DTCC Executive Expresses Caution on Blockchain’s Role in U.S. Settlement Transition

Jennifer Peve, the DTCC’s Global Head of Strategy & Innovation, discusses the limitations and potential of blockchain in the U.S. settlement transition.

In a recent symposium on the tokenization of real-world assets, Jennifer Peve, the Global Head of Strategy & Innovation at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), expressed skepticism about blockchain’s ability to facilitate the U.S. transition to one-day settlement. While blockchain offers advantages such as atomic settlement and operational efficiencies, Peve believes that its scalability and performance in high-volume markets like U.S. public equities are still questionable. This article explores Peve’s insights and the DTCC’s current exploration of blockchain technology.

Blockchain’s Limitations in U.S. Public Equities Markets:

Peve acknowledges that blockchain’s performance and scale component present challenges in U.S. public equities markets. Despite the potential for atomic settlement and delivery versus payment (DvP), she believes that blockchain may not be the immediate solution for one-day settlement in these markets. However, she highlights the potential for blockchain to be effective in other markets with lower volume and higher value.

Opportunities for Blockchain in Other Markets:

Peve suggests that sectors with less-developed infrastructure, such as private stocks and ETFs, are strong candidates for tokenization using blockchain technology. She emphasizes the operational efficiencies that can be achieved through create-redeem processes and data distribution in ETFs. The DTCC has already explored similar concepts through projects like Project Whitney.

The DTCC’s Current Blockchain Initiatives:

The DTCC has been actively involved in various blockchain initiatives. In 2022, it launched a distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based stock settlement system for bilateral transactions using R3’s Corda DLT. It also implemented a blockchain version of the Trade Information Warehouse system for derivatives. Additionally, the DTCC has launched an industry Testnet infrastructure based on Hyperledger Besu and acquired digital asset solution provider Securrency.

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Exploring Blockchain in Wealth Management:

Peve shares details of a recent experiment conducted by the DTCC, involving asset managers, fund administrators, and custodians. The experiment focused on putting net asset value (NAV) data on a public blockchain to assess its value in data distribution. While the experiment showed promise, Peve remains cautious about the technology’s scalability and adoption by financial institutions.

Challenges and Considerations:

Peve highlights the challenges of interoperability with legacy systems and slow adoption by financial institutions. She emphasizes the need for proven scalability and performance in the assets served by the DTCC. Additionally, she acknowledges that any opportunities pursued by the DTCC must align with the current regulatory framework, reinforcing the DTCC’s role in the industry.

The Future of Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) and the DTCC:

Peve acknowledges the potential impact of tokenization on the roles of CSDs and central counterparties (CCPs). As blockchain takes on the role of registry and smart contracts automate servicing functionality, CSDs may need to evolve or face disruption. Peve emphasizes the need for industry players to take calculated risks and recognize the potential for new revenue streams and opportunities.

Conclusion:

While blockchain offers promising solutions for settlement processes, Jennifer Peve of the DTCC expresses caution about its immediate applicability in the U.S. transition to one-day settlement. Scalability, performance, and interoperability with legacy systems remain key challenges. However, the DTCC continues to explore blockchain initiatives in sectors with less-developed infrastructure. The future of CSDs and the DTCC will depend on their ability to adapt to the changing landscape of tokenization and blockchain technology.

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