A persistent problem in Africa is the financial-inclusion deficit. With 11 million citizens in South Africa alone being either underbanked or unbanked, the need to gather them into the banking fold is urgent. Recognizing this imperative, innovative teams such as Nedbank’s Retail and Business Banking have prioritised customer-centric digital avenues to reach more customers, entrenching themselves as the money experts who do good and give clients back the gift of time.
In spite of the recent rise of protectionism amongst major trade partners, international trade growth is strong, with emerging markets providing the main impetus. Trade growth could be even stronger if not for the shortfall in trade financing supply relative to demand, a gap that is partly due to regulation compliance. Technology is coming to the rescue, not only in addressing the trade finance gap but ameliorating operations throughout trade channels.
The last 18 months or so have seen initial coin offerings (ICOs) play a hugely disruptive role in the world of start-up financing. Companies the world over have managed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars—if not billions—to fund their blockchain-based development plans
Many bankers love blockchain for its potential to maximize efficiency and productivity while slashing costs and security risks. But the crypto-currencies, such as the (in)famous bitcoin, tied to it? Not so much—at least not across the board. While giving the thumbs up to distributed ledger technology for its advantages in areas such as trade finance, industry leaders are maintaining a wary eye on cryptos, due to disadvantages such as volatility.
Blockchain—a cryptographic, decentralized distributed ledger system—is gaining acceptance and prestige as its multiple advantages, such as immutability, become clear, even to normally cautious financial organisations. But it isn’t all smooth sailing. Especially in Europe, some of the new data and privacy regulations clash head-on with blockchain and its attendant crypto-currencies. Can the technology overcome these hurdles and continue on its path toward broad, industry-wide adoption?
As FinTech companies disrupt the financial services industry with marketplace lending and blockchain-based supply chains, wholesale banks are meeting the challenge by reprioritizing IT spending and improving their innovation capacity.
On 12 June 2017, a blockchain-based company called Bancor raised approximately $153 million in ether (the coin of the cryptocurrency Ethereum) in just less than three hours by way of an initial coin offering (ICO).
Banking across the globe has been going through a major transformation over the last few years, and this evolution looks set to continue well into 2018, and indeed beyond.
You would have to be living with your head buried in the sand not to realize that we are witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, of which the Blockchain Revolution is an integral part. The necessity of working with digital assets is forcing the reinvention of traditional financial infrastructure, and only those banks that adapt and participate in the metamorphosis are sure to capitalize on the generous rewards.
Blockchain, the decentralized ledger that supports today’s burgeoning cryptocurrencies, has become so useful that it can no longer be ignored by today’s financial institutions. From cutting costs to reducing risks, this indomitable digital technology has moved way beyond bitcoin to becoming an indispensable ally to the bank that wants to most securely and efficiently fulfill its role of tracking, storing and transferring value.