Iranian Banker: “Digital Currencies… are Currently Shaping the Future of Banking”.

A prominent Iranian banker has come out in support of digital currencies. Masoud Khatouni, a senior member at Iran’s largest bank, has called for Bitcoin and other cryptos to be recognised and accepted into the nation’s banking system. According to Bank Meli Iran’s deputy for information technology and communications:

“Iran must formally recognise activities using digital currencies as they are currently shaping the future of banking. Banks themselves must also enter this field to use them.”

Khatouni’s stance is markedly different from other prominent bankers in Iran, however. The governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and their head of innovative technologies have both recently urged citizens to exercise great caution when dealing with digital currencies.

However, Khatouni believes that his nation could benefit from digital currency, particularly as they have a history of dealing with the burden of economic sanctions. He told prominent Iranian financial news source IBENA:

“The future of banking throughout the world is intertwined with digital currencies, which are entering the banks silently as most banks remain oblivious to their presence.”

The BMI official went on to state that there should be “no limitations” on the use of digital currencies. This, he believes, will allow companies to reap the benefits of cryptos with greater confidence and transparency. He proposed that the CBI should create a group entirely focused on integrating digital currencies into their banking practices. Such a department should then be used to determine regulations going forward.

“I ask central bank officials to refrain from creating restrictions for digital currencies by way of laws and regulations, because based on the current realities of the world, they have taken form and the Iranian people have also moved toward them.”

Despite the mixed signals coming from Iran’s banking sector, it appears that the nation is generally supportive of cryptocurrencies. In October last year, we reported on the Iranian central bank’s desire to see a cryptocurrency infrastructure developed for the nation. Nima Amirshekari, head of Electronic Banking at the Monetary and Banking Institute, said:

“CBI views it [Bitcoin] as something that can be controlled and does not see it as multi-level marketing or a pyramid scheme.” 

It’s believed that the Middle Eastern State are aiming to have a regulatory frame work for digital currencies setup by September of this year. How this will sit with the religious elements of the nation’s leadership remains to be seen, however. Member of parliament Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi believes that digital currency is against Islam. This sentiment was echoed as recently as last week in Egypt too. Counsellor of the Republican’s Mufti, Dr. Magdy Ashour told a local news source that Bitcoin was “not an Islamic concept”.

 

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The CEO of Zürich-based stock holding company Credit Suisse has come out in opposition to Bitcoin. For Tidjane Thiam, the cryptocurrency space needs approaching with caution and current interest levels are only high because people think it as a way to get rich quick.

The finance exec cites anti-money laundering concerns as a major reason why banks will never take the currency seriously. Moneyweb reports Thiam’s sentiment which he expressed at a news conference on Thursday:

Bitcoin presents a number of challenges. The first of them is really the anonymity. I think most banks in the current state of regulation have little or no appetite to get involved in a currency which has such anti-money laundering challenges.

He went on to deem the current speculation surrounding Bitcoin as the “very definition of a bubble” and that such unrestrained optimism for an asset’s value “rarely led to a happy end”.

He’s famously not alone in his opinions. September and October saw the likes of Jamie Dimon and others from the world of legacy finance railing against Bitcoin.  It’s hardly surprising that figures from the world of central banking are so hostile to Bitcoin though. They are, after all, those with the most to lose from a fully decentralised system of money, free from control and coercion.

These bankers are quick to dismiss Bitcoin proponents as simply out to make a quick buck. However, this grossly overlooks (or purposefully brushes under the table) those who see it as a way to “exit” a system in which they have either lost or never had faith. The very people scrambling to tell folks to not buy into “this Bitcoin thing” are those with the most to lose from a fully decentralised alternative to fiat money. Their simultaneous dismissal of Bitcoin and embrace of blockchain highlights the issue well.

Bitcoin is completely beyond a banker’s control. They cannot stack the deck in their favour by using it in the same way they have done using legacy systems. It represents a money free from control. Meanwhile, a blockchain without decentralisation is nought but a database. A central bank-issued digital currency organised in a centralised manner might well provide some advantages to the average citizen over the current system propped up by the likes of Dimon et al. However, these perks would come at the cost of absolute and total control over peoples’ financial liberty. In a cash-free world in which all wealth is stored on centralised bank-issued blockchain-based currencies, the need for a decentralised option like Bitcoin would be arguably even greater than it currently is today. The “intrinsic value” which all these so-called “analysts” overlook is the ability to use Bitcoin to exit a system of corruption and social control via an economy contorted to please those that control it.

