort among banks, insurers, fund managers and other players to work on using blockchain technology in the financial markets.

Blockchain, which originated in the digital currency bitcoin, works as a web-based transaction-processing and settlement system. It creates a "golden record" of any given set of data that is automatically replicated for all parties in a secure network, eliminating any need for third-party verification.

Banks reckon the technology could save them money by making their operations faster, more efficient and more transparent. They are racing to build products using the technology that will generate new revenue, with dozens of patent applications filed for blockchain-based products by Wall Street's top lenders.

R3 says it hopes its platform will become the industry standard, although its intention is indeed for firms to build products on top of it.

"We want other banks and other parties to innovate with products that sit on top of the platform, but we don't want everyone to create their own platform ... because we'll end up with lots of islands that can't talk to each other," R3's chief engineer, James Carlyle, told Reuters.

"If we have one platform with lots of products on top, then we get something that's more like the internet, where we still get innovation but we can still communicate with each other."

Corda's code will be contributed on Nov. 30 to the Hyperledger project - a cross-industry project led by the non-profit Linux Foundation to advance blockchain technology by coming up with common standards.

Corda - which uses the same technology as bitcoin but restricts access to transaction data and can handle more complex transactions - was developed specifically for the financial world, such as for the processing of securities and derivatives and for payments.

"Blindly investing millions of dollars in small, disparate technology projects is not appropriate for banks at a time when budgets are stretched," said R3's chief executive, David Rutter.

"The risk of backing the wrong horse could far outweigh the potential gains. Given that the power of this technology lies in its network effect, the consortium model is the ideal method to get it off the drawing board and into the wholesale financial markets."

ThomsonReuters is a member of R3's consortium.

(Reporting by Jemima Kelly, editing by Larry King)



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