Bank of Canada, TMX say blockchain feasible for securities settlement

FILE PHOTO: A TMX Group sign, the company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), is seen in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's central bank, Toronto Stock Exchange operator TMX Group X.TO, and non-profit organization Payments Canada said on Friday that tests had shown blockchain technology can be used for automating instantaneous securities settlements.

The three organizations said that they had developed an integrated securities and payment settlement platform using a distributed ledger, the same technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and found that cash and assets can be tokenized to complete an instant settlement.

“This shows that it is possible to deliver payments in a way that has never been done before – by directly swapping cash from buyers to sellers, resulting in instant settlements,” said Gerry Gaetz, president and CEO of Payments Canada, the body which ensures financial transactions in Canada are carried out securely.

However, Bank of Canada Senior Special Director Scott Hendry told a payments conference in Toronto on Thursday it was not yet clear if the use of blockchain technologies to settle securities transactions would lead to cost savings.

“We’re still uncertain after doing this work that there are significant savings possible for participants,” he said. “It’s not clear that all the participant dealers and banks are going to get a significant benefit out of this settlement system.”

The tests were the latest phase of an initiative called “Project Jasper” that the Bank of Canada launched last year in conjunction with TMX and Payments Canada.

Jasper is among dozens of fledgling efforts by financial institutions around the globe to find ways to use distributed ledger technology to boost the efficiency, transparency and security of financial transactions.

Other technologies are also being explored to enable instantaneous settlements. The European Central Bank is planning to launch a new settlement system in November which it says will allow transactions to be conducted in real-time, but does not use distributive ledger technology.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien