Gu Yanxi: Commercial Bank, the victim of the blockchain era

In the era of blockchain, the underlying component of the banking sector and the underlying clearing network are undergoing fundamental changes. Commercial banks operating on existing currency and clearing networks will inevitably undergo fundamental changes. Only by clarifying this development trend can commercial banks adopt appropriate countermeasures, and it is possible to become a winner in the new market structure in the process of changing this paradigm of financial markets.

Blockchain and encrypted digital assets are fundamentally changing the current banking infrastructure and the various market organizations and business processes on top of it. Commercial banks, the main members of the financial market, bear the brunt of this market paradigm change. In the Internet age, commercial banks have been affected by various aspects because of the free flow of information. Blockchain technology is bringing free exchange of value. In the process of de-intermediation of commercial banks as financial intermediaries, the market demand for its financial intermediaries will be greatly reduced. Like a bookstore in the Internet era, if a commercial bank does not adopt the appropriate response, it will certainly be replaced. Fortunately, it is still in the early stage of the blockchain era. As long as commercial banks make correct judgments, adapt and use them instead of trying to hinder this trend, commercial banks can still become the winners of the new market structure.

This paper analyzes the changes in the blockchain and encrypted digital assets in the financial market, and makes recommendations on the coping strategies of commercial banks.

First, the impact of the Internet on banking

 

Bill Gates famously said: "Banking is a must, but the bank is not." What he means is that the information revolution brought about by the Internet technology has caused many banking services to be completed by Internet technology, so there is no need for a banking institution to conduct banking business in the future.

From the development of the past few decades, Internet technology has indeed had a huge impact on banking. In the retail banking business, the emergence of online banking has made it unnecessary for people to go to the bank to handle various banking businesses. The emergence of the mobile Internet has accelerated this process. People (especially young people) can conduct banking business anytime and anywhere through a mobile app, which has led to a significant reduction in bank branches. In the banking business of service companies, various types of financial service companies belonging to enterprises have begun to appear. These companies focus on supply chain finance or consumer finance but both use the advantages of information to conduct financial business. These new types of financial services companies serve on the one hand the areas that were not previously served by financial institutions, and on the other hand they have taken some of the previous banking operations.

The development of the Internet has also prompted the emergence of a new type of banking institution, which is a direct selling bank. These direct-selling banks do not have physical outlets, but focus on using the Internet and communication technologies to conduct banking. Because they do not have the cost of physical outlets, these direct-selling banks can offer a more cost-effective service than traditional banks. Direct banks have also diverted some of their business from traditional banks.

The development of the Internet also provides opportunities for other industries to enter the banking sector. The most typical representatives in this regard are Alipay and WeChat payment. Ali and Tencent began to provide financial services to their vast users by virtue of their advantages in Internet applications. In the traditional banking field such as payment, there is a strong competition for commercial banks.

The impact of the development of Internet technology on banking has been so great that President Capital One believes that his company's competitors are not other banking institutions, but Internet companies. Therefore, he has further promoted Capital One to turn to technology-led banks.

The impact of the Internet on banks is based solely on the free exchange of information. Whether it is a corporate financial services company or a third-party payment and direct-selling bank, their strengths come from the mastery of information and the reduction of the cost of information exchange. Because of their advantages in this regard, they have begun to have a huge impact on traditional banking. Blockchain and encrypted digital asset technology can help people realize the free exchange of value between each other, which will fundamentally change the foundation of existing banking business. This is a real tsunami for the current banking market.

Second, the change from Bitcoin

 

Bitcoin was born in early 2009. At the same time, there is a low-level blockchain technology network that supports its circulation. This network supports Bitcoin's direct transactions between accounts. Blockchain technology ensures that these transactions are completed without errors. Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain network thus provide a new mechanism for currency generation and circulation. It is important to point out that the subsequent development of Bitcoin and blockchain has gradually begun a different development path, and the blockchain has been found to have a broader and far-reaching impact. Blockchain technology and the development of encrypted digital assets have reduced the market demand for bitcoin ( blockchain and bitcoin, this is the same root, what is too urgent? )

Due to its own design problems, Bitcoin did not develop into an electronic cash as Nakamoto expected, but actually developed into a virtual digital asset. But Bitcoin's production mechanism, acquisition mechanism, and underlying accounting mechanism have inspired various innovations since then.

