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Blockchain Demystified: A Banking Sector Perspective

Blockchain Demystified: A Banking Sector Perspective

PROF. MADHU VIJ
Former Professor at FMS, University of Delhi.

Introduction

Blockchain has been one of the biggest technology breakthrough in recent times signifying a new way to store and exchange data. It provides a way to transact in a secure and transparent way. As more organizations put their resources behind this emerging technology, blockchain is expected to gain significant traction as its potential for greater efficiency, support for new business models and revenue sources, and enhanced security as demonstrated in real-world situations(Deloitte, 2018 Global Blockchain Survey report).

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions and has grown as a chain like structure made of different blocks. In its simplest form, a blockchain is a distributed technology that forms a chain of blocks. It is a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by cluster of computers interconnected through a dedicated network to work as one centralized data processing resource.

A blockchain uses a form of algorithm called cryptography to ensure records cannot be changed or corrupted by anyone. Information stored using a blockchain is tamper proof as all the blocks are linked together and no information in any of the earlier blocks can be altered without changing the later blocks. The blocks of data hold data in a secure and encrypted way using cryptographic principles to ensure that transactions can never be altered or changed. Data can be used only by people authorized to do so. The blockchain is an ingenious way of passing information from one party to another in a fully automated and safe manner. In fact, the blockchain technology can be programmed to record virtually all kinds of transactions of value.

The blockchain network stores information across a network of personal computers making them not just decentralized but also distributed. This means no company or individual owns the data systems. Yet the information in it is open for everyone to see. Hence, the information that is built on the blockchain is both transparent and secure.

Application of Blockchain technology in the real world

In today’s digital world, where financial information is being created faster than ever, digitizing transactions is an effective response to address the explosion of data. Blockchain is likely to gain even more popularity as companies continue to modernize their technologies. (Accessed online, January/February 2018 issue of The Financial Manager magazine). Some companies that can leverage Blockchain technology are health care, banking and financial services, election records, to name a few. Health care companies can leverage the technology to securely store the medical records of the patients. The personal records of the patients can be encoded and stored safely, so that accessibility is only given to certain individuals. Blockchain technology can also help to create a tamper proof election record, eliminate election fraud and increase voter turnout. The vote can be stored as a block on the blockchain making it completely transparent and nearly impossible to tamper with.

Companies like Uber and Airbnb which have recently challenged the traditional economy are now being threatened by blockchain technology. The technology has the power to disrupt their business as the blockchain opens the door to direct interaction between the parties, thus eliminating the need for a match making platform.

Ebooks is another area that could be threatened by block chain. Instead of third parties like Amazon and credit card companies earning revenues from the sale, the transaction could be held directly between the author and the reader. The books would circulate in an encoded form and the money could be transferred directly to the author to unlock the book. This would make Amazon unnecessary as the two parties to the transaction can directly interact with each other.

Why have blockchains become popular in the last few years?

The reason why blockchain has gained so much popularity is that:

  • Blockchain database is not stored in any single location and is hosted by millions of computers simultaneously. This makes the data impossible for the hackers to corrupt.
  • Blockchain technology creates a digital ledger enabling businesses to directly transact with each other across nations that does not necessitate using third parties to settle the transaction i.e. it removes the need for a trusted intermediary and makes peer to peer transactions possible. This saves a significant amount of time and money for both the parties involved.
  • Blockchain is immutable i.e. Data is cryptography stored inside making it very secure and can never be altered. Data is cryptographically encrypted to ensure a high level security
  • Blockchain technology is transparent and more users are beginning to trust the network as data once stored cannot be manipulated, amended or changed. However, all transactions that are stored on the network can be tracked and this helps to ensure that the technology is transparent and trustworthy.

Difference Between Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin?

A blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that forms a ‘chain of blocks’ that forms the network. Cryptocurrencies are the tokens used within these networks to not only send value but also pay for these transactions. Blockchain and Cryptocurrency go hand in hand and always work together as crypto is often necessary to transact on a blockchain.

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that is also referred to as a cryptocurrency. It is a type of digital cash with no central bank. The main purpose of creating bitcoins was to speed up cross border transactions and to simplify the whole process without having third party interventions.

Some important points of distinction between the two are:

  • Bitcoin is one of the examples of blockchain.
  • Bitcoin is a Cryptocurrency while Blockchain is a digital ledger that allows digital information to be recorded and distributed, but not edited.
  • Bitcoins increase the speed of transactions with minimal government restrictions. Blockchains provides a secure and safe environment for the transfer of information.
  • The scope of bitcoin is limited while Blockchain has numerous applications in many industries.
  • Bitcoin can only be traded as a currency while the spectrum of blockchain is very wide. It can transfer anything from currencies to stocks.
  • Bitcoin is much less flexible while Blockchain can work with various industries.
  • Bitcoin is mainly anonymous while blockchain is very transparent.

