Bank of America’s chief technology officer (CTO), Catherin Bessant, sees no beneficial interaction between finance and blockchain technology. The CTO was speaking to Bloomberg TV during the Daybreak: Americas show.
However, the CTO noted that blockchain might have use cases in other industries.
“I believe that there are use cases that make sense today, we have yet to find them at scale in financial services.”
BoA Is either “Confused, Lost or Lying”
It is these bearish sentiments on blockchain and the actual standing of the bank that Anthony Pompliano, co-founder and partner at Morgan Creek, said it indicates confusion.
In a tweet, Pompliano noted that although the CTO claims to have found no blockchain use case in Finance:
“They have filed more patents for blockchain that any other bank though. Either they are confused, lost, or lying.”
True to Pompliano’s words, the Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the world with estimated revenue of slightly above $90 billion and more than 50 million consumers, has filed over 40 patents related to blockchain technology.
In seemingly conflicting positions, the CTO, in June last year, said:
“We’ve got under 50 patents in the blockchain/distributed ledger space…we want to be ahead of it [blockchain] we want to be prepared.”
As of July 2018, BofA had 45 live patents according to data from the Blockchain Intellectual Property Council which falls under the United States Chamber of Digital Commerce. BofA’s patents outnumbered those filed by IBM, a technology-focused company.
However, the number of patents filed by the BofA could be more than 45 seeing that in December 2018, it filed another patent.
As per the patent:
“Blockchain technology may be used by automated teller machine to accelerate transaction speed and/or facilitate other types of transactions in addition to ATM transactions like cash withdrawals and deposits… additionally or alternatively, automated teller machine may use blockchain technology to track transactions.”
Why All the Patents without A Use Case?
Being the CTO at BofA for almost ten years and working for BofA since 1982, her sentiments on blockchain technology begs the question, why all the patents then?
From a distance, the bank may end up not using the use cases described in the patents. But, BofA is without a doubt seeing a future in blockchain related systems prompting it to register a technology although with no plans to use it at present.
In 2016, the CTO, while speaking to CNBC, said that the patents are meant to “reserve our spot even before we know what the commercial application might be. As a technologist, technology is fascinating. We have tried to stay on the forefront.”
The bank’s unclear stand on blockchain has spilled over to its view of cryptocurrencies. Early last year, it announced that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies endangered its business model since cryptos are “speculative and risky.”
While the CTO sees the technology as “fascinating” and wants to “reserve” a spot, the bank’s former employee of 11 years, Michael Wueher, who now works at Consensys, notes the patents are meant to provide an impression that the bank is technology-oriented. Thus, BofA is either “confused, lost” or lying that it is even serious with the technology.