In the development of encrypted digital assets, Ethereum is the second milestone after Bitcoin. Ethereum is a blockchain technology network that supports Turing's complete computing environment, and supports data structures with more complex attributes and functions in a smart contract. This data structure was discovered to be used to customize more complex financial products. So it is not just money that can be circulated in such a blockchain, but it can also circulate more complex financial products such as stocks and accounts receivable.

Third, the impact of blockchain technology on the banking industry has just begun.

 

The advent of Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology provides us with a distributed computing model and encrypted digital assets. The successful operation of Bitcoin demonstrates the enormous potential of these two technologies. In the banking arena, blockchain technology and encrypted digital assets are fundamentally changing the bank's infrastructure. Since then, people can exchange direct values ​​between each other without the need for current commercial banks and clearing houses. The direct and free exchange of this value will have a greater impact on the banking industry than on the development of Internet technology.

Libra, the recent stable currency project led by Facebook, is a milestone in this development trend (see my research report, Libra project research analysis report ). The Facebook social network itself has 2.7 billion users worldwide. Its user terminals, Facebook App, Instagram and WhatsApp are the gateways for users worldwide to use the Internet. Facebook itself has the tremendous ability to promote a stable currency and its underlying blockchain globally. In addition, the organization that promotes this stable currency is not just a Facebook company. The organization that promotes this stable currency will be an association of 100 members. Association members will hold the same equity in this association and adopt a democratic approach to governance. Calibra, the company founded by Facebook for this project, will also be only one of the 100 members. Therefore, the organization's organizational mode of operation will be very democratic and will be decided collectively by members. Among the members who have joined, there are leaders in the industry in the field of stable coins such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Stripe, Uber and Lyft. It is expected that future members will also be companies with similar existing members worldwide. As a result, the association will greatly advance the stable currency and its underlying clearing infrastructure on a global scale. The development of this project will therefore impact the global banking infrastructure and the commercial banks built on these infrastructures on a global scale.

Fourth, the existing banking market structure

  4.1. Currency The basis of the banking industry is the currency and the clearing network that supports the circulation of money. Most of the currencies in the world today are the legal currency issued by each sovereign country based on its credit. Since the credits of different governments are different at different times, the value of the legal currency will also change. Among the current mainstream currencies in the world, the US dollar occupies an absolute dominant position. The dollar is based on the credit of the US government. However, the US government has different policies at various times, which will directly affect the value of the dollar. The most typical period is that the US government has incurred a lot of expenses to support the Vietnam War, which has led to a sharp depreciation of the US dollar.

Of the total amount of legal currency issued, the amount of money issued by the central bank is only a small fraction of all currencies in the market. Most of the currency in the market is generated by commercial banks through credit. For example, in the popularity of the pound, only 3% were issued by the Bank of England, and the remaining 97% were generated by commercial banks through credit. Because of the important role of commercial banks in financial and economic life, it is strictly regulated and protected by the government. Commercial banks therefore have a privileged position in economic life.

One of the various monetary theories is the Chicago School. The main advocates of this school are some of the famous scholars at the University of Chicago in the 1930s. The Chicago School proposed to eliminate the ability of commercial banks to create money based on credit, and to collect all the creation rights of the currency to the central bank. In this way, we hope to avoid the over-currency of the currency in the society, and thus avoid the financial crisis and the economic crisis. The Chicago School's views have recently been re-advocated. In particular, given the economic crisis of 2008, the views of this school have been re-emphasized. Representatives of these economists are Michael Kumhof, who works for the Bank of England, Miguel Á. F. Ordóñez, former governor of the Bank of Spain, Ole Bjerg, professor at the University of Copenhagen, and Martin Wolf, chief economic critic of the Financial Times.

