PwC has recruited 15 leading technology specialists to exploit and commercialise blockchain, the technology that powers the crypto-currency, Bitcoin. The new Blockchain team will be based in PwC’s Belfast office and is expected to grow to over 40 digital and technology specialists during 2016.
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The announcement comes just days after Sir Mark Walport, the UK’s chief scientific adviser urged the government to adopt the blockchain technology to run key public services like tax collection, benefits or the issuing of passports.
PwC’s decision to focus on blockchain technology represents a major step in the firm’s move towards developing FinTech (financial technology) solutions that are becoming a catalyst for change and innovation in the financial services industry.
Announcing the establishment of the Belfast Blockchain team, Steve Davies, PwC partner and EMEA FinTech Leader, said:
“There’s clear evidence that banks, institutions and even governments are looking at blockchain technology as a secure storage and distribution solution.
“Now there is growing interest and a real demand from our clients to help understand the implications of blockchain and how to respond to it. So, as the blockchain juggernaut continues to gather pace, PwC will be well placed to service our clients’ needs at a global level.
“PwC is now breaking new ground in developing radical FinTech solutions and these appointments represent the first stage of our plans to grow a world-class Fintech offering.
“We expect the initial core team of 15 experts to grow rapidly, with PwC in Belfast continuing to expand, exploit and deliver technology and digital solutions to global clients.”
While there is continued debate over the role of Bitcoin as a mainstream “currency,” the underlying blockchain technology, which consists of “blocks” of data in a digital ledger, is believed to be highly resistant to malicious tampering.
The NASDAQ exchange will soon start using a blockchain-based system to record trades in privately held companies, while Bank of England research suggests that blockchains could have far-reaching implications for the financial industry.
The UK’s technology sector is increasingly focusing on FinTech as offering radical and disruptive solutions to existing business models. The sector raised a record $3.6 billion of venture capital in 2015, with the FinTech sector accounting for almost a quarter of all investment raised by London-based tech companies.
However the impact of Blockchain is still underestimated by many in the financial services industry. PwC’s forthcoming Global Fintech survey polled 545 leading asset managers, FinTech businesses and key players in banks, fund transfer payment companies and insurers. Only 9% of asset managers are very familiar and just under 3 in 10 are not at all familiar with blockchain, the survey will say.
Welcoming the creation of the PwC Blockchain team, Ashley Unwin, PwC UK Executive Board member and UK and EMEA consulting leader, said blockchain technology could be the single greatest advance in the FinTech sector in a decade:
“Blockchain technology is worrying major players in the financial services industry as they don’t know where it will go or its potential to disrupt business models. However, in document delivery and settlement processing alone, it will offer significant cost reduction and efficiency gains.
“We are confident that these disruptive FinTech technologies will trigger a huge increase in demand for blockchain expertise and we intend to be a leader in exploiting these disruptive new technologies.”