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Article by Forbes: Biser Dimitrov
Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about a potential new financial recession being at our doors. All the signs are already present, from the stock market being shaky and the US economy being sluggish, the European banks on a downtrend, the China and US trade war continuing to linger and the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates for the first time since the last financial crisis, then doing it again two-months later to the Repo markets interest rate spike.
Just a few weeks ago, the US Department of the Treasury announced the “Housing Reform Plan” in which they want to place the government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back into private hands. Fannie and Freddie, the two largest mortgage guarantee businesses and government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), were taken over during the 2008 housing crisis and have been government run ever since. All these events add up negatively as the impending recession is getting closer.
Today, there are many parallels that can be drawn between our current economic environment and the previous financial crisis, but there is also a significant differentiator. In the midst of the previous crisis a new technology had just surfaced and given rise to a wave of new financial markets and economic rules. Let’s face it, we live in a bitcoin and blockchain world now.
What could be done differently back then if we’d had blockchain and distributed ledger technology in place?
Today In: Money
We live in such a social media driven society that sentiment can be twisted seemingly overnight. Even Google recognized the spike in searches for the term “recession” in August.
So, can we trust software over humans when dealing with opaque and inefficient mortgage origination systems?
What would be the benefits of tokenized real estate and the issuance of digital mortgages or mortgage backed securities on a blockchain?
During the last few years, we have seen a significant change in the mortgage space. We have seen the rise of non-bank mortgage lenders in a field largely dominated by traditional banks. Those non-bank lenders are usually more flexible, offer better fees, and rely heavily on new smart and advanced technologies.
HOME MORTGAGE DISCLOSURE ACT, INSIDE MORTGAGE FINANCE
So, what are the current issues in the mortgage space? To start with, it is a heavily manual and paper intensive process which can take between 45 and 60 days. The average mortgage application is around 500 pages and can go up to 2000 pages. On top of that there are so many intermediaries (brokers, appraisers, attorneys, underwriters, agents and agencies) involved in the process and each of them adds 1–2% of the total property value as a cost to the real estate transaction.
In an environment like that a new blockchain and smart contracts process can thrive. For example, we can have the closing process almost entirely automated by smart contracts with minimal involvement from attorneys. We already have platforms like OpenLaw and Clause that present legally enforceable smart contracts and can automate similar processes.
Another area that could be explored is the 45 million Americans without credit score. Currently, this is an untapped market for the banks and one way that can be resolved by establishing a Digital Credit Score, this evolves around developing new methodologies to calculate a score based on the digital footprint and social signals of the individual. Having blockchain as the underlying record keeping technology will present an immutable and trustworthy record proof. The rise of the digital identity platforms that run on a blockchain will help with validating applicants’ identities on the blockchain immediately.
The nature of distributed ledger technology (DLT) allows for replicated copies of the on-chain data, according to the set privacy conditions and as much as the data regulations and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) rules allow it. Then, all the participating parties on that blockchain mortgage network could significantly reduce their shared mortgage origination risk and loan fraud.
I strongly believe in the tokenization of real-world assets. Until now, we see a myriad of financial assets like fiat currencies, shares, bonds and stocks being turned into their respective digital copies on a blockchain ledger. We already see live examples of digital securities in the financial services sector but the big opportunity is to tokenize real estate. To put this into perspective here is the real estate tokenization opportunity visualized.
Real Estate Global Market
When we have our real estate tokenized on a blockchain, the origination of digital mortgages will become the natural choice due to the greater visibility and increased liquidity of those assets.
Once we have tokenized real estate and digital mortgages that are originated on a blockchain, the issuance of mortgage backed securities on the same ledger will be seamless. One way of doing this is for the lender to issue a security token to de-risk and possibly make money. The other option is for borrowers to issue a token in order to raise capital for initially buying the asset.
The digital transformation caused by blockchain and DLT will have its impact on the mortgage industry, but it might take some time. We already see steps in that direction as startups are currently issuing $85 million in loan originations per month, but it will take years until the important participants like banks are fully onboard. One thing we know for sure, the sophistication that blockchain technology and smart contracts bring will lead to huge operational cost savings and the opening of new untapped markets.
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Article by Forbes: Biser Dimitrov
Things are moving very quickly in the enterprise blockchain space. Recently, several of the largest banks announced their participation in key blockchain initiatives. A massive $20 million bond was issued on the public Ethereum network and one of the biggest blockchain companies, ConsenSys, launched a special initiative that aims to bring Decentralized Finance (DeFi) closer to enterprises. In addition, excitement has peaked in “bitcoin land” because, in mere days, the first physically delivered bitcoin contracts will launch on a federally regulated exchange.
