How Barclays Stole the Blockchain Spotlight in 2016

After keeping its projects to itself in 2015, 2016 may have been Barclays's year – at least, when it came to blockchain tech.

According to industry analysts, there's a strong case the bank is at the forefront of the increasingly large group of incumbents seeking to harness the "technology behind bitcoin" heading into 2017.

As noted by Patricia Hines, a senior analyst with Celent's banking practice, a key distinction is that, while other banks may have primarily sought PR pickup, Barclays was able to use its blockchain efforts in 2016 as a competitive differentiator.

From performing the first live trade finance transaction with real customers to expanding smart contract templates, Barclays seems keen on the future of blockchain, she said. It has even been enthusiastic about bitcoin, electing to bank Circle Internet Financial in April.

To some, however, Barclays has only been the most transparent in terms of what it's working on with distributed ledger technology.

Simon Taylor, director of blockchain at 11:FS, who until six months ago headed the bank's blockchain R&D, told CoinDesk:

That’s the strategy with Barclays, if there’s something to show they’ll show it. Others do more stuff under the hood.

The narrative that Barclays burst onto the scene this year, though, has only some truth, as members of the bank's blockchain group indicate 2016 was the product of early interest.

"In 2015, there was a lot of activity in the public space and a lot of people wondered why we weren't doing anything yet," said Anthony Macey, head of blockchain research at Barclays. "But we were just playing with toys then."

Today, the bank continues to experiment – most recently running an equity swaps test organized by Axoni with five other banks in October.

But its chief contribution may be that it has showed the industry some real-world applications for distributed ledger tech.

By Bailey Reutzel(@BLR13)


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