Standard Chartered Joins Other Banking Giants at Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

British multinational banking giant Standard Chartered, with over $685 billion in total assets, has just announced its partnership with Enterprise Ethereum Alliance – a member-operated organization that works in the development of blockchain technology for consumers and businesses across the globe.

According to a post on the official website, Standard Chartered announced the partnership with EEA, stating that its main goal is to further develop blockchain technology research and its application in the banking sector. In addition to that, the EEA’s charter has indicated that its intent is to develop open blockchain frameworks to push interoperability between businesses and consumers.

Following the announcement, Standard Chartered joins other industry leaders, which are members of the EEA that wish to strengthen blockchain research and its application in the banking sector. Other banking giants include JP Morgan, ING, Citi, and Spanish bank BBVA. The alliance comprises of around 100 other members, all working towards encouraging the use of Ethereum blockchain as an open-standard to empower enterprises.

The post further reads that the bank strongly believes blockchain to be the best way for central banking and commerce as it would allow transactions to be verified, secure, and processed in real-time. Upon the announcement, Dr. Michael Gorriz – Chief Information Officer at Standard Chartered – stated:

“We are excited to be a part of the EEA and look forward to opportunities where we can collaborate to deepen blockchain research and application in the banking sector.”

Certainly, this is not Standard Chartered’s first venture into blockchain technology. The post has cited a lot of global collaboration projects with fintech firms to explore financial systems’ efficiency improvements, build blockchain-enabled financing solutions for supply chain, and assist cross-border remittance services between Hong Kong and the Philippines using blockchain technology.

The bank is a founding member of the blockchain- based trading platform Voltron and has also recently completed its first international letter of credit (LC) transaction on the platform for the oil industry.

The British bank has also invested in blockchain payments firm Ripple and is currently working with China-based Linklogis to develop a blockchain-based supply chain financing solutions. In addition to that, the bank is currently working with the Central Bank of Thailand to aid them in creating a CBDC, as well as backing the Monetary Authority of Singapore’ s initiative to explore DLT use for payment settlements.

UNICEF Starts Initiative to Accept Cryptocurrency Donations

UNICEF announced a Cryptocurrency Fund that will receive contributions in cryptocurrency and grant out in the same digital currency, this being a first for United Nations organizations.

Unicef’s new Cryptocurrency Fund is the most recent effort by aid organisations to try to incorporate digital currencies into their operating model. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform charitable giving and increase financial transparency.

This new type of decentralized value transfers offers non-profit organisations the advantage of avoiding extra transaction costs and middlemen that are usually required to move large amounts of money overseas quickly. While these features are useful in a wide array of industries, it would appear that UNICEF is willing to apply the new technology.

Christopher Fabian, principal advisor at UNICEF Innovation, stated the initiative would prepare the organization for the future while also maintaining existing donor systems.

“We see this as a piece of learning that we need to go through to prepare for the next decade,” he said.

The UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund is a new pilot developed to allow the agency to accept cryptocurrencies, which initially includes Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). For aid and charity organizations, cryptocurrencies make tracking donations easier, and have the potential to allow donors to see how their money is used.

The organization already started receiving cryptocurrency donations following the launch of the fund, with the first one coming from the Ethereum Foundation itself. The Foundation donated 1 BTC and 10,000 ETH.

“The Ethereum Foundation is excited to demonstrate the power of what Ethereum and blockchain technology can do for communities around the world. Together with UNICEF, we’re taking action with the Cryptofund to improve access to basic needs, rights, and resources,” said Aya Miyaguchi, Executive Director of the Ethereum Foundation.

Furthermore, the new initiative is already discussed with agencies from four nations, including UNICEF USA, UNICEF Australia, UNICEF New Zealand, and UNICEF France.

The importance of aid organizations like UN around the world is growing for an array of countries. As a dispenser of aid, the acceptance of cryptocurrency will certainly be helpful in becoming more transparent and attract more contributions.

Alongside UNICEF’s work with blockchain technology, the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, also published a strategic plan which shows how the UN might become a leader in solving world problems through the use of new technologies. Part of the plan includes the creation of affordable access to financial infrastructure and digital networks for every adult in the world by 2030.

Morningstar to Build Evaluation System Underpinned by Blockchain Technology

Financial services Morningstar Credit Ratings has announced plans to implement an evaluation system for debt securities issued as tokens on a blockchain, aiming to make the emerging asset class more credible for investors.

According to the report, the new rating system for rating bonds will be implemented directly on the Ethereum blockchain and eventually on other blockchains as well by using a technology called an oracle. Oracles move trusted data, like a Morningstar rating for instance, onto a blockchain in a secure way that ensures the rating isn’t doctored, allowing it to be used as a term in a smart contract.

The oracle relies on third-party providers to convert business debt into tokens similar to Bitcoin. The securitized tokens are then dispersed to investors via a smart contract, with the terms of the investment, the public addresses of the investors and the Morningstar rating all operating on the blockchain.

The new evaluation system is set to give publicly available ratings of one to five stars to crypto assets, whilst the company’s premium custom service will utilize its internal modeling to help clients evaluate and assess given investments. The company further added that the public ratings could be launched later this year. Their premium service, on the other hand, will be made available by the end of 2020.

Chief Operating Officer at Morningstar Credit Ratings, Michael Brawer, has stated in an interview that this evaluation system could allow and facilitate the shift of the $117 trillion debt securities industry to a decentralized financial network.

