Italian Banks Successfully Test Data Reconciliation Via Blockchain

Italian Banks Successfully Test Data Reconciliation Via Blockchain

The reconciliation data of an entire year of Italian banking activity on a blockchain platform, announced the local banking association.

The Italian Banking Association (ABI) successfully processed the reconciliation data of an entire year of local banking activity on a blockchain platform.

The association announced the successful test of the Spunta Project’s system in a press release published on Oct. 12. The successful test of the framework has been first announced by Italian media at the end of September though with little details. 

Platform viability has been demonstrated

Now ABI reveals that the test has seen 200 million data entries being processed by the blockchain banking reconciliation system, effectively simulating one year of Italian banking activity. 

The successful test allegedly demonstrates the sustainability of the verification procedure and the platform itself.

The data has been introduced to the platform through 35 nodes distributed throughout Italy. Eighteen Italian banks — comprising 78% of the country’s banking workforce — are part of the project.

Implementation to come in 2020

The recently amended banking agreements will reportedly allow for the system to be implemented by March 1, 2020. As Cointelegraph reported, ABI first announced the intention to deploy blockchain technology in mid-June. 

The Spunta Project is coordinated by the association’s research organization, ABI Lab, and sees participation from system integration firm NTT Data, decentralized data storage platform Sia and enterprise blockchain firm R3 with its Corda network.

Alfa-Bank, Commerzbank Pilot Cross-Border Payments on R3’s Marco Polo

Alfa-Bank, Commerzbank Pilot Cross-Border Payments on R3’s Marco Polo

Alfa-Bank and Novolipetsk Steel Company, in cooperation with Commerzbank and Vesuvius GmbH, launch a Russia-Germany payment pilot via R3’s Marco Polo Network.

Alfa-Bank and Novolipetsk Steel Company (NLMK), in cooperation with Commerzbank and Vesuvius GmbH, are piloting Russia-Germany cross-border payments on R3’s Marco Polo network.

Powered by R3’s Marco Polo Blockchain Global Trade Network

On Oct. 11, Alfa-Bank announced that it is launching a foreign trade finance pilot transaction, with the cooperation of NLMK, Commerzbank and Vesuvius GmbH using R3’s Corda-powered Marco Polo Network. In the announcement, Alfa-Bank described itself as Russia’s largest financial institution measured by total assets, total equity, deposit and loan portfolios.

The cross-border payment pilot aims to build a digital end-to-end trade finance and supply chain finance solution on a blockchain platform. Marco Polo network, which is a joint undertaking between technology firms TradeIX and R3, plans to offer a wide range of international trade finance solutions and integration into the global trade ecosystem. Head of Trade Finance at Alfa-Bank, Dina Merkulova, said:

“We launched our first distributed ledger technology in trade finance as early as 2017. Since then, corporate blockchain solutions have been considerably elaborated, and earned our clients’ confidence and proved their applicability to real business processes. Projects such as Marco Polo create added value for clients ensuring more international trade transparency and manageability thanks to integrated bank payment, finance and discount instruments.”

More banks joining Marco Polo Network

Cointelegraph reported in September that the Bank of America had joined R3’s Marco Polo Network to tackle trade finance challenges. The multinational investment bank joined the network to improve its international trade inefficiencies and deliver a better service to its customers. Geoff Brady, head of global trade at Bank of America, said at the time:

“Joining the Marco Polo Network supports our strategic objective of turning technology advances into trade solutions that address client needs. We look forward to exploring how the new technology can generate greater transparency for our clients throughout the transaction lifecycle, making traditionally paper-based, opaque processes easier and more efficient.”

Daimler Conducts Transaction on Marco Polo Trade Finance Network

Daimler Conducts Transaction on Marco Polo Trade Finance Network

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG and mechanical engineering firm Dürr AG have conducted a pilot transaction on the Marco Polo trade finance network.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG and mechanical engineering firm Dürr AG have conducted a pilot transaction on blockchain software firm R3’s Marco Polo trade finance network.

According to a press release published on Sept. 25, the transaction between Daimler and Dürr included the order and delivery agreement from Dürr’s subsidiary Schenck, wherein the payment was secured by a conditional payment commitment by the buyer’s bank. Marco Polo founding member LBBW provided the financing and payment commitment.

Once the equipment was delivered, the system automatically uploaded the order fulfillment information and adjusted it with previously agreed transaction data.

