In the beginning of September it was revealed that Visa is inviting European banks to test sending money over a blockchain developed by BTL Group in a move that the Financial Times estimated can threaten the Swift interbank payment system.
Finance Magnates talked with Guy Halford-Thomson, who founded BTL Group last year together with his brother Hugh, about the collaboration with the credit card company and more.
What is your background with cryptocurrencies?
I come from a very technical and software based background, working in London for a few years as a developer before moving to Canada as a software architect and then a business analyst.
Hugh and I got involved in Bitcoin in 2011 and founded a bitcoin brokerage, QuickBitcoin, back in early 2013 which put the first bitcoin ATM into London and was also famous for selling bitcoins to George Osbourne.
In early 2015 we decided we wanted to focus more on core blockchain technology and so founded BTL with a focus on the remittance industry.
How was the transition from the Bitcoin ecosystem to Blockchain technology for the financial system?
The biggest change for us was going from an environment where we were working with other startups, to working with some of the world’s largest financial institutions.
What advantages does listing on the TSX bring?
Taking a company public is a very serious decision and requires careful planning. For BTL Group Ltd. we want to be able to move fast and keep up with the pace of the blockchain industry, and being a public company on the TSX Venture Exchange we are able to accomplish that.
What can you tell us about working with Visa?
The pilot we are running with Visa is very exciting for BTL and the blockchain space. We are using our core settlement platform Interbit, which combines technology from ethereum with our own blockchain technology into a platform which solves two of the biggest challenges in the blockchain space, namely privacy and scalability. With Interbit we can addresses this as private data can be restricted specific nodes, and the platform is able to scale to meet the needs of modern settlement systems.
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The team at Visa Collab have been incredibly supportive, working with large financial institutions can be a challenge, and the Visa Collab team really understand how to work with startups.
Where do you think this project can lead to?
At this point we are focused on running the pilot.
When do you expect a real shift away from Swift by banks (as the FT article suggests)?
SWIFT has an incredibly large network, and still provides a valuable service to the industry. I believe that new blockchain products will start to offer viable alternatives to SWIFT in specific use cases and we are already starting to see this in the remittance space.
What sets BTL’s Interbit platform apart from other blockchain technologies?
Interbit is built around a key focus on privacy and scalability. We don’t believe encryption is the solution to privacy and go one step further by restricting private data to specific nodes on the network. Interbit is able to scale to tens of thousands of transactions per second, and in the use case of a settlement solution, private data will never leave the network of the bank.
How do you view central banks looking at developing their own blockchain systems?
Many central banks are exploring blockchain at a very high level, developing proof of concepts and validating assumptions, however, even when these banks are developing their own systems, it usually means they are working closely with startups in the space.
Companies such as R3 have gone a long way to create exposure for blockchain, and bridge the gap between startups and large financial institutions. R3 works closely with startups in the blockchain space to develop proof of concepts for banks and have managed to get a lot of headway into the industry, but there is still a long way to go before we will see a live platform.
What other areas that could benefit from blockchain are you looking at?
Outside of the financial space we have recently announced we are working with Ernst and Young in their UK based startup challenge to explore Interbit’s applications to energy trading, and we also recently announced a partnership with Vancouver based Fantasy 6 to develop a suite of blockchain services for the online gambling and fantasy sports industry.