Based on the Chicago School, some new models of money management have emerged. One of the most influential is the all-weather pawnshop theory proposed by former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King (see my article, Stabilizing Coins and Mervyn Gold All Weather Mode ). The theory of Mervyn King requires commercial banks to pledge their assets to the central bank. After discounting these mortgage assets, the central bank determines the amount that commercial banks can make loans. In this way, the central bank can continuously reduce the leverage of existing commercial banks and control the lending quota of commercial banks to a reasonable level. This approach will greatly reduce the ability of commercial banks to use a lot of leverage before the 2008 financial crisis, so they can avoid the financial crisis. 4.2. Clearing Network Another foundation of the banking industry is the underlying clearing and settlement network. This clearing network is usually owned by banks within the scope of a country. Transfers between banks are done through a centralized clearing house. This clearing institution guarantees that the data transferred between banks is accurate. The transfer transactions between banks are based on the data in this centralized clearing house.

When users transfer money between different currency areas, a centralized clearing network is also required to ensure the accuracy of the transfer data. The most famous of these institutions is Swift. Anyone who has made a cross-border remittance will notice that one of the fees charged by the bank for this is the Swift service fee.

These centralized clearing companies have evolved with the technical capabilities of their time. So the main clearing mode it supports is the overnight and batch net clearing mode. This model was clearly a very big improvement at the time, both in terms of business efficiency and cost. However, with the development of economic activities, the continuous improvement of technological capabilities and the continuous reduction of costs in other aspects, such models are becoming more and more backward. Organizations like Swift are even more out of place. This centralized clearing model has become an urgent problem to be solved. 4.3. Commercial Banks The money held by people in their hands is stored in commercial banks and circulated in clearing networks between commercial banks. Therefore, people's use of money is greatly limited by commercial banks. Banks can limit the way people use money and even freeze assets in their accounts.

The business basis of a commercial bank is the customer deposit it receives. Based on these deposits and using the leverage allowed by local supervision to carry out credit business. Credit business is the main source of profit for commercial banks.

Fifth, the impact of blockchain technology on the bank's infrastructure

  5.1. Changes in Currency The coinage mode of Bitcoin is a model that everyone can participate in and is fair to everyone ( Bitcoin, the forerunner of everyone's coinage) . Anyone in the world who is in any corner of the world can participate in the process of coinage and bitcoin in Bitcoin as long as he can provide billing services. The current currency coin can only be completed by the government and its commercial banks. Other institutions and individuals are unable to participate in this coining process and therefore cannot obtain the proceeds from the coinage. And such a coinage tax revenue may be very large. It’s clear that you can look at the dollar’s ​​coinage tax.

In the past two years, there have been various attempts to cast stable coins. The algorithm-based coinage project has not developed. The mainstream stable coin coinage model is now based on the coinage mode of collateral. Currently accepted by the market is the coinage model based on the legal currency mortgage. Such projects include USDC, PAX and GUSD. These stable currencies are stable coins that are 1:1 linked to the US dollar based on the equivalent US dollar mortgaged in the custodian. For ordinary users, as long as they can mortgage the dollar, they can participate in casting these digital stable coins. Therefore, in terms of the fair mechanism of coinage, these stable coins have improved over the existing currency. However, since the mortgaged currency can only obtain fixed interest in the bank, the coinage tax in this way is negligible or even negative.

The most influential in the development of stable currency should be the bank-led stable currency project. This includes JPM led by JP Morgan and USC (Utility Settlement Coin) led by UBS. Among the two stable currency projects, the USC project is expected to be more accepted by the market than JPM, not only because of more bank support, but also by adopting a business organization model that is more in line with blockchain applications ( Fnality, Finance). A milestone in the evolution of market infrastructure ). These two stable coins will first be applied to the clearing settlement between banks, which is essentially more like a tool than a currency. However, these two stable coins can be further promoted and applied in the retail payment market.

