Major bank CEOs say blockchain will underpin the financial industry ‘in five years’

Blockchain technology could soon revolutionize the global banking industry, according to the chief executives of two major European lenders.

Banks have invested millions in developing blockchain applications in recent years, as part of a broader industry effort to try to cut costs and simplify their back-office processes. The technology, which is perhaps better known as the software powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, was initially treated with skepticism by international lenders.

However, the use of blockchain in the banking industry is increasingly viewed as a proficient way of reducing the risk of fraud, with some banks now hailing its potential.

“So, if you look at blockchain… I think the banks are really working on this now because the potential is so huge and if the top five, six global banks would put their minds to it and agree on a standard, you could force (that) standard onto the globe,” Ralph Hamers, chief executive of ING Group, told CNBC’S Arjun Kharpal at the Money 2020 fintech conference in Amsterdam on Monday.

“And I think that you can actually then get to a timeframe of five or six years in which this will work,” he added.

‘Huge promise’

Rather than a centralized system, blockchain allows multiple parties to have simultaneous access to a constantly updated ledger that cannot be changed. That makes cheating the system by faking documents, transactions or any types of information, nearly impossible.

“We believe there is huge promise in blockchain. It is early times in this technology but it can bring about more efficient processes,” Carlos Torres Vila, CEO of BBVA, told CNBC on Monday.

When asked whether he was as optimistic as ING’s Hamers in predicting that blockchain technology could be rolled out throughout the industry over the next five years, Torres Vila replied: “I am, I think it does have that promise and I think that timeframe should be about right… but we will see how it develops.”


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