Fast and efficient transactions

The parties claimed that the Marco Polo network completed the transaction within minutes, with Corda mapping the entire data flow. Jürgen Vogt, director treasury of controlling, analytics and standards at Daimler AG, said the project allowed the firm to evaluate future possibilities of blockchain in the digitization of trade finance. Following the pilot, Schenck chief financial officer Susanne Schlegel said:

“The successful pilot project between Daimler and LBBW demonstrates the intrinsic efficiency potential of digital trade finance processes. Innovative platforms and technologies such as Marco Polo und Corda allow us to reduce complexities in order fulfillment — to the benefit of all participants.“

Growing adoption of blockchain-based transactions

Daimler is not new to blockchain projects. In August, Frankfurt bank and financial services firm Commerzbank tested blockchain-based machine-to-machine payments with trucks produced by Daimler. To allow the transaction, the bank reportedly tokenized euros on the blockchain and provided the funds to the automaker to process the payments.

Marco Polo saw its first real transactions in March, when it facilitated a trade between Germany and China, involving two German firms.

Mastercard Partners With Blockchain Firm R3 for Payments Solution

Mastercard Partners With Blockchain Firm R3 for Payments Solution

Blockchain firm R3 partnered with Mastercard to develop a cross-border payment solution.

Mastercard partnered with blockchain firm R3 to develop a cross-border payment solution.

According to a Mastercard press release published on Sept. 1, the two firms plan to pilot a new blockchain-enabled cross-border payment solution. The system will reportedly focus on connecting global faster payments infrastructures, schemes and banks.

Multiple ways to move money

Per the release, the announcement is part of Mastercard’s plans to strengthen its cross border payments network, building on its acquisition of global payments company Transfast earlier this year. 

The partnership with R3 is part of the payment giant’s multi-rail strategy, which sees customers choosing how their funds should be moved. 

Mastercard executive vice president of new payment platforms Peter Klein commented on the development:

“Developing a new and better cross-border B2B payments solution by improving worldwide connectivity in the account-to-account space is central to Mastercard’s ambition. Our goal is to deliver global payment infrastructure choice and connectivity as demonstrated through our recent strategic acquisitions and partnerships, including our relationship with R3.”

Mastercard’s interest in blockchain

The partnership builds on the previous relations between the two companies, which publicly manifested also earlier this month when Mastercard joined R3’s Corda-powered Marco Polo Network for trade finance.

Mastercard also showed interest in the cryptocurrency space in August, when the company appeared to be angling to enter the crypto wallet space with new job ads for blockchain and cryptocurrency-related product development.

Mastercard Joins Blockchain Software Firm R3’s Marco Polo Network

Mastercard Joins Blockchain Software Firm R3’s Marco Polo Network

American financial services corporation Mastercard has joined blockchain software firm R3’s Marco Polo Network for trade finance.

American financial services giant Mastercard has joined blockchain software company R3’s Corda-powered Marco Polo Network for trade finance.

In a news release published on Sept. 3, Mastercard revealed its participation in the project, a collaboration of R3 and Irish tech company TradeIX that launched in 2017. The initiative provides a multi-asset class platform that offers broker-dealer services and multicurrency transactions, among other services.

The company’s Mastercard Track platform for business-to-business global trade has collaborated with Marco Polo in an attempt to facilitate further development and more working capital finance solutions.

Jacques Levet, transaction banking head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at BNP Paribas — one of the Marco Polo Network members — said:

“Better flow of information across the whole value chain has the potential to drive significant benefits for all network members.”

Recently, Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by total assets, joined the Marco Polo Network. Standard Bank will now develop trade finance solutions alongside major global financial institutions such as BNP Paribas and ING.

In April, Marco Polo onboarded three new members for piloting and evaluation purposes, including financial services firm BayernLB, Frankfurt-based bank Helaba, and back office service provider S-Servicepartner.

HSBC Completes First Blockchain Letter of Credit Transaction in Yuan

HSBC Completes First Blockchain Letter of Credit Transaction in Yuan

Banking and financial services giant HSBC has completed the first yuan-denominated letter of credit transaction on a blockchain using the Voltron trade finance platform.

Banking and financial services giant HSBC has completed the first yuan-denominated letter of credit transaction on a blockchain using the Voltron trade finance platform.

As Reuters reported on Sept. 2, HSBC conducted the first blockchain-based yuan-denominated letter of credit transaction deploying R3’s Corda-powered Voltron platform. In the cross-border  transaction, Hong Kong-based electronics manufacturer MTC Electronics exported a shipment of LCD products to its parent firm Shenzhen MTC.

