Whitechapel Think Tank

As part of our ongoing work to engage with industry developments, Payments UK provides secretariat support for the Whitechapel Think Tank (WTT). The WTT is focused on disruptive innovation in financial services and is a forum to build an understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented by distributed ledger technologies (DLT), such as Blockchain. Open to stakeholders interested in the safe and efficient introduction of DLT, it is a neutral and transparent forum to explore this technology opportunity and provides a non-competitive environment to progress the advantages of the collaborative agenda. Membership includes industry, academia, regulators and the UK Government. 

WTT has clear objectives, to:

  • encourage easy-to-understand standard architectures for the digital economy;
  • communicate the key issues around DLT to and between the industry, academia, regulators and UK Government;
  • facilitate liaison and information sharing between UK Government, the regulators and industry;
  • support cross industry coordination and collaboration

 

WTT Sub-group on Payments – White Paper

DLT Clearing Away the Debris?

In February 2016, within the WTT, it was agreed that there was a need to look more closely at the potential benefits and challenges to the implementation of DLT in the payment industry’s architecture and processes. This was agreed on the basis that, since the advent of DLT, there has been a lot of discussion about the benefits of DLT on payments architecture and the associated processes, particularly in relation to clearing and settlement. Moreover, there were a number of unanswered questions, such as whether it could improve end-to-end processes. The proposal, was to establish this sub-group to develop this White Paper looking at these issues. 

 

In testing the hypothesis: Given the current wave of new requirements in the payments ecosystem in the UK, the operational efficiency of specific, collaborative parts of the payment systems and related processes could be significantly improved through the appropriate application of DLT, the White Paper concludes that:

  • The characteristics of DLT provide useful capabilities that could provide opportunities to transform the efficiency of specific Operational Pain Points (OPP) within payment processing.
  • In reviewing the priority of OPPs, the group found that the majority are too large or complex to fully investigate or address within the confines of the report. Further, a number of known inefficiencies within the payment industry could also be addressed using more conventional technologies. 
  • Significantly, the working group found that there are specific, shared databases within payment processing systems that could benefit from adoption of a DLT model. 
  • These are OPPs that require a collaborative approach and will deliver benefits to users. Moreover the working group’s DLT Clearing Away the Debris? report argues that such recommendations fit within the timescales of current strategic thinking in the UK’s payment industry, such as that of the Payments Strategy Forum. 
  • This report recommends further work to explore two reference data related OPPs: 
    • the UK’s Extended Industry Sort Code Database (EISCD) payments reference data database; and
    • a central sanctions register database. 
  • Establishing the applicability of DLT for these two specific OPPs would also provide validation for related uses, potentially for other forms of reference data, as well as other uses outside payments in the UK and for analogous uses in payments in other geographies. 
     

The report’s approach has been to kick-start discussion on OPPs facing the payment industry and how DLT can be used to address these areas of friction. Given the recommendations of this report are to explore further work, the report welcomes engagement, discussion and comment. More specifically, there is a case to explore these findings in further detail. For example, a proof of concept would be able to identify outstanding challenges and legal, regulatory, technological practical considerations. 
 

If you wish to comment on the WTT’s working group’s report or engage in their further work, all parties are requested to contact: tom.dunbar@paymentsuk.org.uk

 

Disclaimer: The findings, analysis, contents, recommendations and workings of the White Paper are not endorsed by any of the corporate entities, including Payments UK, who were involved in the discussions of the Whitechapel Think Tank (“WTT”) nor does it represent the views of any other organisation that is or has been involved or associated with the WTT. Any responsibility for loss or damage which may arise following reliance on this White Paper is excluded. This White Paper has been prepared solely for discussion purposes.