Key Speakers At The Bank Of England Open Forum
Blythe Masters, chief executive officer of Digital Asset Holdings LLC, gestures as she speaks at the Bank of England Open Forum at the Guildhall in London on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Photograph by Bloomberg — Getty Images

This Blockchain Startup Allows Confidential Trades

Dec 07, 2016

Digital Asset Holdings, a blockchain startup backed by some of the world's largest banks, said on Wednesday it had developed a platform to allow traders to use blockchain technology without giving out confidential information on their trades.

The new platform provides a solution to confidentiality issues holding back adoption of the nascent technology in financial markets, according to a report issued by the company, which is led by former J.P. Morgan banker Blythe Masters.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the software underpinning cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared record of transactions and asset ownership that is maintained by a network of computers on the Internet. This means every user on a network could potentially have access to the details of every transaction.

While this reduces risks associated with discrepancies in data records held by different firms, it also makes it inadequate for use in certain securities markets where participants would be at a disadvantage if they disclosed their positions.

Digital Asset's platform solves the privacy issue by dividing the distributed ledger of transactions into two components: one where participants can confidentially store their transaction data, and another that is shared by all participants without the confidential data, according to the report.

The new platform will form the basis of the technology that Digital Asset is building for financial institutions including Australian stock exchange ASX and U.S. post-trade services provider the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, it said.

The company was earlier this year awarded a contract to replace the Australian Stock Exchange's clearing and settlement systems with its blockchain-based software. It now expects its project with ASX to enter into production at the end of 2017 and be ready for commercial use in 2018 following approval by the exchange and its stakeholders, according to Dan O'Prey, the company's chief marketing officer.

"This is the output of two years of hard work and confronting production requirements," O'Prey told Reuters.

While enthusiasm around blockchain in financial markets has exploded over the past year, the technology has yet to be deployed to run large financial processes such as the clearing and settlement of equities markets.

Research firm Greenwich Associates polled more than 130 executives working on blockchain in capital markets in June and found that transaction confidentiality was their top security concern, with 56% of respondents citing it as their primary worry.

Other than solving the confidentiality issue, Digital Asset's technology can also interact with existing financial protocols, meaning that it could be implemented in a given market without the need for all participants to be running on a blockchain based system, according to the company.

Founded in 2014, New York-based Digital Asset is one of the most high-profile startups in the nascent blockchain industry. Earlier this year it raised more than $60 million from large financial institutions including Goldman Sachs (gs), J.P. Morgan (jpm), CME Group, Deutsche Borse and Citigroup (c).

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