24 hours instead of ten days

The blockchain platform ostensibly enabled the parties to exchange electronic documents in 24 hours instead of the regular five to 10 days required for traditional document exchanges. Commenting on the deal, Ajay Sharma, the regional head of global trade and receivables finance for Asia-Pacific at HSBC, said:

“We are hoping that we will have something by end of the year, maybe the first quarter of next year, where will we know from Voltron what it costs, at which point, a lot of banks who might be sitting on the sidelines will be able to make a decision.”

Streamlining trade finance documents

R3 in collaboration with eight banks — including Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC Holding, HSBC, ING, NatWest, SEB and Standard Chartered — initially launched Voltron last October in a bid to digitize trade finance documents and attract more member banks and companies.

In August, London-based bank and financial services firm Standard Chartered completed its first cross-border blockchain letter of credit transaction in the oil industry with Thai state-owned oil giant PTT Group.

The pilot consisted of digitizing and simplifying the end-to-end exchange of information between all parties in a shipment of an oil product from Thailand to Singapore.

Fintech Firm Partners With R3 to Develop Shariah-Compliant Market Platform

Fintech Firm Partners With R3 to Develop Shariah-Compliant Market Platform

A fintech company based out of Dubai has entered into a strategic partnership with R3, as it develops a Corda-based platform for Islamic securities.

Dubai-based fintech company Wethaq has entered into a strategic partnership with enterprise software firm R3, in order to create a platform for issuing and trading sukuk securities based on R3’s Corda offering. 

A platform for Islamic securities

According to a press release on Aug. 28, Wethaq’s platform is built on R3’s open source enterprise blockchain platform Corda, and the company has been taking steps to ensure that it is likewise compliant with Sharia Law.

Wethaq’s platform is reportedly designed to improve the market infrastructure for issuing and trading sukuk securities. Sukuk is heavily regulated and demands a considerable amount of time for issuance. Wethaq hopes to automate and streamline this process, as well as the entire sukuk lifecycle, per the announcement.

Sukuk is a type of financial certificate similar to a bond that complies with Islamic Sharia Law. Sukuks differ from traditional bonds in that they denote partial ownership in an asset, whereas bonds are a debt obligation. Since sukuks share the risk of the backing asset, the holder is not guaranteed to receive back their initial investment. 

R3 CEO David Rutter spoke about the partnership, saying that R3 believes Corda could modernize the economy in Saudia Arabia and the Middle East at large. Wethaq CEO Mohammed Alsehli also commented on the partnership, discussing the two firms’ overarching goals, saying:

“Our joint focus is on building world-class financial infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, in alignment with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and the UAE, pursuant to their ambitious fintech agenda, before we expand to the entire Middle East and Southeast Asia.”

Stellar: another Sharia-compliant platform

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Ripple-based platform Stellar said in July 2018 that it was the first distributed ledger protocol to obtain Sharia compliance certification, for the money transfer and asset tokenization field. Stellar was approved by the  Shariyah Review Bureau — an international Sharia agency licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain.

Cryptocurrency NOORCOIN was certified with a Sharia Certificate from the World Sharia Advisory Committee before Stellar back in March. At the time, NOORCOIN declared itself as “the first sharia-compliant utility token.”

India’s Kerala Blockchain Academy Partners with R3 for Dev Education

India’s Kerala Blockchain Academy Partners with R3 for Dev Education

Blockchain firm R3 partners with the Indian government’s Kerala Blockchain Academy to launch a developer certification program on R3’s Corda blockchain.

The Kerala Blockchain Academy (KBA), a government initiative under the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, is now a general partner of R3.

Local news outlet The Economic Times reported on Aug. 27 that New York-based enterprise blockchain firm R3 chose the KBA as a general partner. According to the article’s author, the academy already designed a developer certification program on the firm’s Corda blockchain, meant for banking and technology professionals.

Governmental blockchain education

Per the report, KBA is the first government institution in India which offers a Corda blockchain development program. Moreover, the initiative also provides in-person training on technologies such as Hyperledger and Ethereum (ETH).

While being a hostile environment for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, India has been more open towards blockchain. It was, for instance, recently reported that the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra is preparing a regulatory sandbox for testing blockchain solutions across various applications. 

R3’s broader work

The Financial Times wrote that many banks in Kerala have already started the implementation of the Corda platform into their core banking systems. According to the article, R3 leads more than 300 organizations working to develop distributed systems for use in fields such as insurance and financial services.