For those wanting to hear some balance to the endless Wall Street naysayers. We deplore you to check out the addresses of Bitcoin advocate and social control opponent Andreas Antonopoulos.

Image: ShutterStock

Speaking on CNBC’s “Fast Money” on Tuesday, James Disney of Credit Suisse made bold claims about the revolutionary power of blockchain. He also confirmed that Credit Suisse have been running experiments with the technology in various parts of the business.

Due to the present nature of private equity transactions, it can take weeks for deals to close and accounts to settle. According to Disney, blockchain tech can reduce this to just minutes.

If you add up all of our volume over the quarter, that’s hundreds of billions of dollars we’re able to free up and take out of the system to use for other purposes.

When asked about where the technology is heading, he cited Bitcoin as the first “killer” blockchain app, relating it to email, claiming that to be internet’s equivalent application. He went on to conclude that there will be much greater innovation coming in the future, stating that the “sky’s the limit” and that “we’re in the very, very earlier stages here.”

In response to a question about the impact that blockchain will have on “middle and back office workers” on Wall Street, Disney said, like with all automation, it would reduce the need for employees of that nature. This would allow for their reemployment in other areas. Such a streamlining of services is beneficial in many areas, according to the Credit Suisse global head of software investment banking. He cited increased capital efficiency, speed, and the removal of cost as positive effects, claiming blockchain represents a great opportunity rather than a risk.

Innovation is core to what we do. We need to be innovative otherwise we’d be out of business and it’s really cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain technology… that are a core pillar of our innovation portfolio.

Disney echoes many in the financial industry’s optimism for blockchain technology’s utility. Even those most hostile to its current “killer app”, Bitcoin, admit that blockchain has revolutionary potential in streamlining existing services.

 

Q: Anton, your company, MicroMoney, is promising loans for people who have no bank accounts or credit history. What is it about?

A: When two years ago I learned that 2 billion people in the world have no access to banking or basic financial services, I was shocked. They are not included into the global economy; they are deprived of some basic human right. Moreover, this system exists throughout the world and it is very difficult to change anything. It is a catch-22 situation – when a person needs to have a bank account in order to obtain a loan but financial institutions refuse to deal with unbanked people because they consider them too risky. Most unbanked people do not have credit histories and this is the main problem for them to become bank customers. Therefore, my company is here to change that. We provide an alternative solution for people to start building their credit and get loans, based on new technologies.

Q: And how is your company going to achieve this goal?

A: MicroMoney is a global digital credit bureau based on the blockchain technology. The company gives an opportunity for unbanked people to start from a blank slate meaning their empty credit histories. It also creates the way for banks, retail, and insurance companies to reduce financial risks when they work with this untapped audience.

Q: In what way?

A: We have developed a mobile scoring system for fast assessment of a client’s creditworthiness. The system utilizes Big Data, neural networks, and machine learning to help approve social loans for unbanked people. The algorithm helps to create credit histories from scratch and this system is hundred times cheaper than those used by traditional banks. Everything is done via a mobile app on the consumer end – no need for lengthy paper trail – and a million signatures. The MicroMoney mobile app installed on a person’s smartphone is all they need to apply for their first loan. After the application is submitted, a scoring system analyzes data from the applicant’s smartphone and identifies potential credit risks with an accuracy of more than 95%. In a few minutes, the program makes a decision on whether the loan should be approved or not. When approved, the customer gets money through an e-wallet.

Q:  Can you tell more about this scoring system, how does it work

A: MicroMoney’s scoring system analyzes thousands of different parameters with the help of self-learning algorithms that can predict the result quite accurately. When a borrower allows access to the smartphone’s personal data, he or she does not just show us the information such as phone contacts or text messages from banks. The system runs every piece of information through the neural networks: contacts, geolocation, favorite websites and searches, favorite music and all social accounts — more than 10,000 different parameters in total. Each parameter has its decreasing or increasing value for the final result. For example, a LinkedIn profile could reduce risk factors by 30% while some music preferences, on the contrary, could aggravate the score. The longer a person fills out a loan application, the less chance there is that he or she will pay it back. And so on. After a loan is approved, a customer receives money in just several minutes. In countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, electronic wallet (e-wallet) is a very popular thing, where the account number is the same as the phone number, so the approved loan could be sent directly and immediately. That is one more reason why our social lending services are valued so high in the Southeast Asia.

Q: Can you mention any specific numbers, how successful is your service so far?