The Libra Stabilizing Coin is based on legal currency and short-term Treasury mortgages, and its price will be subject to a basket of legal currency. As a result, Libra Stabilizers have improved in terms of accepted collateral and price benchmarks compared to previous stable currencies. The Libra Association accepts ordinary users to participate in mortgage coinage by means of an authorized dealer. In fact, the association can further adopt the DeFi model to support distributed coinage. This coining process can further reduce the coinage threshold and allow more ordinary users to participate in the coinage. However, since the Libra Stabilizing Coin will be part of the financial infrastructure services, the governance mechanism of this association is democratic, and this association will certainly be strictly regulated by the major financial regulatory agencies around the world, so the coinage tax in this area will not be an excess return. of. 5.2. Changes in the clearing network After the announcement of the World Wire news developed by IBM and Stellar, I wrote an article (the clearing company, the first victim of the blockchain era) , thinking that blockchain technology has begun Replace the clearing house between banks. This process begins with the remittance settlement between countries and gradually transitions to bank transaction liquidation within the country. I also mentioned in the Libra project research analysis report that one of the biggest value of the Libra project may be its clearing network. It is likely to have more lasting value than the Libra Stabilizer itself. In terms of functionality, this clearing network not only supports the circulation of money, but also supports the circulation of more complex financial products such as stocks and accounts receivable. So the underlying clearing network supports more than just money transfers between retail customers, and it can support more complex financial product transactions. The Libra white paper argues that this underlying clearing network will be a simple financial infrastructure. But this financial infrastructure is certainly not just about supporting digital currency transfers between retail customers.

Since this underlying clearing can support the circulation of stocks based on smart contracts, this chain may not only be limited to the banking sector, but also to the securities sector. I have always believed that the future digital financial world will be a unified digital financial world (see my article, unified exchange and banking ecology ), there will be no distinction between the current securities industry and the banking industry. The Libra underlying chain is likely to evolve into an underlying chain that supports such a digital financial world. Of course, Libra, the underlying chain, needs a lot of technical improvements, which is self-evident.

Libra's clearing and settlement chain has been globally oriented since its inception, rather than the current clearing network in the banking system, which is basically within a legal jurisdiction. In the current situation, when a French currency is used in another legal currency market, the clearing network of the two places needs to be docked by means of system docking, and then the legal currency can be supported on these two areas. usage of. The Libra clearing chain and stable currency are not subject to any national boundaries. It has supported the use of stable coins on a global scale from the outset, and is a direct transaction and settlement between accounts and accounts. Such transactions and settlement methods are more efficient and cost less than existing payment and settlement methods. 5.3. Impact on commercial banks The business basis of commercial banks is the deposits of users in banks. But in the future blockchain-based digital finance world, the user's stable currency can exist directly in the chain's own address. Users are thus free to control their digital stability coins without being restricted by institutions such as commercial banks. If the user needs to use his own idle stable currency to add value, he can choose various funds in the chain. Therefore, in terms of absorbing user deposits, the banking institutions in the chain will compete with various funds in the chain.

In terms of supporting user payments and remittances, the underlying chain supports direct transfers between accounts, so there is no longer a need for a clearinghouse between banks to support this process. A major service provided by commercial banks to users is therefore replaced by a blockchain.

Due to these shocks, the future commercial banks and the underlying financial market infrastructure will undergo a paradigm shift. The information revolution brought about by the Internet has only had an impact on the commercial banking business in terms of quantity. The value exchange brought by blockchain technology will fundamentally change the functions of commercial banks.

Six, barbarians at the door of the banking industry

When a new technology emerges, it can have a subversive impact on some industries. Such cases are numerous in the Internet age. The traditional retail industry is impacted by the e-commerce industry represented by Amazon. The traditional film industry was hit by a video site represented by Netflix. The traditional mobile phone manufacturing industry is impacting Apple. The impact of the Internet on banks is a process that is ongoing. A common feature of these previous cases is that traditional industries are hit by outside the industry. Such an experience will also reappear in the era of blockchain. Forces outside the traditional banking industry are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet and blockchain to enter the traditional banking arena and provide their customers with lower cost and efficient financial services. Such a company is the barbaric of the so-called traditional banking industry.

In the era of blockchain, this trend has actually begun before Facebook's Libra project. Two very representative cases are Bakkt, and CENTRE, which is jointly supported by Coinbase and Circle.

Bakkt's vision is to provide a global network of digital asset generation, storage, trading and distribution. Bakkt is more than just an exchange that offers bitcoin derivatives trading services, and it is initially intended to implement bitcoin-based retail payments. It has specifically won the cooperation of Starbucks for this purpose ( Bakkt's pursuit of Starbucks is worth it? ). The cooperation between the two facilitates the trading and payment of digital assets, and is combined with the traditional securities and banking sectors. On top of the infrastructure thus built, Bakkt can provide more financial services based on digital assets. The existing bank business based on legal currency will inevitably be affected. Of course, the current Bakkt strategy is not perfect. One of the important shortcomings is the stable currency (the stable currency, the missing part of the Bakkt strategy ). The lack of stable currency will not only affect the Bakkt exchange's own transactions, but also affect its efforts to open retail payments and asset transactions on a global scale.