Application of Blockchain in the Banking sector

Blockchain offers many unique opportunities and can revolutionize the banking sector in the coming years. The high level of safety in storing and transmitting data, the low cost of operations, the secure and transparent network and the decentralization of data have made blockchain a much in demand technology especially in the banking and financial services sector. By integrating the blockchain technology into their system, banks can process the transactions in a matter of few minutes, basically the time it takes to add a block to the blockchain, regardless of the time or day of the week.
Blockchain technology eliminates unnecessary mediators and thus helps to provide customers and banks with cheaper services. Some of the specific applications in the banking sector are:

1. Quicker financial transactions

Blockchain technology eliminates the need for a third party payment gateway by decentralizing everything. It can increase the speed with which the transaction takes place. Transactions are settled real time in blockchain technology as without an intermediary the transactions only take a few seconds to complete. For example, it can complete in seconds the securities and cash transactions that conventional stock trading may take 2 to 3 days to complete.

2. Reduced cost of financial transactions

The cost of financial transactions in the banking industry will decrease with the elimination of third parties and payment gateways. It will render third parties and their charges unnecessary by providing network enabling businesses to directly trade with each other. This will not only decrease the cost but also increase the efficiency of the banking sector.

3. Reduction of fraud

Banks face the major issue of cybersecurity and use of blockchain technology can help to reduce financial fraud. It is a technology that links each block of transactions to past transactions. More so, each transaction block has its time stamp. This helps to make trading on this platform safe and secure. Thus, the technology offers better opportunities and helps to check cyber crimes and also reduce crimes in other online financial transaction

4. Accessibility and Transparency

Blockchain technology has the ability to allow users to access transaction details at all times. Users can access the full historical data stored in blockchain’s shared ledger anytime and anywhere with internet access. No one can delete or change the transactions already done via blockchain technology. Thus, the technology offers greater transparency than traditional banking.

Conclusion

Blockchainis being considered by many as a panacea to tackle the many challenges banks are facing. The technology is believed to be safe as it is online encrypted data base that is resistant to modification. It helps to make the data more secure and scalable. Users can control the information by eliminating the third parties involved in the transactions. The clutter and complications of multiple ledgers is reduced as banks have the opportunity to exchange funds directly between institutions more quickly and securely.

However, to deploy this technology in the banking sector, it must conform to the regulatory permissions and follow the relevant privacy laws. Increased guidance from the regulators on the governance model will help to create the value add for this technology in the coming years. This is important for security and safety of data.

In summary, blockchain has the power to revolutionize the banking sector. What is needed is the willingness of banks to implement the technology. A few banks can take the lead here to validate the technology and show the business applications.

Introduction

Blockchain has been one of the biggest technology breakthrough in recent times signifying a new way to store and exchange data. It provides a way to transact in a secure and transparent way. As more organizations put their resources behind this emerging technology, blockchain is expected to gain significant traction as its potential for greater efficiency, support for new business models and revenue sources, and enhanced security as demonstrated in real-world situations(Deloitte, 2018 Global Blockchain Survey report).

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions and has grown as a chain like structure made of different blocks. In its simplest form, a blockchain is a distributed technology that forms a chain of blocks. It is a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by cluster of computers interconnected through a dedicated network to work as one centralized data processing resource. A blockchain uses a form of algorithm called cryptography to ensure records cannot be changed or corrupted by anyone. Information stored using a blockchain is tamper proof as all the blocks are linked together and no information in any of the earlier blocks can be altered without changing the later blocks. The blocks of data hold data in a secure and encrypted way using cryptographic principles to ensure that transactions can never be altered or changed. Data can be used only by people authorized to do so. The blockchain is an ingenious way of passing information from one party to another in a fully automated and safe manner. In fact, the blockchain technology can be programmed to record virtually all kinds of transactions of value. The blockchain network stores information across a network of personal computers making them not just decentralized but also distributed. This means no company or individual owns the data systems. Yet the information in it is open for everyone to see. Hence, the information that is built on the blockchain is both transparent and secure.

Application of Blockchain technology in the real world

In today’s digital world, where financial information is being created faster than ever, digitizing transactions is an effective response to address the explosion of data. Blockchain is likely to gain even more popularity as companies continue to modernize their technologies. (Accessed online, January/February 2018 issue of The Financial Manager magazine). Some companies that can leverage Blockchain technology are health care, banking and financial services, election records, to name a few. Health care companies can leverage the technology to securely store the medical records of the patients. The personal records of the patients can be encoded and stored safely, so that accessibility is only given to certain individuals. Blockchain technology can also help to create a tamper proof election record, eliminate election fraud and increase voter turnout. The vote can be stored as a block on the blockchain making it completely transparent and nearly impossible to tamper with. Companies like Uber and Airbnb which have recently challenged the traditional economy are now being threatened by blockchain technology. The technology has the power to disrupt their business as the blockchain opens the door to direct interaction between the parties, thus eliminating the need for a match making platform. Ebooks is another area that could be threatened by block chain. Instead of third parties like Amazon and credit card companies earning revenues from the sale, the transaction could be held directly between the author and the reader. The books would circulate in an encoded form and the money could be transferred directly to the author to unlock the book. This would make Amazon unnecessary as the two parties to the transaction can directly interact with each other.