A: MicroMoney has processed more than 95,000 unique customers already, got more than 500,000 likes on Facebook during the first two years of work. Nine out of ten customers took the first loan in their lives and 73% of these people came back for a new loan. We now operate in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, and Myanmar. We also have ambitious plans to enter 5 more emerging markets in the nearest future, including Nigeria and the Philippines. Now the company is going to run a token distribution campaign on October 18th to support these business plans and to attract new sources of revenue from these untapped resources into the global economy.

Today, Financial Blockchain company Cashaa has announced the launch of its CAS tokens in a Token Generation Event (TGE) which will take place on November 6th with a pre-sale kicking off October 20, 2017.

 Cashaa – rated as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blockchain Companies in the world – is building ‘The next generation banking platform for the next billion’ which will potentially enable billions of banked and unbanked users to access the financial services.

The financial crisis revealed significant weaknesses in the existing financial system while more than 3.5 billion people are still unbanked or underbanked with limited or no opportunities to participate in the global economy. Transferring money for remittance or money lending across international borders is still complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Existing systems are slow and full of intermediaries, triggering higher exchange rates, weak counter-party risk checking, bureaucracy and extensive paperwork. The recent emergence of cryptocurrencies showed a silver lining to solve this issue. However, it turns out that consumers and businesses are struggling to leverage the benefits of the Blockchain infrastructure due to poor Usability, non-customer centric approach, and improper legal implementation.

Cashaa is a gateway to consumer-centric and affordable financial products aimed at consumer adoption of Blockchain without having to understand the technical details of Blockchain technology. Cashaa’s wallet system, integrated with the peer to peer exchange with a full spectrum of fully digital financial services, enables its community to save, spend, borrow and get insured, with a simplified user experience in a legally compliant way.

Cashaa is building its infrastructure on the Blockchain and utilizes artificial intelligence and biometric systems to empower mainstream adoption of payment and financial products with full security. Cashaa’s open platform approach also allows traditional financial institutions, banks and payment processors to reinvent and connect their products and services on the Blockchain, making them more efficient, convenient and globally accessible.

To implement its vision, Cashaa is launching its Token Generation Event (TGE), issuing CAS tokens on the Ethereum Blockchain. CAS token holders will be able to access premium services, creating a credit score and to participate in the governing mechanism of CAS tokens.

Commenting on the announcement, Kumar Gaurav, Cashaa’s CEO, said, “Cashaa started as a blockchain-based international money transfer marketplace and we have seen exponential growth over the past few months. We are now evolving it as a Banking and Payments solutions provider with products for lending, international payments, prepaid cards, and insurances. The overall goal is to leverage Blockchain technology to build a customer-centric, fully digital financial platform which is universally accessible and simplifies the user experience.

Cashaa’s token sale is one of the few token sales backed by a unique proven platform which has been beta-testing with 12,770 registered users from 141 countries till June 2017. Following these achievements, Cashaa features among the ‘Top 100 Most Influential Blockchain Companies in the world’. The successful initial tests encouraged and inspired the team on their mission to fully exploit the power of the ‘Internet of Value’.

The team and the advisory board is composed of passionate people with more than 200 Years of payments and banking experience. The team includes successful entrepreneurs who built their companies from scratch which are now part of Fortune Top 15 companies. Cashaa’s advisory board includes MIT scientist & renowned tokenomist Dr. John Henry Clippinger, Blockchain News publisher Richard Kastelein, Winner of Entrepreneur TV show “The Apprentice” Tim Campbell and executives from Central banks & Fortune 500 companies.

One billion CAS tokens will be generated during the TGE event out of which 51% (510,000,000 CAS) will be available for the community. At Cashaa, they consider it as a strong signal of trust if the community owns more than half of the CAS tokens from day one. All the unsold tokens will be burned to protect buyers while tokens held by company and team will be locked using Smart contract with three years of vesting period.

“The CAS token launch will enable us to expand into new geographies and drive innovation” Kumar added.

From 20th October, 1700 UTC, to 30th October, Cashaa will start its pre-sale for registered participants. To give every community member a fair chance, there will be a maximum cap of 10 ETH per participant during the crowd sale starting from 6 November 1700 UTC, the TGE will start, until the cap is reached.  After the TGE, the CAS tokens will be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges.

For more information on how to participate, visit https://Cashaa.com

After the bombshell that was Chinese regulation hit last week, those who follow the crypto space closely will likely be sick of reading foreboding forecasts, and wild speculation on how the market will be impacted. Fortunately, the world of cryptocurrency is larger than just China – the clue’s in the name, really. As the climate of fear and uncertainty finally calms, better news is able to break through the diminishing noise from the East.

