UK banking giant Barclays is reportedly running two workspaces, or “labs”, dedicated to blockchain innovation.
According to Business Insider, the facilities are located above old bank branches in the Notting Hill and Old Street districts in London. They are open to bitcoin and blockchain entrepreneurs, businesses and developers.
Barclays Chief Design and Digital Officer Derek White commented, “The blockchain community, a little over a year ago, started saying they needed a place to gather. Some would say they’re the anarchists. We said, why don’t you come use our space? So we invited them in so we can learn together.”
Indications of the bank’s interest in blockchain technology, which has now attracted over a dozen financial institutions, first surfaced in July. Subsequent reports indicated that the bank is also considering the recently launched Ethereum platform. White said that its first wave of blockchain research saw 22 experiments, with another 45 planned.
In addition, the bank showed surprising amiability to bitcoin-as-a-currency when partnering with bitcoin brokerage Safello to develop a bitcoin donation platform.
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Barclays’ revelation is the latest in what has become an almost daily stream of news from financial players on the blockchain technology front. Recently, UBS indicated its exploring of a “utility settlement coin” to be shared among multiple institutions settling securities trades.
Institutions like UBS have dedicated internal teams working on the blockchain, while others have engaged the support of crypto industry startups. The notion of an open Bitcoin workspace by a bank- which to many Bitcoiners, symbolizes the anathema of their cause- is an indication that this blockchain thing is getting pretty serious.
As money and finance become increasingly disrupted, questions around the exact role of financial institutions are being raised more often. These days, banks are simply thought of as regulated technology providers, operating on legacy technology. White noted:
“As a heritage organization we can either embrace disruption or be disrupted. We’ve chosen to embrace disruption. We’re increasingly becoming a technology financial services company, not a bank with a technology division.”
He added that the bank is also working with Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to explore potential use cases, noting that Barclays is “seeking to become the connector in this ecosystem.”