Blockchain is one technology which is said to be bringing in a revolution on par with the birth of the internet. What started as a decentralising currency and assets is now disrupting every mainstream industry. Whether its fintech, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, insurance, digital security, enterprise SaaS — blockchain is everywhere today.
Even the traditional BFSI stakeholders such as the large retail banks are deploying blockchain solutions for the robustness this technology brings to age-old systems when integrated in the right manner.
As per a survey on the financial services sector and fintech conducted by PWC, around 77% of the financial services industry plan on adopting blockchain by 2020. Banks constituting a third of the institutions surveyed have shown an inclination in incorporating blockchain in their operations as was reported by a study published by Accenture and McLagan (January 2017)
So, the first question for the novice here is:
What Is Blockchain?
As the definition goes, a blockchain is a public ledger of information collected through a network that sits on top of the internet.
The information recorded on a blockchain can take on any form, whether it be denoting a transfer of money, ownership, a transaction, someone’s identity, an agreement between two or multiple parties, or even how much electricity a lightbulb has used. The information is stored in the form of blocks, with each block on the chain able to store up to 1 MB of data.
What Are The Principles Of Blockchain Technology?
Here are some basic principles underlying blockchain technology:
- A distributed database: Each entity on a blockchain can access records on the entire database, but no single entity controls the data or the information.
- Peer-based communication: Communication is not through a central node, but occurs directly between peers. Each node stores and forwards information to all other nodes.
- Transparency: All transactions and associated values are visible to anyone with access to the system. However, each user can choose to provide their identity to others or remain anonymous.
- Permanent records: Once a transaction is entered, the records cannot be altered as they are linked to every transaction record that came before them in the “chain”. This immutability is what makes blockchain such a good foundation for fintech applications.
- Computational logic: Due to its digital nature, blockchain transactions can be tied to computational logic and in essence, programmed. Users can set up algorithms and rules that automatically trigger transactions between nodes.
How Blockchain Works?
When a block stores new data it is added to the blockchain. Blockchain, as its name suggests, consists of multiple blocks strung together. In order for a block to be added to the blockchain, however, four things must happen:
- A transaction must occur
- That transaction must be verified.
- That transaction must be stored in a block
- That block must be given a unique, identifying code called a hash.
The block is also given the hash of the most recent block added to the blockchain. Once hashed, the block can be added to the blockchain and becomes part of the record.
What Are Various Applications Of Blockchain In Fintech?
Blockchain enthusiasts are continuously experimenting with this technology to bring out new use cases and applications to solve the redundant and complex issues in the fintech industry. A few of the blockchain applications which are already popular among the BFSI leaders are:
- KYC Verification
- Supply Chain Financing And Management
- Simplification Of Remittance Process
- Trusted Payment Solutions
- Records Storage And Management
- Disrupting Digital Insurance
- Eliminate Dark Tactics Of Stock Market
- Credit Scoring
- Faster Processing Speed
- Eliminating Audit Trails
Let’s dive into details here!
Blockchain solutions are being used widely for authentication, verification and storage of electronic records in the banking industry as well as to create a KYC utility for the National Stock Exchange. Startups such as Primechain Technologies and Elemential Labs are among the key players in India here.
Supply Chain Financing And Management
Blockchain systems allow significantly higher settlement turnaround time at lower costs by providing a single source of truth regarding pivotal points in the supply chain, like creditworthiness, supplier inventory levels, purchase order receipt and approval, invoice receipt and approval, and more.
Delhi-based Sofacle Technologies is one such startup which designs and develops blockchain-powered enterprise solutions for smart contracts, supply chain finance, insurance, among others. Similarly, Auxesis which is currently focussing on private blockchain solutions with its enterprise-grade infrastructure focussing on security, performance and scalability. Then there is StaTwig which combines IoT and blockchain to provide real-time tamper-proof end-to-end tracking for packages and goods that identifies problems and inefficiencies in the supply chain.
