Dave McKay, chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada, likes the blockchain, loves his bank’s mobile wallet and thinks banks should focus more on fixing their legacy systems than trying to pull fintech startups under regulators’ purview.
Here are takeaways from the conversation.
Dipping a Toe into Blockchain
Like most large banks, the company is experimenting with the blockchain, a technology that McKay described as a “quantum innovation.”
The company could roll out a loyalty program that relies on the technology known for its fast settlement and distributed system of recordkeeping by next year.
“It would be a nice hybrid step” into integrating the blockchain into banking, McKay said. “A loyalty account is a good, safe currency to start with.”
When asked why RBC would use rewards — rather than tangible money — as a test case, McKay said an unproven technology “begs caution.”
“It is a brand-new technology, and what do we really know about it? How cyber-secure is it? We are going to learn a lot more about it,” he said. “Given what is at stake, it is not something you can rush to market with and fix as you go. You want it to work.”
Although several recent announcements indicate that financial institutions are still curious about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies — not just the underlying blockchain architecture — McKay seemed uninterested in bitcoin, saying that the industry wouldn’t be “solving any problems with a new currency.”
Besides using the distributed ledger technology for its loyalty system, RBC is also one of the 13 banks that have formed an alliance with R3CEV, a blockchain startup, to develop commercial applications of distributed ledger technology in the financial industry.
“Some of these issues are best broached as an industry,” McKay said.
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