CommBank backs blockchain technology with Sydney conference


news An international line-up of experts will speak at the Sydney Blockchain Workshops in December – an event organised by Commonwealth Bank and COALA, a blockchain advocacy group.

The news is notable because the digital currency bitcoin, which is powered by blockchain technology, has not proved popular with many banks due to regulatory issues and, perhaps, potential competition. Some big financial institutions though, have cottoned onto the way blockchain tech – a kind of encrypted digital ledger book – could revolutionise some aspects of the financial system, making cross border payments much simpler, and allowing new technologies such as ‘smart’ contracts.

The Sydney Blockchain Workshops will bring together regulators, policy makers, technologists and media to “better understand the upcoming challenges and opportunities of blockchain technologies, and their impact on the current social, economic and political order”, said a CommBank statement.

“From New York to London, Dubai to Singapore, and Brasília to Sydney, governments are beginning to realise blockchain technology represents fundamental infrastructure and are in various stages of addressing how the appropriate policy and rules can enable both innovation and governance goals,” COALA co-founder Constance Choi said.

“The Blockchain Workshops, among other things, facilitate global innovation by engaging and educating stakeholders and enabling the establishment of better regulation through a clearer understanding of the global policy framework with open dialogue from diverse experts, academics and innovators,” she added.

Among other things, the Sydney Blockchain Workshops will feature workshops exploring four different uses of blockchain technology: identity and privacy; smart contracts for financial transactions; jurisdictional issues and financial regulations; and security and governance.

There will also be a global regulatory roundtable, designed to address the significant uncertainty about the regulatory treatment of digital currencies (such as bitcoin) and blockchain technology both locally and globally.

A public conference bringing in-depth discussion about this cutting-edge technology and an innovation challenge blockchain ‘hackathon’ competition will round off the event.

Commonwealth Bank Group Executive and CIO David Whiteing said the conference offers a “unique opportunity” for Asia-Pacific regulators, government officials, academics and technologists to hear from some of the world’s leading blockchain academics and experts.

“The conference provides both entry-level education and in-depth discussions about the huge potential of distributed ledgers and the resulting economic, commercial, legal and social policy questions,” he said.

“[The] blockchain has the potential to transform banking in the way that the Internet transformed how we buy music and watch movies. It’s an exciting time in the development of this technology and our involvement means Commonwealth Bank is set to be at the forefront of this in Australia for the benefit of our customers,” Whiteing said.

Corporate partners for the conference include Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The firm’s Chief Technologist Financial Services Daniel Biondi said “Blockchain has a promising future and could transform the financial services industry – potentially overhauling a legacy global banking system leading to much faster payments, including streamline B2B payments.”

“Bringing the whole ecosystem of stakeholders together through intellectual discussions along with the additional exploratory sessions from the Blockchain Workshops, will shed new light on how we can tap into this knowledge. Ultimately, this conference will help the industry to create proof of concepts and understand the business processes that we could potentially address first,” he said.

Image credit: Beau Giles, Creative Commons