Amit is the global Chief Information & Services Officer for R3. He leads the global operations organization that is responsible for information security, infrastructure and IT operations, customer operations & professional services and support. In addition to his global role, he also leads R3’s business and growth in Asia Pacific. Amit is a business leader with 18 years of experience across strategy and operations, business development and commercial solution design. He is a seasoned professional in CxO engagement, stakeholder influencing, and has industry experience in digital payments and enterprise IT services.
From CBDCs to smart contracts, the blockchain industry has witnessed significant disruption and development over the years. The pandemic has provided an unprecedented impetus for change, with many businesses completely rethinking their ways of working – often through the transformation of legacy infrastructures – in order to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 2021 turned out to be a significant year for digitalization and blockchain, and 2022 will no doubt be another unprecedented year for financial technology and the trust technologies in the digital economy. This year, we can expect the following trends to reshape the blockchain landscape not only in the US, but across the rest of the world.
Enabling a global 24 x 7 financial market
With digital exchanges now able to underpin the post-trade lifecycle with distributed ledger technology (DLT), delivering a single, seamless workflow and client experience between trading and settlement; market participants can now architect entire platforms to support a broad range of digital assets over time.
Not only that, the digitalization of capital markets means it is now possible to create a truly global exchange that has the capacity to operate round the clock and to a global audience. By underpinning these digital exchanges with tailor-made DLT, they can combine the ‘execute to settle’ lifecycle alongside increasing the capacity of asset class coverage and expanding the open trading window.
As an example, the Swiss stock exchange, SIX Group, launched the SIX Digital Exchange– SDX, a FINMA-regulated, fully integrated trading, settlement and custody infrastructure in November last year. This is a major turning point in the transformation of systemically important financial market infrastructures, setting the standard for digital asset exchanges, central counterparties (CCPs) and central security depositories (CSDs) in the future.
This is likely one of the biggest changes we will see in financial market infrastructure in our lifetime. The technology is ready, regulators are piloting the change and early adopters are already going live, and in 2022, we will see innovators start embracing this transformative potential.
The quest for trust will dominate the digital realm
Until recently, firms doing business with each other had no way of knowing if they had the same records. And so they wasted staggering amounts of money reconciling with each other. Blockchains are solving this problem by literally creating trust that “I know what I see is what you see.”
But there is so much further to go – and this is where the tech industry must focus its attention in 2022 and beyond. For example, when you send information to a third party, you have no technological way to know what they will do with your information. So you have to spend a fortune on ‘data scrubbing’ or audits… or, more likely, you don’t share sensitive data at all. The inability to trust how our information is processed when it is in the hands of others is a huge opportunity cost for businesses.
But this is changing, because trust technology is now here. The convergence of blockchains, confidential computing, and applied cryptography is happening, and firms are applying this to massively increase the levels of trust that exist within and between firms of all sizes operating in the digital realm. The delivery of trust to all realms of our digital lives will drive the next wave of human advancement – and we will see this unfold in 2022.
The lines between DeFi and CeFi will continue to blur
Interest in decentralized finance, or ‘DeFi’, is booming in the technology world, and in 2021, that interest peaked. The term has invited enthusiasm, skepticism and curiosity, in equal measure. There is no doubt that the technology could be host to a number of exciting applications. At its core, DeFi rests upon the central principle of disintermediation, and this could have many benefits – namely, democratization of finance.
However, the idea that DeFi is ready to replace the existing, centralized or traditional financial system, or ‘CeFi’, is still overstated at this point, especially at a time when governments are increasingly favorable to regulated financial markets and institutions.
With that said, we do see incumbent financial firms and market infrastructures adopting some of the insights and breakthroughs from the decentralized world – for example DTCC’s Ion work and the Swiss Digital Exchange, SDX – so we can imagine these two trends coming together and reinforcing each other this year. In 2022, we can expect DeFi to continue to mature and co-exist with the financial services ecosystem we have come to know and trust as it, in turn, evolves.
CBDCs will move even closer to real-world deployment
2022 will be the year that CBDCs gain clear, policy-led direction and guidance. This year, we will find out if any central bank is bold enough to launch a true digital equivalent to cash. CBDCs at both the wholesale and retail level are now being explored by countries all over the world, to different extents. Riksbank has been working on its ‘e-krona’ in Sweden for some time now, for example.
One of CBDCs’ usages that have received less attention until very recently is their use in cross-border settlements. In December, Project Jura successfully settled a “real-life” transfer of securities and cash between France and Switzerland with a wholesale CBDC.
2022 will be a year of real maturation for CBDCs. They are now understood by jurisdictions and this year, policymakers will get off the fence and tell us: will we as citizens be allowed to make digital payments with the same freedom we can make them in the real world? Yes or no? We’ll get an answer in 2022 and that will unlock everything – as we will then know what we need to go and build.