Coinbase and Circle jointly launched CENTER is also an effort to enter the traditional banking field from outside the industry. The two companies are leaders in digital currency trading and global retail payments. The main business of both companies is based on digital assets. CENTER supports USDC-based stable USDC ( why does Circle and Coinbase support USDC develop into a real stable currency? ). Another very important reason is the organization of CENTER. It is also open in nature. Its purpose is to attract more members to join. So CENTER has an advantage in the key areas of its strategy and makes the right choice. CENTER is also likely to implement digital asset-based payment and transaction services on a global scale. In particular, if CENTER is able to establish an underlying open nature clearing network and distribute its stable currency on it, it is fully equipped with the infrastructure needed to conduct banking on a global scale.

The Libra Stabilization Coin project led by Facebook has brought about a qualitative change in this ongoing process. Libra and similar projects that will certainly emerge in the future are not only a huge challenge to the existing banking industry, but also a huge challenge to the global financial infrastructure. This is why, after the announcement of the Libra project, it immediately caught the attention of global financial regulation, and immediately forced global financial regulators to consider countermeasures. Therefore, it can be said objectively that the Libra project has greatly promoted the process of global financial digitization.

Given the disruptive role of blockchain and encrypted digital assets in the existing banking and securities industries, users in both industries can only optimize efficiency within the existing market structure, and it is impossible to fully utilize this technology. All features create disruptive changes to existing industries. In the banking sector, the blockchain was first applied to liquidation between banks. This application is only an improvement in efficiency and cost, and does not affect the infrastructure of the banking industry. In the securities industry, the newly established Swiss Digital Asset Exchange selected R3's Corda after evaluating the clearing solution based on blockchain technology in the market. Corda is a distributed accounting technology developed under the stimulation of blockchain technology within the scope of existing regulatory systems and business practices. It also supports the structure of the existing securities market and is able to meet existing securities regulatory requirements. Its essence is also the improvement of efficiency, without fundamentally changing the basic structure of the market. Compared to blockchain technology and the impact that encrypted digital assets can make on the securities industry ( the dusk of the Nasdaqs ), the value that the Swiss Digital Asset Exchange can create based on Corda is just the tip of the iceberg.

Companies that can take advantage of blockchain and encrypted digital asset technologies to fundamentally change existing financial market structures and business processes must come from outside the industry. They leverage the power of blockchain technology and encrypted digital assets to provide more efficient and cost-effective financial services to their subscribers, combined with the advantages they have built in the marketplace. Compared to the free exchange of information based on the Internet, the free exchange of value based on blockchain technology will have a broader and far-reaching impact on the current society, so the existing interests of the touch will be greater. Therefore, the process of this advancement must be a longer process than the application of the Internet.

Seven, the countermeasures of commercial banks

  7.1. Future unified financial network ecology The future digital financial world must be an integrated network ecosystem. The foundation of this network ecology must be blockchain technology. The various assets and interests in reality will be generated, stored, circulated and traded in this ecology through digital means. Digital stable coins are also generated and distributed in this ecosystem. Different institutions provide corresponding functions in this ecosystem, including the listing process of assets, asset custody and asset management. These functions correspond to existing investment banks, custodians, banks and funds. The payment function currently provided by the bank will be completed by the network. Stabilizing coins will come in two forms. One is the digital stable currency issued by the central bank based on its credit, and the other is a stable currency issued in the market in a distributed manner based on digital asset collateral (see my article, predicting the development direction of stable currency from monetary theory ) . Banks need to compete with fund companies to manage their digital assets. It can be seen that the ability of commercial banks to absorb users' digital currency deposits will be greatly challenged. So what should the commercial bank's coping strategy be in this state? 7.2. Which digital financial services are used? The strategies that banks in different regions and at different stages of development can adopt are completely different. In the market with the strongest development of existing financial power, the coping strategies that commercial banks can adopt are very limited. This is due to the stricter regulation they are subject to, and on the other hand, their centralized computing system has become an uncut part of existing financial markets. Therefore, for these commercial banks, the coping strategies they can adopt must be changed collectively with the market, and it is difficult for one individual to make a complete change.