Speaking to CNBC, Daniel Döderlein, the CEO of Norway’s Auka, a fintech startup providing cloud-based mobile payments products for 17 banks, hinted at a mergers and acquisitions “shopping spree” early in 2018. He noted that the heavy-weights in the tech world have a long-standing relationship with banks but, drawn by innovation in payment processing, would inevitably show more interest in the sea of fintech companies springing up daily.

Döderlein stated that a new European directive enabling third parties to monopolize on banking software would help the drive towards new products — also known as “open banking” in fintech circles. This would result in tech behemoths like Capgemini and IBM buying up smaller startups and with them the innovations that they bring to finance. He argued that whereas the small fintech firms can provide new capabilities, they struggle when it comes to customer relationships — something which larger companies have already solved in many cases.

What we see predominantly throughout that whole sector is that their capability in terms of the technology you need to serve this next leg of the journey, once all the floodgates are being opened up in January 2018, is not necessarily present. So they will probably go on a shopping spree and do a lot of M&A.

He went on to say that the biggest companies would start to acquire smaller firms because they need suitable payments technology to take advantage of the EU’s Revised Payment Services Directive which will take effect in January. He highlighted the mutually beneficial relationship that will occur between young firms like Starling and Monzo, who have the technology behind them but lack the relationship with the public to take their product to the consumer, and the planet’s largest, who suffer the opposite fortune.

Many of these larger players in the market that have no experience of doing payments but see that this software has a very strategic disposition, including the option of reducing their payment processing cost.

Whilst the effect of any “shopping spree” for fintech startups won’t be felt on the market for some time, it’s certainly encouraging for general sentiment that the planet’s largest companies are still deeply fascinated by the revolutionary technology backing cryptocurrency.

Ref: CNBC

Swiss regulators are not exactly keen on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. That does not mean they will stifle innovation, though. Instead, the regulatory body decided to approve Falcon Private Bank’s filing for Bitcoin products. It is the first time such a request is granted by the local regulator as well. The bank will provide Bitcoin asset management in the near future.It will be interesting to see how can affect the global Bitcoin price.

Entering the financial market in Switzerland is not an easy feat. This is especially true when you are trying to offer a bitcoin-related product. Falcon Private Bank is the first to claim a major victory in this department. Thanks to approval from the Swiss regulator, the institution can soon offer Bitcoin asset management services. It is expected this decision will pave the way for other banks to provide similar products in the future.

A Big Victory for Falcon Private Bank

The bank has received the green light from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. Managing assets based on blockchain technology such as the one used in Bitcoin is a major development. Even though the focus still lies on Bitcoin, Swiss banks are starting to pay attention to blockchain solutions as well. It is good to see both ecosystems thrive together. Given Bitcoin’s recent price struggles, any form of momentum can help markets recover more quickly.

What is rather remarkable is how the bank only applied for regulatory approval on June 23rd. It has taken less than three weeks for the regulator to go through the filing and cast its verdict. That is very different from the way the SEC handles things in the United States. That particular regulatory body can take months, if not years, before rendering a decision. Switzerland clearly has a leg up over other countries in this regard. Moreover, the local regulator set a very interesting precedent for the rest of the world.

It is believed Falcon Private Bank will access Bitcoin via local broker Bitcoin Suisse. Additionally, sources claim the local regulator isn’t overly concerned about Bitcoin’s role in illegal activities. They want to focus on consumer protection first and foremost. Once again, a  very different mindset from the US, to say the least. Falcon Private Bank is paving the way for a whole new future for cryptocurrencies. Switzerland is a global leader in banking practices and their decisions will create a global butterfly effect.

The banking industry’s infatuation with blockchain technology is well known. In the forefront of the development of distributed ledger solutions for the industry is the tech giant IBM which is currently working on a trade finance solution for leading European banking institutions.

IBM identified the project addressing the present challenges faced by the trade finance segment following a survey conducted in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Through this project, the company will be aiming to simplify the trade finance transactions for small and medium-sized businesses, states a recent report on one of the financial news publications.

Seven banks including Deutsche Bank, KBC, and HSBC will use the IBM’s blockchain solution. In a statement, the general manager of trade finance at KBC said,

“What we will have is a platform to bring buyers and sellers together and to make trade transactions very transparent… from the moment that a purchase order is issued up until payment… The first service that will be available for buyers and sellers is financing and risk coverage, and it will also include a track-and-trade system so that buyers and sellers can follow the physical transfer of the goods.”