As Cointelegraph recently reported, the development of R3’s enterprise blockchain platform Corda was being plagued by fundamental disagreements over its core vision, causing frustration and delay.

Africa’s Largest Bank Joins Blockchain-Based Marco Polo Network

Africa’s Largest Bank Joins Blockchain-Based Marco Polo Network

Africa’s largest bank by assets, Standard Bank, has joined blockchain-based trade finance consortium, the Marco Polo Network.

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by total assets, has joined blockchain-based trade finance network, the Marco Polo Network.

Standard Bank will now develop trade finance solutions alongside major global financial institutions such as French BNP Paribas and Dutch ING, according to a press release on Aug. 22.

Backed by the world’s biggest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Standard Bank is the first African bank to join the network, the press release notes. To date, the Marco Polo Network includes over 20 global financial firms such as Commerzbank, Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, Danske Bank, NatWest, Alfa Bank, Bayern LB, Helaba, S-Servicepartner, RBI and Bradesco.

Network’s objectives

The Marco Polo Network is a collaboration of blockchain-focused enterprise software company R3 and Irish tech firm TradeIX that launched in 2017.The network provides a multi-asset class platform for broker dealer services and multi-currency transactions, including equities, derivatives and other related services. 

On Aug. 15, Commerzbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg executed a milestone transaction on the Marco Polo platform, enabling direct and instant integration of logistics provider Logwin AG into the digital process chain.

R3 has reportedly faced major internal disagreements over the core vision of its enterprise blockchain platform Corda, which caused frustration and delay. Unnamed sources stated that there were major differences of opinion between managers and developers regarding R3’s product design and development.

R3 Plagued by Internal Conflicts Over Corda, Sources Claim

R3 Plagued by Internal Conflicts Over Corda, Sources Claim

The development of R3’s enterprise blockchain platform Corda is reportedly beset by fundamental disagreements over its core vision, causing frustration and delay.

The development of R3’s enterprise blockchain platform Corda is being plagued by fundamental disagreements over its core vision, causing frustration and delay.

The claim was made in a report from FT Alphaville on Aug. 22, citing numerous insider sources.

“Corda maximalists” versus interoperability proponents

Sources close to R3 reportedly allege that there is a gulf between Corda’s engineers and its senior management as regards the product’s design and development. The engineers have purportedly lost faith in the technology itself, considering it to be functioning poorly and underscoring that it lacks scalability. 

They have also pointed to the allegedly 5-figure monthly bills R3 is ratcheting up in payments for cloud services, which cast a shadow over the platform’s long-term viability.

Other sources have spoken of tensions at the level of the workforce, accusing the R3 engineers of being susceptible to a “three-year itch” they believe besets the enterprise blockchain sector as a whole.

Sources mention irresolution regarding R3’s identity — split between pitching itself as being a financial software firm to a more wide-ranging tech consortium. 

As regards Corda itself, they claim there is a lack of ambition and clarity regarding exactly what kind of blockchain it aspires to be — and whether or not it will at all remain committed to distributed ledger technology also known as DLT. 

This split has become tribal, they allege, with a split between so-called Corda maximalists and those open to pursuing interoperability.

The bottom line is that many reportedly fear the platform will not offer diverse businesses the efficiency gains it promises.

“Powerful but not very useful”

Among the R3 engineers, anonymous sources have said the consortium is trying to market software that is still ill-conceived and underdeveloped; they added that R3 is struggling to manage its burgeoning client base.

FT Alphaville was told by other in-house engineers that the flagship product “still feels like an engine without a car — powerful but not very useful.”

Notably, some have alleged the company would have faced a cash crisis had it not reached a settlement in 2018 with erstwhile rival Ripple over a legal dispute involving the breach of an option agreement that would have allowed R3 to purchase XRP at a discounted price.

Earlier this month, R3 announced plans to open a second European office in Dublin in 2020, just weeks after doubling the size of its London hub as part of an aggressive expansion plan.

R3 Announces Planned Dublin Office Amid Aggressive Expansion

R3 Announces Planned Dublin Office Amid Aggressive Expansion

Enterprise blockchain developer R3 has announced a new Dublin office opening in 2020 as part of its rapid expansion plan.

Enterprise blockchain developer R3 announced on Aug. 14 that it intends to open a second European office in Dublin in 2020. This comes just weeks after doubling the size of its London hub as part of an aggressive expansion plan.