Simplification Of Remittances
The main goal of blockchain remittance companies is to simplify the entire process, removing unnecessary intermediaries. The idea is to provide frictionless and near-instant payment solutions. Unlike traditional services, a blockchain network doesn’t rely on a slow process of approving transactions, which usually goes through several mediators and requires a lot of manual work. Thus, blockchain technology may solve some of the major problems faced by the remittance industry, such as high fees and long transaction time. Auxesis and EzyRemit are providing such solutions in India for businesses with large volume of remittances.
Trusted Payments Solutions
Blockchain technology promises to facilitate fast, secure, low-cost international payment processing services (and other transactions) through the use of encrypted distributed ledgers that provide trusted real-time verification of transactions without the need for intermediaries such as correspondent banks and clearinghouses.
Blockchain technology was initially used to support the digital currency Bitcoin but is now being explored for a wide variety of applications that don’t involve Bitcoin. In India, KrypC is one startup offering such solutions for the payments industry. The startup’s specialised connectors for the financial industry are customised for money transfer, trade finance and pre-approved loans. Another one is Mumbai-based GetXS which is developing blockchain-based digital identities which can be authenticated securely.
YES Bank has facilitated the issuance of a commercial paper (CP) of INR 100 Cr using blockchain technology for Vedanta, a natural resources conglomerate. Usually not backed by any form of collateral, a commercial paper (CP) is an unsecured money market instrument issued in the form of a promissory note. YES Bank used R3 Corda enterprise blockchain platform developed by US-based MonetaGo to facilitate the issuance. The blockchain platform, thus, ensures an efficient, transparent and secure mechanism for CP issuance and redemption.
Records Storage And Management
Documents in physical or digital form can be modified and copied. While there are many products and services that provide secure and verified document management, they tend to be expensive and often require the involvement of a third party. Blockchain embeds authentication into the document itself and using a closed-loop tracking system to protect against tampering or modification. One example here can be Indian startup RecordsKeeper that allows users to store documents, data and any transaction immutably in private-blockchain securely without the need of central authority.
Similarly, Bengaluru-based PARAM Network is using the blockchain solution to cut the cost of e-invoice processing by half and store digital receipts on-chain. It also automates the entire process while bringing in transparency. This also cuts down the turnaround time and complexity of the verification process in invoice processing.
Secure Digital Regulatory Process
Blockchain’s immutability lends itself to the application of proof-of-process for compliance. Blockchain could be used to keep track of the steps required by regulation. Recording actions and their outputs immutably in a blockchain would create an audit trail for regulators to verify compliance. For example, based in Bengaluru, Signzy Technologies offers digital trust solutions based on blockchain and AI, aiming to simplify and secure digital regulatory processes.
Disrupting Digital Insurance
By allowing policyholders and insurers to track and manage physical assets digitally, blockchain technology can codify business rules and automate claims processing through smart contracts, while providing a permanent audit trail. Insurance giants and startups alike are attempting to use blockchain technology to prevent insurance fraud, digitally track medical records, and more. Somish Solutions is a startup in India which develop and provide blockchain-based solutions for applications such as P2P insurance, tokenised fund transfers etc.
Eliminate The Dark Tactics Of The Stock Market
Wealthtech is the new niche which fintech startups in India are rapidly exploring. Blockchain can reduce the inefficiencies through automation, which also leads to a reduction in cost, lowering entry barriers and resulting in an increased market base. It will also help in eliminating stock tampering, processing time and charges, naked short selling, as well as commissions of all intermediaries.
Fintech companies are widely using blockchain to cater to the unbanked population lacking CIBIL score and helping them get credit. Earlier this year, Telangana government joined hands with London-based startup Cognito Technologies to kick off a pilot project, wherein it will leverage blockchain technology to come up with credit scores of those from economically weaker sections of society.
Faster Processing Speed
The distributed ledger could make it possible to connect all parties in a financial trade in real-time for faster processing of a payment. For instance, if you use another bank’s cash machine (ATM) today, that bank must contact your bank to make sure you have enough funds in your account before dispensing the cash. If both banks used the same blockchain ledger, the bank could dispense the funds instantly without waiting for approval.
Eliminating Audit Trails
The transparency of information and permanence of records makes it nearly impossible to alter or manipulate the data, so banks no longer have to keep redundant audit trails of transactions; the transaction ledger is the audit trail.