Why have blockchains become popular in the last few years?

The reason why blockchain has gained so much popularity is that:

  • Blockchain database is not stored in any single location and is hosted by millions of computers simultaneously. This makes the data impossible for the hackers to corrupt.
  • Blockchain technology creates a digital ledger enabling businesses to directly transact with each other across nations that does not necessitate using third parties to settle the transaction i.e. it removes the need for a trusted intermediary and makes peer to peer transactions possible. This saves a significant amount of time and money for both the parties involved.
  • Blockchain is immutable i.e. Data is cryptography stored inside making it very secure and can never be altered. Data is cryptographically encrypted to ensure a high level security
  • Blockchain technology is transparent and more users are beginning to trust the network as data once stored cannot be manipulated, amended or changed. However, all transactions that are stored on the network can be tracked and this helps to ensure that the technology is transparent and trustworthy.

Difference Between Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin?

A blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that forms a ‘chain of blocks’ that forms the network. Cryptocurrencies are the tokens used within these networks to not only send value but also pay for these transactions. Blockchain and Cryptocurrency go hand in hand and always work together as crypto is often necessary to transact on a blockchain. Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that is also referred to as a cryptocurrency. It is a type of digital cash with no central bank. The main purpose of creating bitcoins was to speed up cross border transactions and to simplify the whole process without having third party interventions.

Some important points of distinction between the two are:

  • Bitcoin is one of the examples of blockchain.
  • Bitcoin is a Cryptocurrency while Blockchain is a digital ledger that allows digital information to be recorded and distributed, but not edited.
  • Bitcoins increase the speed of transactions with minimal government restrictions. Blockchains provides a secure and safe environment for the transfer of information.
  • The scope of bitcoin is limited while Blockchain has numerous applications in many industries.
  • Bitcoin can only be traded as a currency while the spectrum of blockchain is very wide. It can transfer anything from currencies to stocks.
  • Bitcoin is much less flexible while Blockchain can work with various industries.
  • Bitcoin is mainly anonymous while blockchain is very transparent.

Application of Blockchain in the Banking sector

Blockchain offers many unique opportunities and can revolutionize the banking sector in the coming years. The high level of safety in storing and transmitting data, the low cost of operations, the secure and transparent network and the decentralization of data have made blockchain a much in demand technology especially in the banking and financial services sector. By integrating the blockchain technology into their system, banks can process the transactions in a matter of few minutes, basically the time it takes to add a block to the blockchain, regardless of the time or day of the week. Blockchain technology eliminates unnecessary mediators and thus helps to provide customers and banks with cheaper services. Some of the specific applications in the banking sector are:

1. Quicker financial transactions

Blockchain technology eliminates the need for a third party payment gateway by decentralizing everything. It can increase the speed with which the transaction takes place. Transactions are settled real time in blockchain technology as without an intermediary the transactions only take a few seconds to complete. For example, it can complete in seconds the securities and cash transactions that conventional stock trading may take 2 to 3 days to complete.

2. Reduced cost of financial transactions

The cost of financial transactions in the banking industry will decrease with the elimination of third parties and payment gateways. It will render third parties and their charges unnecessary by providing network enabling businesses to directly trade with each other. This will not only decrease the cost but also increase the efficiency of the banking sector.

3. Reduction of fraud

Banks face the major issue of cybersecurity and use of blockchain technology can help to reduce financial fraud. It is a technology that links each block of transactions to past transactions. More so, each transaction block has its time stamp. This helps to make trading on this platform safe and secure. Thus, the technology offers better opportunities and helps to check cyber crimes and also reduce crimes in other online financial transaction

4. Accessibility and Transparency

Blockchain technology has the ability to allow users to access transaction details at all times. Users can access the full historical data stored in blockchain’s shared ledger anytime and anywhere with internet access. No one can delete or change the transactions already done via blockchain technology. Thus, the technology offers greater transparency than traditional banking.

Conclusion

Blockchainis being considered by many as a panacea to tackle the many challenges banks are facing. The technology is believed to be safe as it is online encrypted data base that is resistant to modification. It helps to make the data more secure and scalable. Users can control the information by eliminating the third parties involved in the transactions. The clutter and complications of multiple ledgers is reduced as banks have the opportunity to exchange funds directly between institutions more quickly and securely. However, to deploy this technology in the banking sector, it must conform to the regulatory permissions and follow the relevant privacy laws. Increased guidance from the regulators on the governance model will help to create the value add for this technology in the coming years. This is important for security and safety of data. In summary, blockchain has the power to revolutionize the banking sector. What is needed is the willingness of banks to implement the technology. A few banks can take the lead here to validate the technology and show the business applications.

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