Ulster Bank.

Ulster Bank is leading a new investigation into blockchain underpinning Irish payments systems, with partners including AIB, PTSB and Deloitte. Blockchain’s impact on various industries has been considerable, most notably through its foundation of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency in the world. However, predictions were always such that cryptocurrencies were just the start. Everything from supply chain management to the entire financial services model would be overhauled, in theory, by a ledger system like no other.

Blockchain’s broad reach

Those predictions are already proving accurate in some areas. The shipping industry, for example, is diving deep into blockchain investigations, with billions of dollars predicted to be saved in the coming years. However, it’s banking that’s the most intriguing, with Irish institutions in no mood to be left behind at the moment. A new project at various financial institutions is exploring the application of blockchain technology developed by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to improve domestic payments systems.

Called Project GreenPay, Ulster Bank is teaming up with AIB, Permanent TSB (PTSB), Deloitte and RBS to run the program. The cross-bank team has specifically concentrated on enhancements to speed, resilience and security for customers and is working on “an enhanced potential alternative platform for domestic payments”.

From lab to live

Dogpatch Labs played host to an early test of the project, with payments sent between the banks to check for performance, accuracy, and scalability. The next step is to run a pilot using live payments and explore further use cases of the technology in the international payments and foreign exchange space. “Blockchain has the potential to disrupt multiple industries for the benefit of customers, and we’re determined to investigate how we can harness this force for the financial sector,” said Ciarán Coyle, chief administrative officer with Ulster Bank.

“RBS has done a lot of work in this space with their partners through Emerald, and it was opportune for us to join with AIB, PTSB, and Deloitte to examine possible improvements for our customers. We are focused on an open collaboration like this project to help the industry make banking simpler and more secure for our customers.” There are other projects already underway in this area.

Varied approaches

While start-ups are seen as the driver of much of the innovation within the financial industry, some of the more traditional models are doing their utmost to keep ahead of the curve. Barclays recently revealed that it has opened a new fintech innovation lab in London, the largest of its kind in Europe.

Called Rise, the center will be a collaborative space for Barclays to work with start-ups, developers and some of its other corporate clients on projects to “help to create the future of financial services”. Blockchain will be a major focus. Belfast has also made attempts to build a hub of blockchain businesses, again with financial services as the target. However, this Ulster Bank project, given the collaboration with multiple major financial institutions, could prove the most interesting development of the lot.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
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