Giant Swiss bank UBS is planning to investigate blockchain technology in a new innovation lab based in London, FInextra reports. The innovation lab, located in Level39’s high growth space, HighGrowth:42, will explore the role of blockchain technology in financial services.
UBS, a Swiss global financial services company with its headquarters in Basel and Zürich, Switzerland, provides investment banking, asset management and wealth management services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide. Operating in more than 50 countries with about 60,000 employees around the world, UBS is the biggest Swiss bank and is considered as the world’s largest manager of private wealth assets, with more than 2.2 trillion Swiss francs (CHF) in invested assets.
Established by Canary Wharf Group plc, Level39 is Europe’s largest technology accelerator space for finance, cyber-securities, retail and future cities technology companies. Six months after launching in March 2013, Level39 opened the High Growth Space: 42 on the 42nd floor of One Canada Square.
“By establishing a dedicated innovation lab at Level 39 we are moving away from a purely in-house innovation strategy, optimizing collaboration opportunities with the growing FinTech business, startup and investor community in an open and transparent way,” said UBS Group CIO Oliver Bussmann. “Our innovation lab at Level39 will provide a unique platform to explore emerging technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and to understand the potential impact for the industry.”
“The UBS team have already established their credentials at Level39 over the last two years through mentoring alongside other leading experts at various accelerator programs,” said Eric Van der Kleij, Head of Level39, Canary Wharf Group. “Oliver Bussmann’s bold public statements and vision about the future of finance show that UBS is an organization that is genuinely determined to transform and thrive in a new world of finance.”
The blockchain technology that powers Bitcoin can enable participants to share financial transactions on a common public ledger and, therefore, enhance transparency and trust while significantly reducing transaction and processing cost. Therefore, it has the potential to trigger far-reaching changes in banking processes.
By creating a dedicated lab for financial technology innovation at Level39, UBS will explore new technologies in partnership with others and will be fully involved in the innovation ecosystem.
“It is always good news to see a global bank take a purposeful step outside of its traditional environment to work with – and learn from – the innovators who are helping to transform financial services,” said FinTechCity Co-Founder Julie Lake.
The Wall Street Journal notes that, while many in financial services have expressed an interest in the underlying technology of Bitcoin, UBS is one of the first major banks to go public with their plans. Bussmann said in October that the blockchain is the technology with the biggest potential to disrupt financial services and trigger massive simplification of banking processes and cost structure, changing not only the way we do payments but also the whole trading and settlement topic.
The Wall Street Journal article mentions other major banks, such as Barclays and Banco Santander, that are backing or launching initiatives to increase their interactions with the fintech start-up ecosystem as they seek to stay abreast of the rapid changes in technology which threaten their businesses.