Blockchains and financial inclusion

Blockchains and financial inclusion

This short post gives an overview on how blockchains could impact financial inclusion and “banking the unbanked”.  There are two parts to this:

  1. Financial inclusion: who counts as unbanked? (it’s not just poor people)
  2. How might distributed ledger (“blockchain”) technology help?

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What’s the difference between a distributed ledger and a blockchain?

A blockchain is a type of distributed ledger.  But new distributed ledgers are emerging. These are databases where control over the data’s evolution is shared between entities. Here’s a handy cheatsheet.

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Yes, but what’s new with distributed ledgers?

This short post is inspired by a conversation I had recently with a couple of finance professors from top business schools who had some questions about blockchains.

Prof A explained that he had heard all the fuss about blockchains but was unsure whether it was revolutionary or evolutionary (I think the word disruptive was also used). I have written about disruption in Fintech and the Evolutionary vs Revolutionary aspects of distributed ledgers before (hint: it depends, it’s both, and yes, perhaps).

Then he asked, “Yes, but is there anything new?”

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No, “Blockchain” is not a solution looking for a problem

I have heard this comment many times:

“Blockchain” is a solution looking for a problem.

 

That is incorrect – here’s the problem statement, originally articulated in 2008:
Bitcoin whitepaper

The problem statement, to paraphrase, is

“How do people pay each other electronically without being at the behest of Financial Institutions?”

The proposed solution is:

“Bitcoin”

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In a nutshell: DTCC whitepaper on distributed ledgers – Jan 2016

In a nutshell: DTCC whitepaper on distributed ledgers – Jan 2016

On 25 Jan 2016 the DTCC released a white paper entitled “Embracing Disruption – Tapping the potential of distributed ledgers to improve the post-trade landscape”.  It is a very good read: high quality, succinct, and cuts through the hype.

I attempt to summarise for those with less time to read the full paper.

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