Archive: July 7, 2016

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DLT for the OTC
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Regulators notice small business loans are big business
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Increasing investment in blockchain initiatives

DLT for the OTC

By Tyler Kirk

On June 21, 2016, some of Europe’s largest financial institutions announced they had entered into a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) under which they would work together to develop a blockchain-based settlement procedure for over the counter (“OTC”) transactions. According to the MOU, several European legislators are concerned that small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) do not have adequate access to capital. The MOU seeks to solve such concerns by bringing together European exchanges and investment banks under a common mandate to reduce the cost for SMEs raising capital in the OTC market. Blockchain may be the solution they are looking for.

Generally, blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger, and its creation established a new class of digital ledgers called, distributed ledger technology (“DLT”). Unlike current financial settlement systems, DLTs are more efficient because all transactions are mathematically provable and do not require a multi-day verification process. DLT protocols use encryption combined with distributed copies of the ledger to replace the need for a third-party to serve as the ledger’s custodian. In short, DLTs create an immutable record of the truth arrived at through distributed consensus.

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Regulators notice small business loans are big business

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

The focus in marketplace lending appears to be shifting to small business loans recently and it is clear that small business loans are big business. The European Investment Bank has agreed to make a £100 million investment in small business loans originated through Funding Circle in the UK as part of its priority to improve access to finance for small and medium businesses. In the US marketplace lenders originated around US$1.9B in 2015 up nearly 60% from 2014.

The increased volume of small business loans has not escaped the notice of US federal regulators. There are concerns that sometimes small businesses are essentially individual entrepreneurs and may not have any more tools than consumers to assess the terms of loans offered to them. The US Treasury’s recent white paper, Opportunities and Challenges in Online Marketplace Lending, made a number of recommendations including that more robust small business borrower protections and effective oversight be introduced for online marketplace lenders. A number of regulators including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission were contributors to that paper.

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Increasing investment in blockchain initiatives

By Jim Bulling

Over US$1B is likely to be collectively spent on bringing blockchain technology to capital markets in 2016, according to a recent survey of 134 global market participants. Of the businesses with bitcoin projects, 32% have an annual budget in excess of US$5 million, and 47% top US$2 million. This significant level of investment has been motivated by the various advantages presented by bitcoin technology and its potential to revolutionise global capital markets. Indeed, a majority of businesses surveyed predicted blockchain would create ‘meaningful change’ in capital markets within five years. Furthermore, the survey participants were mostly unconvinced that legal regulation would significantly impede blockchain adoption. As such, the nascent interest in blockchain use in capital markets seems likely to continue.

Public financial institutions are also getting involved. At a recent international summit of international bankers, the US Chairperson encouraged attendees to educate themselves on blockchain. In Canada, the central bank is working alongside private banks and R3 (a blockchain company). They are trialling a digital currency (Cad-Coin) and allowing limited participants to engage in interbank payments with blockchain technology. The Bank of England is also looking into possible applications of the technology, with the deputy governor raising the possible consequences of a digital pound in a recent speech.

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