“The iPhone will get no significant market share…no chance”: step forward Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft and creator of quite possibly the worst market prediction ever. But it’s not by any means a walkover: Mr Ballmer has stiff competition from Alex Allen, the senior policy adviser who warned John Major in 1996 that ”e-mail will never catch on”.Mystic Alex was also concerned about the prospect of any old Tom, Dick and Harry being able to reply the Prime Minister at will, so he was “cautious about rushing into it”. And when they fired up the first transatlantic phone line between London and New York in 1926, one mutton headed stockbroker predicted it might result in two or three extra trades a day, but things would muddle along more or less as they were, with chalk boards and boys rushing around with messages in cleft sticks. Three years later Wall Street crashed…and stockbrokers have been extinct since 1986.
But the future isn’t always so hard to predict: India is currently shaping international financial markets with commendable transparency.
The snappily named Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT), a division of the Reserve Bank of India, announced last week that it is developing a model Blockchain platform for use in the subcontinent’s banking sector. The new system is expected to go live early next year and will host a full spectrum of Blockchain applications capable of engaging with each other, something the sector has so far avoided despite its obvious appetite for and recognition of Blockchain’s potential.
And although the IDRBT has counselled “a cautious approach”, fresh initiatives are rapidly being set in train to push things along even faster, as exemplified by the vigour of India’s Fintech Forum. IDRBT’s Director, AS Ramasastri,certainly isn’t taking any Steve Ballmer style risks: “The dialogue is on and we are expecting good outcomes…India’s Fintech companies are rapidly accelerating and reshaping the financial services industry”: and they’re going to be doing it with improved cyber security, improved analytics, better payment systems and, most of all…with Blockchain. The Fintech Forum will play a central part in this by establishing a platform for continuous innovation.
And if that all sounds like complex systems and vague aspirations, take another look: the entire process is being overseen by one of the world’s biggest and most important regulators, and even if the agency it has chosen to front it all has an ugly and easily forgettable acronym on its brass plate, what does that matter? Even the best looking kid can have an ugly name and no other country in the world has seen a regulator of this stature taking an active and focused role in shaping our shared financial future.
So we can forgive it the faltering start, the Reserve Bank of India is obviously keenly aware of the central role Blockchain will play in that future.