Three banks join R3 blockchain consortium taking total to 25

A view of the UniCredit bank headquaters in downtown Milan, in this February 2, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - Japan’s Mizuho Bank, Italy’s UniCredit and Stockholm-based Nordea have joined a global consortium of banks led by financial tech firm R3 that is working on a framework for using blockchain technology in markets, the firm said on Wednesday.

Most of the world’s biggest banks, with the exception of Chinese lenders, have now signed up to the initiative. It represents the first time banks have collaborated on how the technology that underpins bitcoin, a controversial, web-based “cryptocurrency”, can be used in finance.

The three banks announced on Wednesday join 22 others, including JPMorgan, HSBC and Citi, taking the total to 25.

“We have been inundated with interest in this project from banks across the world since launching with an initial nine institutions just over a month ago,” said New York-based R3’s CEO David Rutter, formerly CEO of electronic trading at ICAP, one of the world’s largest interdealer brokers.

The blockchain works as a huge, decentralised ledger of every bitcoin transaction ever made, which is verified and shared by a global network of computers and therefore is virtually tamper-proof. The Bank of England has a team dedicated to it and calls it a “key technological innovation”.

Reporting by Jemima Kelly; editing by Jason Neely