Why Asia may lead in blockchain adoption sooner than expected
Asia is taking the lead in the race to adopt the distributed ledger technology – commonly known as blockchain – with financial hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore, says the Managing Director Asia-Pacific for Ripple, Dilip Rao.
This view is somewhat supported by a latest report that says Asia, especially China, is home to about a third of the 22 fintech unicorns – startups valued at more than a billion dollar – that are globally valued at $74b in aggregate.
According to New York-based research firm CBInsight’s Global Fintech Report: 2016 in review, seven of these companies are in Asia – six of which are in China where the financial affiliates of Alibaba and JD.com last valued at $60b and $7.1b, respectively are also based – while the US has 11 and Europe with four.
Though the report which was released on Wednesday February 15 notes that funding to blockchain and bitcoin startups fell to $69m in Q4’16 despite a slight rise in deals after jumping to over $150m earlier on the back of financings to Blockstream and Digital Asset Holdings, 2016 set a new record for VC-backed fintech Asian companies in both deals and funding as the continent accounted for
approximately 20% of deals globally and 43% of global funding.
It adds that VC-backed fintech companies in China saw both deals and dollars reach a 5-year high with $4.6 bln raised across 46 deals.
In his recent piece for CNBC, Rao, who notes that advancements in technology, especially the blockchain technology could provide the solution to the issues of slow, expensive and sometimes unreliable way of sending money around the world, believes Asia’s socio-economic landscape makes it a perfect place for blockchain adoption more so as the region has been a big adopter of mobile internet which has grown the e-commerce sector.
E-commerce is expected to grow at an annual rate of 25% across Southeast Asia over the next few years, he writes citing an A.T. Kearney report, and the growth has resulted in a surge in cross-border payments which, according to the McKinsey 2016 Global Payments Report, have already reached over US$30 trillion annually and are increasing at a rate almost three times faster than the global GDP.
However, according to figures from the World Trade Organization’s International Trade Statistics, Institute of International Finance’s Aggregate Capital Flows and the US Federal Reserve Financial Services’ Cross-Border Payments, cross-border transactions costs $1.6 trillion annually.
This is where the need for blockchain comes in as solution to the current global payments system which is not unified, according to Rao, thus making every country, asset class, payment type – be it low or high value – to have different rules, systems, operating regimes and access requirements that make it take several days to complete transactions.
It will enable banks to transact directly, instantly, and with certainty of settlement globally in seconds through a unified and completely secure online network that runs 24/7 without error rates as high as 12.7% cross-border banking transactions according to a research by Experian, a global information services group that specialises in financial data.
With another survey of public sector leaders conducted by technology firm IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit saying that nine in ten government organisations across the world are planning to invest in blockchain technology by 2018, it sure seems that governments especially those with huge financial activities would also adopt it en masse. Those the study considers to be trailblazers – dominated by capital markets seven in ten of which are smaller firms with fewer than 20,000 employees – make up 14% of respondents and they expect to have blockchains in production at scale by 2017 – with progress fastest in the Asia Pacific region and Western Europe.
China, for example, conducts almost 17% of all global economic activity and it is seeking to invest in Blockchain technologies to increase transparency and counter fraud to eradicate institutionalized corruption.