SOFE Berlin: Swift unveils blockchain proof-of-concept

Swift has taken the wraps off its first blockchain proof-of-concept and pledged to become more vocal and engaged with the community in driving the application of the technology at both an industry level and embedded within its own member-owned network.

The internal POC is being previewed at the interbank co-operative’s European Operations Forum in Berlin. The demo tackles the issue of asset servicing across the full lifecycle of a bond trade, from issuance to payment of coupons and maturity.

For the tests, Swift set up five separate nodes on a simulated network, stretching from Swift offices in California as the ID provider to an account servicer in Virginia and three investing banks in Sao Paolo, Frankfurt, and Sydney.

Using the Eris Tendermint consensus engine and smart contracts written in Solidity, the internal POC sought to demonstrate the viability of distributed ledgers in a very basic application, while also providing an insight to the implementation of the ISO20022 standard on a blockchain.

The POC emerged from Swift’s new R&D division, which has been quietly exploring the technological possibilities of distributed ledgers. As part of this, the co-operative ran a blockchain challenge in April looking at potential use cases for the technology and expects to see a number of other POCs come to fruition in Q1 2017. Projects in the works include a plug for Swift PKI and access control mechanism to build a Swift permissioned ledger and the creation of a Standing Settlement Instruction database for over-the-counter markets.

Damien Vanderveken, head of R&D at Swift Labs, says: “Swift has been targeted in the press as a legacy incumbent that will be doomed by DLT. But we believe Swift can leverage its unique set of capabilities to deliver a distinctive DLT platform offer for the community.”

He says the Society intends to become more vocal about its involvement in the technology in the future, sketching out a roadmap of key initiatives planned for 2017.

These include working with vendors and member banks to deliver a blueprint for a Swift-run distributed ledger and the development of a DLT sandbox.

For the latter, Swift intends to collaborate with member banks on a select number of use cases for the future application of distributed ledger technology as part of its Global Payments Innovation initiative, with nostro and vostro reconciliations already earmarked as a fruitful area of engagement.

“There is a strong push from GPI banks to see how DLTs can be applied to improve correspondent banking,” says Vanderveken. “We will specifically be looking at how we can leverage our considerable assets and bring something that has value to the community over and above what others could provide.

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