Santander has unveiled what it claims is the UK's first international money transfer service powered by the blockchain distributed ledger technology.
The bank has stated previously that blockchain has the potential to save up to $20bn per year in transfer costs by simplifying the IT infrastructure and cutting out middlemen.
Santander also believes that distributed ledgers like blockchain can increase investor confidence in products whose underlying assets are opaque (such as securitisations) or where property rights are made uncertain by the role of central authorities.
The new blockchain and accompanying app is currently being rolled out as a pilot to the bank's staff. Users are able to transfer sums up to £10,000, or the equivalent in euros and dollars, to 21 countries via the app, which connects to Apple Pay and is verified by Touch ID.
The underlying blockchain technology is provided by Ripple, a startup with offices in San Francisco, New York and Sydney that is part-funded by Santander.
One advantage of blockchains for financial firms is that data can only be written to them and not deleted, creating an immutable and incorruptible audit trail. This provides a possible mechanism for doing away with slow and expensive accounting procedures, and reduces the role of third-party lawyers, regulators and auditors.
Santander claims that international money transfers using the new app and blockchain system will be achieved in one day, rather than the current several days.
However, most experts warn that there is still much work to be done, not least in getting the new blockchains to integrate with existing banking infrastructure.
"The need for finance has evolved from providing a physical pound in your pocket or card in your purse, where you pay at a till, to being seamlessly integrated into a new, always-on, connected lifestyle," said Sigga Sigurdardottir, head of customer and innovation at Santander, in a statement.
"At Santander we work hard to ensure our banking is simple, personal and fair, and believe new blockchain technology will play a transformational role in the way we achieve our goals and better serve our customers, adding value by creating more choice and convenience."
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