JPMorgan’s Interbank Information Network (IIN) was joined by Deutsche Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation
JPMorgan’s IIN, built on Quorum (a private version of Ethereum) was launched with the goal of eliminating information inefficiencies, thereby providing a real-time flow of information. As of now, 344 banks have signed Letter of Intent (LOIs), creating what is probably the largest blockchain-based banking consortia. Last week, Deutsche Bank, the 17th largest in the world and the fourth largest in Europe by total assets, joined the network to tap into the information pool. Additionally, the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), the second-largest bank in Southeast Asia, joined the IIN blockchain consortia. Both news items are significant because of the sheer size of the banks involved and also because of the ensuing growth of the IIN blockchain. In the enterprise blockchain space, IIN is probably the most significant effort in terms of shaping the industry with its outcome.
Interbank Information Network
Santander launched the first end-to-end bond on a public blockchain network
Banco Santander, the largest Spanish bank, has issued a $20 million blockchain-based bond with a quarterly coupon of 1.98%. This is noteworthy primarily because of the bank’s use of the public Ethereum network, on which the investor wallet, the issuer wallet, and the issuer smart contracts reside. (Not many large banks are even considering the use of a public blockchain network.) The effort involved tokenized cash that was exchanged for bond tokens worth $20 million via an atomic delivery-versus-payment (DvP) transaction.
Bond issuance flow
ConsenSys launched Codefi, aimed at businesses
ConsenSys, the largest Ethereum-focused development shop, just launched a new “mesh” that focuses on bringing Decentralized Finance (DeFi) to larger companies and businesses. DeFi-type products and services are currently used mainly by enthusiasts and cryptocurrency-focused traders. ConsenSys wants to change this and expand the scope of instruments and markets existing only in the decentralized space. The current DeFi offering creates certain inefficiencies (like overcollateralization) and introduces the systematic risk of using an unproven smart contracts. For example, nobody on the Ethereum trading market has a clear view of the overall risk exposure in terms of money and technical liabilities. Codefi wants to change this by providing a framework for assessing the complex risk in permissionless lending (which is one the aims of this new project).
Bakkt is ready to launch its bitcoin futures
Bakkt, in partnership with ICE Futures US and ICE Clear US, will launch physically delivered bitcoin futures contracts along with custody approved by the New York State Department of Financial Services. In dealing with digital assets, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which owns and operates the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is getting into uncharted waters. This comes just two weeks after the announcement that Bakkt Warehouse, the safe gatekeeper for bitcoin, is accepting deposits and withdrawals. On Sunday 9/22, we will see how the market reacts to this launch, though the bitcoin sentiment is highly optimistic. The belief is that the move with further bitcoin adoption among institutional players like endowment funds and brokerage firms. It might also help make the case for bitcoin ETF once we have a stable and reliable physically delivered bitcoin futures market.
Wells Fargo launched an internal settlement service using R3 Corda
It has become very popular for banks to look into stablecoins as a potential settlement mechanism. Already, several public efforts, like JPMorgan’s JPMC and Utility Settlement Coin, serve similar functions. Now Wells Fargo has joined the ranks of blockchain-enabled institutions. The company is aiming to settle internal transactions much faster and more cheaply than it would if it went with the SWIFT network. Internally, dollar transactions will be pegged to a stablecoin so as to facilitate these transactions. This is a strong justification for R3’s Corda network protocol, which has received a lot of traction lately. Corda is not technically a blockchain per se, but instead uses a transaction-based proprietary distributed ledger technology (DLT).
All these events are momentous for the enterprise blockchain space, as the influx of large enterprises is hastening the pace of blockchain adoption. While they are investing people and money into this adoption, these enterprises are also building much-needed services like custody, risk management, and infrastructure to properly run and operate blockchain networks.
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Article by Forbes: Biser Dimitrov
2019 is the year when the blockchain ecosystem and the crypto industry as a whole had to get sober. After a wild 2017 and a bear 2018, the blockchain space is back on an upwards trajectory with new developments. There are no more Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to distract the crypto ecosystem and the building mentality is back on. This post-ICO and post-useless-PR-partnerships age urges the blockchain community to be less focused on the current price of bitcoin and more focused on producing meaningful services and advancements. Big projects from established enterprises like Facebook Libra are taking all the media space now and this is net positive for the enterprise blockchain space as well.
The first half of this year was full of blockchain developments led by large enterprises in almost all important sectors, including insurance, financial services, supply chain, healthcare and trade finance.
There is a huge benefit in joining a specialized industry-focused blockchain consortium because you sit at the same table with your main competitors but at the same time you work toward the same goal. You are not alone in figuring out the benefits, implementations and roll-out of distributed ledger technologies. There is also a financial benefit when commonly building applications as sometimes the membership fee is lower than the cost of hiring and training blockchain developers. Some of the big names in leading blockchain consortia networks that have made significant progress so far in 2019 are:
From the enterprise blockchain technology perspective, this first half of 2019 was pretty interesting and the major blockchain platforms made progress in not only improving and maturing their services but releasing new products. The general sentiment has been to focus on privacy, consensus options and digital asset standardization in anticipation of the tokenization revolution.
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