For a commercial bank in a small economy, it can make choices based on the characteristics of the economy in which it is located.

First, all future assets and interests will be in digital form. So the first step in the future development of the digital financial world is to digitize these assets and interests. This work is now done by investment banks. Will commercial banks be involved in the future? This will depend on changes in the regulatory policies of the location of the commercial bank.

Second, the response that commercial banks can adopt is to use a stable currency. This stable currency may be a global currency such as Libra, or a stable currency based on a legal currency. However, whether or not to adopt a digital stable currency depends on whether the demand in this area is strong. For an economic region with a variety of legal currency circulation, the use of a digital stable currency will facilitate the circulation of the local economy, thus bringing more business opportunities to commercial banks.

Third, in terms of clearing infrastructure, no single commercial bank can do this. It must work with other commercial banks (even companies outside the banking industry) to develop an open financial infrastructure. Such an underlying infrastructure will not have a direct and significant impact on the business of a commercial bank, but it will make the commercial bank run on a more solid foundation. More importantly, the clearing infrastructure will move from the current centralized approach to a distributed approach, so companies that are the first to adopt this financial infrastructure and become part of the alliance ecosystem will run on a more solid foundation. . Especially when this ecological side develops and develops, companies outside the ecology will be difficult to survive. This is the case in banks in the same jurisdiction. The same is true of professional basketball teams within the NBA League market. 7.3. Matching digital financial services with actual needs Such a migration is clearly a gradual process. Commercial banks that can see the future direction of development and grasp this migration process can grasp this opportunity and gradually develop along the trend. The key to managing this process is to grasp the match between relevant services and local actual needs. The premise of this grasp is to fully understand the areas in which local financial institutions in the region do not serve well. Such an area may be an unbanked and underbanked group that has always existed (such a group may be a very large group depending on the region in which the commercial bank is located), or it may be an emerging area with very strong demand, such as E-commerce in the Internet era may also be a current rapidly evolving field, such as encrypted digital currency transactions, and more likely to be an area where existing financial institutions are not sufficiently serviced in other industries within the international arena. Only by clearly identifying that such existing financial institutions are not adequately serviced and are areas with growth potential, commercial banks can consider adopting corresponding digital currency strategies, continuously expand the foundation and capabilities in this area, and gradually develop to the ultimate goal. . 7.4. One of the most viable digital financial applications available For commercial banks in many regions, one of the most directly implemented areas is the current unbanked and underbanked user base. Such a user group is also the group that the Libra project claims to serve. Such groups are currently prevalent throughout the world, especially in developing countries. This group is characterized by a large number of users, a small amount of demand for financial services, limited repayment ability and difficulty in credit reporting. For existing financial institutions, an objective reason for not being able to provide services to this group is that the costs are too high and the risks are too high, so it is difficult to operate the business as a long-term business.

Based on the blockchain-based clearing network and the stable currency, and in combination with the new business model, commercial banks can begin to provide financial services to such customer groups. On such a clearing chain, each user has a real identity. Relevant information provided for access to financial services is recorded on the chain. Because the information on the blockchain is not tamperable and can be viewed by users around the world, each user is responsible for the authenticity of the information they upload. This will significantly reduce the cost of credit reporting for financial institutions. Users can therefore gradually build credit on the chain. Given that this chain can be all financial institutions facing the world, the chances of a user getting a loan are greatly increased. This will form a benign cycle. At present, some users who have a good credit but do not have access to financial institutions can obtain financial services. As this ecology continues to evolve, there will be more financial services for users who do not currently have access to financial services (see my article, How to use the blockchain to bring paradigm shifts to the global personal credit industry ).

In addition to serving unbanked and underbanked user groups, commercial banks can also gradually adopt blockchain technology and encrypted digital currency in other business areas to gradually implement this migration process. Given the global nature of blockchains and encrypted digital currencies and its characteristics beyond the current banking boundaries, commercial banks actually have more options to achieve this goal. For newly established commercial banks in jurisdictions that support the application of blockchains and encrypted digital assets, this opportunity is even greater.