Asked whether blockchain is a threat to banks, Wilson said: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard it mentioned in Barclays or in the Whitechapel Think Tank that blockchain is anything other than a significant opportunity for the banks. And not just for the incumbents, but for everyone.”
Describing the opportunities of the technology, Wilson said: “We’d better get our heads around where blockchain is going to deliver most. It seems to me we’ve gone past the hype stage and we’re now seeing some quite serious business applications beginning to come forward.
“I think the simple principle is this: don’t try to use it in a place where things are on the whole working well. Apply this technology where things are presenting big challenges and need resolution. Go to the places that are ineffective, inefficient and expensive.”
Looking at areas in banking where blockchain is already making an impact, Wilson identified trade finance and capital markets – citing a recent groundbreaking example: “Barclays have just done a pilot for trade finance, which usually involves a very long, complicated supply chain. It’s a sophisticated process developed over hundreds of years. The most inefficient thing in it is a document called the bill of lading, which can take weeks to get to the other side of the planet. And if you use blockchain, you can transform that.
“In the capital markets arena, it is becoming increasingly clear that blockchain is driving down significantly the inefficiencies and costs in the transaction process surrounding the buying and selling of securities.”
Wilson cautioned, however, that it will take industry-wide adoption of blockchain before its full capabilities can be unlocked: “It depends on how broad the constituency is that you have to address when you’re bringing a new capability. If it’s a very large universe, it will take time. Although things are moving much faster than anyone anticipated, I think it’s going to be another five to ten years until we really see this beginning to be embedded.”