The distributed ledger solution will allow all the parties to track documentation, without involving any third party in the verification process. By eliminating the paper trail, the whole process of trade financing can be completed in no time, as compared to the existing process that takes as long as a month for completion.

Once completed, the blockchain based trade financing platform can potentially cater to over 20 million SMEs in the European continent. While the adoption across the segment is not going to happen right away, it will definitely start the process, where organizations gradually start making use of the services to ensure smooth operations.

The platform is expected to be operational by the end of 2017. Other participating banks include Société General, Natixis, Rabobank, and Unicredit — all part of the Digital Trade Chain Consortium.

Ref: MoneyControl | Image: NewsBTC

The Redmond-based tech giant, Microsoft is not new to blockchain technology. The company has been offering its Blockchain as a Service product to various blockchain initiatives for a while now. Recently, it has further expanded its reach in the Asian market by entering into an exclusive partnership with the Indian blockchain initiative for the banking sector.

Earlier this year, few leading Indian banking institutions joined forces to explore the use of cryptocurrency technology in their operations. The project, called BankChain has names like State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, DCB Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Deutsche Bank and others associated with it. Primechain Technologies are providing the technology support for the blockchain project.

According to media reports, the existing relationship between Microsoft and Primechain has influenced the adoption of Azure blockchain and cloud services for development and implementation of the BankChain project. The consortium is said to be focusing on a variety of distributed ledger solutions, of which KYC management takes the top priority. The General Manager — Enterprise and Partner Group and Microsoft Peter Gartenberg was quoted in the news report stating,

“The partnership with BankChain underscores our commitment to enable digital transformation of the BFSI sector in India. Blockchain is one of the most exciting innovations in this sector, and we at Microsoft are leading this trend by offering the best-in-class Azure Blockchain offering. We look forward to working with stakeholders like Primechain to make this partnership a success.

Compared to other global banking institutions, the Indian players have entered the market significantly late. With the implementation of BankChain, the Indian banking sector is attempting to keep with the likes of R3 Consortium, Hyperledger, and others. The increasing need for IT infrastructure to implement the blockchain solutions within enterprises has encouraged almost all leading tech companies to come up with their own versions of blockchain as a service platforms.

Similar to Microsoft, IBM has been offering its Hyperledger Fabric based blockchain solution to a variety of business of all sizes. There are a couple of pilot blockchain projects currently implemented by few banks in the country. However, widespread mainstream adoption may take a long time.

Ref: Times of India |ImageNewsBTC 

Ripple, the cryptocurrency and its underlying protocol that has been making waves in the global financial infrastructure are undergoing further improvements. Ripple Consensus Ledger is being used by leading banking and financial institutions as they explore the potential and implementation of blockchain technology in their operations. In a recent post, Ripple has offered a detailed explanation of how it is going to improve the Ripple Consensus Ledger (RCL) to make it more suitable for enterprise use.

Ripple platform has been around since 2012, and its underlying consensus mechanism has been projected as a next generation alternative to the proof-of-work consensus mechanism used by Bitcoin. One of the major features separating cryptocurrency platforms from conventional networks is the decentralization aspect. However, Ripple, in its own words hasn’t been concentration on its platform’s decentralization for a while now. But with increased banking adoption, it is revisiting the core features, trying to make them better.

The platform has listed two strategies to decentralize the Ripple Consensus Ledger further. The first one is by diversifying the protocol’s validators. This approach will help Ripple eliminate or at least minimize the risk of “single point of failure.” Currently, Ripple has 25 validator nodes, which the company plans to increase further and diversify the list of recommended validator operators in the process. It will involve the inclusion of more identities, geographical locations and supported software platforms. The new validators will be introduced under supervision, with the development team closely monitoring is consensus agreement rate, uptime verification of identity and public attestation.

Another strategy will be to add the attested validators to Unique Node Lists which approves the reliability of transaction information that is passed on to the participants of the network. These “trusted” nodes will validate transactions, enable/veto amendments and modify fees, etc. on the network. Ripple plans to replace the existing system configuration of default and recommended Unique Node Lists with attested third-party validating nodes. These third-party nodes will be chosen based on the evaluation criteria that is part of the first strategy.

With an upgraded consensus ledger, Ripple intends to outdo Bitcoin when it comes to speed, security, and efficiency of processing transactions and network maintenance. These features are expected to further improve the protocol’s standing among the global financial community.

Ref: Ripple | Image: NewsBTC