French bank Crédit Mutuel Arkéa has announced it has completed its first blockchain project with IBM. The goal is to help the bank verify customer identity.
This project is part of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa plans to meet legislative obligations such as Know Your Customer. This legislation is designed to reduce the risk of money laundering, identify theft and terrorist financing. It will be interesting to see how successful it is.
According to Frédéric Laurent, COO Innovation & Operations, Crédit Mutuel Arkéa: “Blockchain is a transformative agent in our operational application, as proven by this project — the first of its kind in France. This pilot offers a complete view of customers’ documents across our distributed network. The project helped us to understand and master blockchain for other client uses. Now, we are ready to incorporate this technology in our ecosystem.”
What has IBM supplied?
According to the press release IBM was responsible for:
- IBM Design Thinking methodologies and the IBM Studio in Paris to shape the strategic imperatives of the project, explore the initial ideas and co-design the use case from an end-user viewpoint.
- Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, to accelerate the development of the project using a complete set of as-a-services components, including Blockchain-as-a-Service and DevOps.
- IBM Global Business Services banking industry insight to guide the project and identify the business transformation opportunity.
Using the open-source Hyperledger Project fabric, the software reinforces consistency, traceability and privacy of the information. These are critical in a highly regulated environment. Ultimately, Crédit Mutuel Arkéa could enable its customers to deliver proof of their identity to third-parties such as local utilities, retailers or regulated service providers.
It is interesting that this is not yet an IBM vertical solution. Instead it relies on a mix of methodologies and other IBM solutions. One wonders how long it will be before IBM decides that there is enough traction to launch IBM Blockchain for Banking. Such a move is in line with its normal sales approach. IBM are possibly using this deal is as a pilot for this type of solution.
Is blockchain the answer to identity?
This is less clear. IBM has already been briefing analysts about the potential for blockchain to protect personal identities. It would allow a user to control not only who has access to their data but also revoke that access when they want. This would be a significant shift in the way personal data is protected.
But there is a challenge here of scalability. Nobody knows just how far blockchain can scale before it slows down too much to be useful. One possibility is large organisations rolling out private blockchain instances across the companies in their groups. This raises several questions. One of these is how would these private blockchain instances then interact with other blockchain instances? Another question is would we lose some of the benefits by having people interact with multiple blockchains?
All of this is unknown at the moment. Consequently, it will be interesting to see how this story begins to unfold. It is entirely reasonable to see a blockchain that spans banking systems. This would certainly help to improve the overall security for many banks. Especially at a time when they are under a lot of pressure from criminals and regulators.
Blockchain is getting a lot of attention at the moment. But there are a lot of things that still need to be resolved. This project by Crédit Mutuel Arkéa will be watched carefully by other banks. If it is successful and achieves the majority of its aims, other banks will quickly want to deploy the same solution.