The Swiss banking giant UBS is about to dip its toe further into cryptocurrency related technology. The bank will open a blockchain research lab in London later this month, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The lab, which will be hosted by fintech accelerator Level39, is set to become a fertile space for exploration and experimentation with blockchain technology for both experts at UBS, as well as the wider fintech community, the bank said. As such, UBS hopes to develop new technologies that could be useful for the finance industry, according to Chief Information Officer Oliver Bussmann:
“Fostering an open and collaborative environment between banks, start-ups and the investor community is essential to ensure we focus on promoting synergies between us, accelerate innovation opportunities and create real value for the industry.”
UBS's focus on Bitcoin and blockchain technology doesn't come as a surprise, as the bank has previously shown open interest in these developments. In March of 2014, for instance, UBS published an extensive report regarding Bitcoin's potential to disrupt the existing financial system. Although this report was skeptical of Bitcoin's attributes as a currency, it lauded the underlying blockchain technology:
“A bitcoin-like technology could provide a basis for a new shared payments and transfer system using existing currencies and securities. Such a system could reduce systemic costs, and provide faster, secure, transfers—particularly in the international arena."
Furthermore, in an interview with Financial News last October, Bussmann listed blockchain technology as the number one megatrend with the biggest potential to bring change to the financial services sector, stating:
“I believe—and this is my personal view—that blockchain technology will not only change the way we do payments but it will change the whole trading and settlement topic.”
The choice to base a blockchain research lab in London seems to make a lot of sense for UBS, as British authorities have shown a lot of interest in Bitcoin and related technologies. In particular, the Bank of England—in a report published last September—has said to recognize the potential of blockchain technology, even describing it as a “significant innovation” that could have “far-reaching implications,” while the UK government announced a US$14.6 million research fund to look into opportunities in digital currencies just a couple weeks ago.
Although several banks have shown interest in Bitcoin and—in particular—blockchain technology, UBS is one of the first to openly admit it will be experimenting with these innovations.
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