The use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) is reshaping the financial services industry, offering new opportunities for digital transformation while continuing to pose challenges as firms and financial market infrastructures explore establishing guiderails for the technology, said Mike Bodson, DTCC’s president and CEO, in a keynote speech at the CordaCon 2021 event.
Bodson described the evolution of DLT since it was introduced about six years ago as a solution to industry operational challenges—and a potential industry disruptor—before highlighting the three guiding principles DTCC uses to evaluate opportunities for using DLT.
Watch: Mike Bodson highlights the three guiding principles DTCC uses to evaluate opportunities for using DLT.
“The interest in the use of DLT remains very high across the industry because it holds great potential,” Bodson said, adding that the industry must “collaborate and build the digital infrastructure of the future as a foundational step to support the eventual, and inevitable, transition to digital markets and tokenization.”
DTCC has embraced a “minimal viable product” model for developing DLT initiatives, which has helped to reduce development time, introduce products more quickly and contribute to the development of the firm’s DLT principles:
- First, identifying “white space” areas where technology can enable or introduce better and faster infrastructure and use DLT to create efficiencies in markets that are predominately manual, prone to human error or lack standardization. In one example, DTCC launched “Project Whitney” for the private securities markets by using DLT, APIs and cloud to create a modular, service-based platform to streamline processes and support the tokenization of those assets.
- Second, adding or “bolting-on” products and services enabled through DLT to legacy technology can drive client and business value for existing products, services and solutions, where firms already have significant investments. As part of DTCC’s ongoing work with industry stakeholders to accelerate settlement, Bodson noted the firm’s “Project Ion” relies on a DLT node and API interface to create new efficiencies for accelerating settlement in the U.S. The initial phase of the Ion launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022.
- Third, exploring how DLT can be used to modernize current infrastructure, introduce further automation and improve end-to-end asset servicing. It’s a complex process, Bodson said, where every decision can affect another and requires a very disciplined approach. This work is in early stages and will provide important insights. Examples include SIX, Switzerland’s stock exchange, which recently obtained approval to operate an exchange and depository for blockchain-based securities, and ASX, the Australian Exchange, which continues to work on a DLT platform to replace its CHESS system.
Ultimately, establishing strong governance structure and providing the same or greater levels of risk management and protection will be the key to driving increased use of DLT in the future, Bodson said, noting that a DTCC/Accenture white paper has sparked conversations with stakeholders across the industry.
The industry needs consistent DLT frameworks “to avoid the type of fragmentation we saw 30 years ago as firms began developing their own systems with little interoperability or communication,” Bodson said. “It comes down to this: The upside of technology can be significant, but if the potential risk outweighs the benefit, it’s not a viable solution.”