Visa joins firms bet­ting on tech­nol­ogy be­hind Bit­coin

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Visa Inc. will soon have a team of engi­neers at its Ben­galuru of­fice to use blockchain, the tech­nol­ogy un­der­ly­ing all cryp­tocur­ren­cies in­clud­ing Bit­coin, to im­prove its dig­i­tal pay­ments pro­cesses, a top ex­ec­u­tive said.

The world's largest elec­tronic pay­ments net­work's de­ci­sion to em­brace blockchain comes at a time when banks around the globe from BNY Mel­lon to UBS are look­ing at ways to use the tech­nol­ogy to make trans­ac­tions more ef­fi­cient and se­cure.

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Tata Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices Ltd and In­fosys Ltd have also stepped up their in­vest­ment in the tech­nol­ogy and started to look at ways to build ap­pli­ca­tions around it; al­most a third of the work done by In­dian IT firms is for global banks. "For now, the fo­cus of this tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion cen­tre will be on Visa Check­out and mVisa (Visa's two new dig­i­tal mo­bile pay­ment prod­ucts), but for cer­tain, In­dia will soon have teams that will jointly work with our two re­search labs in US and Sin­ga­pore in study­ing the many as­pects of blockchain," said Ra­jat Taneja, ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent of tech­nol­ogy at Visa Inc.

Blockchain is es­sen­tially a dis- trib­uted data­base used to make se­cure trans­ac­tions that is cur­rently be­ing used by cryp­tocur­ren­cies, in­clud­ing Bit­coin and Rip­ple, and helps in au­then­ti­cat­ing trans­ac­tions. Blockchain tech­nolo­gies could cut banks' in­fras­truc­tural costs by up to $20 bil­lion a year by 2022, ac­cord­ing to Lon­don-based ven­ture cap­i­tal firm San­tander In­noVen­tures.

"Blockchain tech­nol­ogy is cur­rently the most dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy in the fi­nan­cial space, and its ad­vent is very sim­i­lar to the In­ter­net 20 years ago," said Canada-based tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tive and en­tre­pre­neur Wil­liam Mouga­yar, who along with ven­ture cap­i­tal firm An­dreessen Horowitz has in­vested $1 mil­lion in a start-up fo­cused on cyp­tocur­ren­cies.

Ear­lier this year, Visa hired a for­mer Google sci­en­tist, Min Wang, to lead the re­search teams from its San Fran­cisco of­fice, and Taneja said the com­pany has al­ready started work on blockchain. Visa, which out­sources its tech­nol­ogy work to In­fosys and other In­dian firms, said it is open to "work­ing jointly" with some of them on how to build ap­pli­ca­tions around blockchain. For now, Visa has not started work with any In­dian IT com­pa­nies as it is still "early days", Taneja said.

Last month, pro­fes­sors from Palo Alto- based Blockchain Univer­sity con­ducted a week-long work­shop at In­fosys's My­suru train­ing fa­cil­ity to help young en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates un­der­stand the po­ten­tial of blockchain.

In­fosys's prin­ci­pal tech­nol­ogy ar­chi­tect Man­ju­nath Chin­ta­mani had ear­lier taken a two-month course at the univer­sity to un­der­stand the scope of the tech­nol­ogy. In­dian IT firms' fo­cus on blockchain and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence-pow­ered plat­forms ( Wipro ush­ered in AI plat­form Holmes ear­lier this year and TCS launched Ignio in June) are pri­mar­ily on ac­count of a slow­down in tech­nol­ogy spend­ing by com­pa­nies across the world.

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