In the few years since bitcoin — the currency and the blockchain framework behind it — became part of the general consciousness, the financial services industry has slowly shifted from ignoring it to considering its potential applications.
Bitcoin has gained a reputation for being too radical for regulated institutions to touch. Instead, the potential of using a blockchain-like system, such as a “private distributed ledger” independent of bitcoin, has been mooted to solve longstanding industry concerns such as modernizing the payment system and securities settlement.
But a handful of developments this month show that the financial companies are not just focused on appropriating the architecture of the cryptocurrrency system, they are interested in what bitcoin itself could potentially do for them, too. In October, the three major card schemes — MasterCard, Visa and American Express — all announced deals investing in bitcoin-related companies and projects. This comes on the heels of 13 major banks forming a partnership with blockchain startup R3CEV in an effort to draw up industry standards and protocols for using the blockchain in banking.
“The climate is right for banks and financial services firms to look at how their operating model can be improved, and this is spurred on