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Among the three technologies that will transform the financial services workforce in the next decade is blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, which has garnered a significant amount of attention owing to its ability to act as a transfer of value among unknown counterparties and to create trust in an otherwise trustless world.
This trust depends on an algorithm rather than a central third-party verification.
The information is encrypted, guaranteeing a secure transfer. Ultimately, blockchain will facilitate faster, safer and more transparent transactions for customers (increasing their trust in FS providers), significantly reduce costs, reduce balance sheet risk, and improve audit and compliance functions.
This technology has the potential to fundamentally re-architect much of the FS functionality over the next decade. In capital markets, for example, while still some years away from widespread adoption, blockchain offers the potential to revolutionize the way assets move and counterparties share information through financial markets.
One way to build the competencies and capture the potential of blockchain technology is to establish partnerships with the broader ecosystem and share experiences and knowledge.
For instance, more than 55 firms across finance, banking and technology, including Accenture, JPMorgan, ABN AMRO and DTCC have joined the Hyperledger Project, a collaborative effort created to advance blockchain technology by addressing the important features for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers.
Citibank has already deployed the technology experimentally in three separate systems within the bank, including its development of an equivalent to Bitcoin which it calls Citicoin.
To avoid falling behind, FS firms need to begin investigating how blockchain technology can be best leveraged within their organization, hiring the right talent that can enable its implementation and starting to conduct small-scale proofs of concept. By performing these steps, a company will build an understanding of the technology and the value it brings to them.
The ability to recruit, train and support the right people is therefore critical. It is no surprise that there is a dearth of professionals whose skills bridge the worlds of blockchain and financial services – and a plethora of organizations competing for these skills. Creative solutions will be needed for employers to understand exactly what skills they require and to go about securing and retaining them.
The impact of blockchain will be widely seen in FS, and professionals must be up-skilled. The legal, regulatory, risk and capital implications should be clearly understood. Careful thought should be given to where accountability will reside to take full advantage of this groundbreaking technology.
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