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From Hype to Reality ‒ Learnings from Sibos 2016 in Geneva

Balazs Fejes

SVP, Banking & Financial Services, EPAM Switzerland
  • Financial Services

Last week’s Sibos conference in Geneva was much more subdued than last year’s meeting in Singapore. The hype about blockchain has subsided into the reality of how to use it, which technology solution might be more suitable, and whether it is the right solution for the business need; and the over-arching concern this time was focused on cyber security and protecting against reputational and financial loss.

The Bangladesh Central Bank’s systems were hacked and fraudsters were able to use codes to make transfers totaling over USD 800 million. The losses amounted to USD 65 million after some money was recovered and some transfers stopped. This incident spotlighted the vulnerabilities of banks systems, and whether counterparties can be really trusted to be who they purport to be. There is no doubt that this was a solemn wake up call to the industry that there are significant threats which need to be addressed. SWIFT emphasized the need to strengthen the way banks maintain their codes and to review trusted counterparties frequently to reduce the chance of fraud.

The theme of the conference was ‘Transforming the landscape’ and much of this revolved around innovation and Fintech in general, and blockchain specifically. Most banks are now talking seriously about blockchain as a business opportunity, and either actively experimenting with it - or starting to. However, there is little evidence or any significant use cases to show if it can make a difference or transform a process. EPAM’s executive round table discussion with senior executives from leading banks including RBS, Deutsche Bank, BAML, etc., focused on this issue with the theme ‘From Hype to Reality: Developing a Pragmatic Approach to Blockchain in financial services.’

Among the topics discussed were:

  • Has blockchain ‘grown up’ during 2016, and if so how?
  • What are the best use cases for blockchain across securities, payments and trade?
  • What real world problems can blockchain solve?
  • What role could market infrastructures play in taking blockchain mainstream?
  • Is the technology ready and resilient enough for prime time use?
  • Do we need a standard fabric and will we get one?
  • What steps should firms take to ensure a pragmatic – but successful – approach to blockchain implementation going forward?

Hear from EPAM’s Balazs Fejes about the past, present, and future of blockchain, as he discusses whether or not the technology has moved “from hype to reality” and what financial institutions can do to keep up.

View the further discussion of the FinTech trends that weren't getting enough attention at Sibos 2016 and get some advice for dealing with Brexit-related disruption.

Watch EPAM’s Peter Cronin talk about what other industries outside of Financial Services are doing with blockchain, as he offers insight into the value being created in Gaming, Media, and Automotive and what financial institutions stand to gain from it.

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