Archive: July 2016

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Blockchain… A Threat to Safety, Soundness & Resiliency?
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Project Bletchley

Blockchain… A Threat to Safety, Soundness & Resiliency?

By Tyler Kirk

On June 21, 2016, the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight counsel (“FSOC”) released its 2016 annual report. The purpose of the annual report is to summarize the FSOC’s current views on the U.S. financial system according to its mission to: (1) identify risks; (2) promote market discipline; and (3) respond to emerging threats. Notably, the 2016 report identified the use of blockchain as an emerging business practice requiring vigilant monitoring by financial regulators.

Since its establishment in 2010, the FSOC has issued six annual reports. This is the first time FinTech issues such as the blockchain have been identified as a potential risk to U.S. financial market stability. The FSOC noted that the use of blockchain protocols by financial institutions could positively impact the U.S. financial system by introducing efficiencies and reducing costs. However, according to the FSOC, “Market participants have limited experience working with distributed ledger systems, and it is possible that operational vulnerabilities associated with such systems may not become apparent until they are deployed at scale.”

Further, the FSOC cautioned that a “considerable degree of coordination among regulators” may be required given the distributed nature of blockchain networks. Noting that the U.S. financial system is constantly evolving, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew advocated for regulators to remain vigilant in order to maintain the safety, soundness and resiliency of the U.S. financial system. Yet, beyond vigilance, the FSOC did not recommend any specific action on blockchain by regulators, preserving the current hands-off approach.

The FSOC 2016 report can be found here.

 

Project Bletchley

By Tyler Kirk

On June 15, 2016, Microsoft released a white paper introducing Project Bletchley, Microsoft’s next iteration on its blockchain as a service (“BaaS”) product. In late 2015, Microsoft announced that it would be leveraging its cloud platform, Azure, to provide a low-risk sandbox for customers to gain experience with how blockchain may be applied in various business scenarios, such as supply chain management. Bletchley is positioned as incorporating the latest innovations on the blockchain protocol in the Azure cloud service.

Generally, blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger. Blockchain differs from traditional centralized ledgers because the blockchain protocol uses encryption combined with distributed copies of the ledger to replace the need for a third-party to serve as the ledger’s trusted guardian. Further, blockchain is more efficient because all transactions are mathematically provable and do not require a multi-day verification process. The protocol is append only, and distributed, thus every participant receives an update to their copy of the ledger with the latest transactions. Yet, this revolutionary framework, blockchain 1.0, was just the beginning.

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