The World Bank is betting big on blockchain-based bonds

cbaThe World Bank has announced that it has hired CBA, one of Australia’s biggest banks, to manage what it calls the “first bond globally to be created, allocated, transferred and managed” using a blockchain.

It is one of the clearest signs yet that distributed ledger technology, the decentralised way of storing and building blockchains, is going mainstream.

The bank, which issues between $50bn and $60bn annually in bonds to fund sustainable development in emerging economies, believes that blockchain technology can make the process more efficient by reducing the number of necessary intermediaries.

It did not say when bond-i, the new ‘blockchain operated new debt instrument’ apparently named after the Australian beach, will launch – but investor interest “has been strong,” according to a press release.

Using distributed ledger technology, best known for underpinning the bitcoin crypto-currency, would help simplify capital raising and trading and improve regulatory oversight, the World Bank and CBA said

“This pioneering bond is a milestone in our efforts to learn how we can advise our client countries on the opportunities and risk that disruptive technologies offer,” World Bank chief information officer Denis Robitaille said in a statement.

Sophie Gilder, head of blockchain at Innovation Labs CBA, added: “We know blockchain has the potential to revolutionise financial services and markets, and this transaction is a significant step towards that future state.

“By working collaboratively with the World Bank, we were able to find solutions to technical and legal considerations to make this ground-breaking transaction a reality.”

Unlike Bitcoin, where anyone can engage in mining, the process of verifying new transactions, the World Bank will use a private version of Ethereum in which validators must have permission. The computing infrastructure will run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

The idea of using blockchains to manage bonds is gaining traction. Last year, a company in the UK issued a bond using Ethereum’s public blockchain. The city government of Berkeley, California, is exploring the use of blockchain technology to issue municipal bonds.

The World Bank’s endorsement of the idea is the highest-profile one to date.