Hiring to expand global headcount by 25%

The new office will serve as a tech hub, staffed largely with engineering specialists working closely with the existing London team. R3 has embarked on a hiring mission, which aims to increase its global headcount by around one quarter. As well as the Dublin engineers, this will include commercial and client-facing roles around the world.

Dublin has been increasing in popularity as a tech hub, positioning itself as a successor to post-Brexit London, with low corporate taxes and other benefits.

R3 CEO David Rutter said, “We chose Dublin because of the deep pool of existing blockchain and technical skills in the city, as well as its close connections to our existing hub in London.”

Enterprise blockchain is rising in prominence

While enterprise blockchain development is still a relatively new sector, it is now being deployed by some of the world’s largest companies across a diverse range of industries. It is reaching a tipping point and becoming the mainstream.

Rutter said, “We’re proud to host one of the most active and diverse ecosystems of blockchain applications […] but to make sure that we keep up with the demand […] significant investments into our personnel are essential.”

R3 recently partnered with a Brazilian firm to develop a stock exchange focussed on technology start-ups.

Truffle Announces Upcoming Dev Support for Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, Tezos

Truffle Announces Upcoming Dev Support for Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, Tezos

Truffle is planning to start supporting the Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, and Tezos protocols in its fully managed blockchain dev suite.

Blockchain development company Truffle has unveiled plans to expand its fully managed developer suite to include support for the blockchain protocols Corda, Hyperledger Fabric and Tezos.

Truffle founder and CEO Tim Coulter announced the company’s plans at TruffleCon 2019 — Truffle’s annual dev conference — on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington. Coulter commented on how he thinks these tools will pave the way for collaboration via interoperability, saying:

“We are empowering developers to build enterprise-grade solutions on any network of their choosing, creating a path for future cross-network collaboration.”

According to a press release shared with Cointelegraph, the Truffle Suite is a fully managed blockchain for dev workflow, from backend work on smart contracts to frontend creation of applications. 

Truffle’s developer tools reportedly date back to 2015, when they were developed from within ConsenSys’ venture production studio. As further noted, Truffle later received a $3 million investment in 2019 and partnered with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, as well as Microsoft Azure. 

At press time, Truffle’s developer suite supports the blockchain protocols of Ethereum and Quorum.

Interoperability outside of code development

Having interoperable industry systems is a goal in fairly disparate contexts. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the transportation group Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) is attempting to drive supply chain interoperability through blockchain technology. BiTA president Patrick Duffy has commented on the group’s goals, noting that blockchain “has the potential to smooth the transactions that occur between shippers and carriers, but it requires the active participation of transportation leaders.”

R3 Doubles London Office Size in Anticipation of Growing Branch

R3 Doubles London Office Size in Anticipation of Growing Branch

R3 is doubling the size of its London branch in anticipation for over forty new hires by the start of 2020, as the CEO predicts a prosperous post-Brexit environment.

New York-based enterprise software firm R3, known for its enterprise blockchain platform Corda, has doubled the size of its London Wall office. Business intelligence firm Mondo Visione reported on the company’s new hiring goals on Aug. 1.

According to the report, R3 has increased the size of its London branch as partial accommodation for the company’s intended 85 global hires by the end of 2019. Out of the 85, over half are intended to be installed in the company’s London office. R3 is reportedly primarily recruiting software engineers, but will also onboard some commercial and client-facing professionals.

Additionally, the report states that the London expansion is a cornerstone of R3’s rapid growth plans. The company reportedly is seeking to add a new engineering center by early 2020, and is currently mulling over the best location for its new building. R3 is reportedly scheduled to announce the location some time in the coming months.

According to R3 CEO David E. Rutter, the United Kingdom’s impending departure from the European Union will position London in a favorable economic position:

“There is enormous opportunity for London post-Brexit. While there clearly remain some uncertainties, we believe the city is well placed and established to thrive in the coming years. That’s why we are confident in making this substantial long-term commitment now. 

Three years after Britons voted to leave the EU, Brexit has still not been accomplished as the Parliament has failed to reach any substantive agreement. In May, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk predicted a 20-30% chance of it being cancelled outright, while Business Insider states that a Scottish court could rule out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament and force a deal through.

R3 blockchain in Brazil

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, R3 has moved to develop a blockchain platform in Brazil as of June. More specifically, R3 has partnered with the banks Bradesco, Itau and B3 stock exchange to build a platform for foreign trade and insurance. R3 executives apparently shared the news at an R3 Consortium meeting, the members of which are from large banks and tech companies. The consortium has also said that the Brazilian stock exchange is currently using R3’s signature Corda platform for digital identification.