Friday, 07 August 2020

The head of Credit Suisse's blockchain efforts said culture is the biggest thing holding back Wall Street from using the tech

Emmanuel Aidoo, Credit Suisse's head of digital market assets, told Business Insider that culture within banks is the biggest thing holding them back from adopting blockchain technologies.
Aidoo said none of the banks Credit Suisse is working with on blockchain projects having pulled funding, demonstrating the industry's commitment to the cutting-edge technology.
Aidoo was named one of Business Insider's 10 people transforming finance.

Distributed ledgers have been lauded as transformational technology for Wall Street, changing the way banks perform complex, cumbersome processes, such as settling trades.

However, in the five years since the technology first came to the attention of the financial world, large-scale implementations at big banks have yet to materialize.

Emmanuel Aidoo, Credit Suisse's head of digital market assets, told Business Insider the holdup doesn't have anything to do with the technology not being ready or a lack of potential use cases within banks.

Aidoo, who leads the Swiss bank's blockchain efforts, sees the reason being much less technical.

"What is preventing the banking industry from rushing into it? I think it's mostly culture," he said. "I think the tipping point is about having an entrepreneurial culture, a willingness to push people to keep asking why."

Financial firms need employees within their organization that want to continue to evolve how things are done, Aidoo said.

Aidoo himself is an example of that. In his two decades at the bank, he's spent time working in various technology functions across debt capital markets, leverage finance and other businesses. All the while, he's looked to move things forward as a self-described build-the-factory person as opposed to a run-the-factory person.

"That is really important for companies to have people who challenge themselves to ask questions about the status quo," Aidoo said. "These are people who focus on change, not change for change's sake, but an honest reflection for why we do things — can we do things better."

Those changes will come in 2019, Aidoo said, as some banks will begin more meaningful rollouts of the technology. With some firms going live with blockchain technology, Aidoo said there will more of a recognition of the benefits it can offer, therefore resulting in a tipping point.

"People will start to see where blockchain makes a difference in terms of the cost profile," Aidoo said. "I think then you'll find people start to really focus on, well, if my competitor has done that, what am I doing."

Still, all of that remains to be seen. While pilots and studies of the use of blockchain technology on Wall Street have been prevalent, real-world applications are few and far between. Digital Asset, an early player in the space that nabbed big funding from Wall Street, recently announced plans to expand its business beyond working with distributed ledgers as the industry's interest in the technology has stalled.

But Aidoo disagreed, saying Wall Street's desire to implement blockchain technology hasn't waned.

"I know it has been constant because all of our projects are working with other counterparties, and they have never shied away from it," he said "I've never had a conversation with one of our peers, another bank, and they've said we are going to pull the project because of a lack of funding."

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