Seeing as the industry is overseen and governed by custodians and trustees, the availability of an evaluation system that allows customers to assess investments and make decisions based on that, could enable billions of dollars investment to enter the crypto space as the new rating services can make the new asset class more credible.

Brawer further stated:

“We’re looking to see how we can also provide credit opinions, whether it’s a credit rating or different types of credit data and credit analytics that accompany those debt instruments, and we’re also looking to provide our services on a blockchain.”

Brawer explained that the company had seen the demand for rating services within the crypto space when it was approached by a range of investors who issue and securitize debt securities, including small business loans and home equities on blockchain.

“The objective would ultimately be to allow investors in a digital debt security to be able to run an independent, third-party model and see the results of that model on the blockchain,” says Brawer.

According to the report, Morningstar’s rating services covers both government and corporate bonds,whilst its blockchain products are still limited to structured debt instruments.

The company offers both security and convenience through their services, and investors can directly connect lenders and borrowers, as well as eliminate custodians and trustees in a transaction and saving as much as 500 basis points in fees.

At the moment, due to the stringent regulatory framework imposed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company could end up having to change their blockchain methodology.

Meanwhile, there are a few potential candidates who would partner with Morningstar to launch the product, which includes fintech startup Figure, alternative investment company Cadence and DeFi platform Polymath.

Another Swiss Bank will Start Providing Cryptocurrency Services

Arab Bank Switzerland has announced its partnership with Switzerland-based  blockchain technology firm Taurus to offer its clients access to Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). The bank is a branch of one of the top financial institutions in the Middle East and has finally joined a growing list of established players who partner up with fintech firms to explore the options of cryptoassets.

According to news published on September 19th, the bank announced that it will offer clients a new range of digital asset services, including custody and brokerage of the two largest cryptocurrencies by market share.

For its crypto services, the Swiss bank has partnered with digital assets-focused Taurus Group and will use the firm’s a custody platform for handling trading. In addition to that, Taurus has also helped the Swiss branch prepare operational policies and procedures for the new crypto services.

The bank further claimed that the launch comes following demand from existing and younger clients who seek to include digital assets as one asset class in their diversified portfolios. Amongst the clientele of the bank includes serving high-net worth clients such as business leaders as well as family entrepreneurs.

Arab Bank Switzerland CEO Serge Robin, has commented on the matter, citing:

“We firmly believe that blockchain will disrupt the financial industry as we know it and we intend to be amongst the first banks to offer digital asset services to our clients in a secure and regulated environment.” 

Lamine Brahimi, Managing Partner at Taurus Group, has further explained that supporting innovative players like Arab Bank to develop the necessary infrastructure to support digital assets is a necessary step to ensure that the next generation of financial market infrastructure is based on blockchain.

Last month, Switzerland’s financial regulator – Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) – granted banking and securities dealer licenses to two crypto-focused banks –  Seba Crypto AG and Sygnum.

The Swiss financial regulator and lawmakers have repeatedly shown their willingness and compliance to introduce rules that would incorporate cryptoassets into the financial sector. Hence back in August, FINMA released new guidance on regulatory requirements for blockchain-based payments, targeted at cryptocurrency exchanges, wallet providers and trading platforms.

Meanwhile, a number of Swiss banks have now launched services for crypto assets, including Julius Baer, UBS and Falcon Group.

Earlier this year, Julius Baer announced it would enter the cryptoassets world with a partnership with crypto bank SEBA. Falcon Private Bank and digital bank Swissquote are also active in cryptoassets. Private bank Maerki Baumann is currently seeking fintech partners to grow its crypto services.

Ethereum Classic Successfully Completes Hard Fork Upgrade

The team behind Ethereum Classic (ETC) has successfully activated the Atlantis hard fork upgrade which brings additional functionality and compatibility with Ethereum (ETH).

With the hard fork completed at block 8,772,000, all software users are required to upgrade their clients in order to continue using the main chain.

Afri Schoedon coordinated the upgrade process and congratulated everyone involved for a job well done.

“And we are on Atlantis. Congratulations, everyone,” said Afri Schoedon during a public dev call.

This hard fork was implemented to improve security, add opcodes, precompiled contracts and zk-SNARKs, as well as introduce compatibility with the Ethereum blockchain, making it easier to collaborate between the blockchains.

Ethereum Classic was itself a fork of Ethereum following the DAO hack, which at the time split the community. While the projects remain separate, they still share many of the same goals.

While ETC Labs worked together with Chainsafe System and ETC Cooperative to go through with the hard fork, Atlantis was well-received and backed by the whole community.

Data shows that over 60 percent of nodes and over 75 percent of hashing power had confirmed the upgrade. Following the hard fork announcement, ETC has received support from an array of industry players, including major cryptocurrency exchanges.

ETC Lab’s president Terry Culver also stated that Atlantis is a step forward for collaboration with Ethereum. Many of Atlantis’ Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP) have been on Ethereum for some time. With the improved compatibility, the two platforms can now benefit from a cross-over collaboration.

“The hard fork clearly shows we are committed to compatibly and working with ethereum,” Culver said. “What we would like to do is find ways to make the two chains support one another.”

The team behind Ethereum Classic said they are not finished and they will continue to strive to make improvements to the blockchain with upcoming upgrades Agharta and Atzlan. The results of Atlantis fork are set to be reviewed along with ETC’s future at the ETC Summit, scheduled for the beginning of October.