Australia: Norton Rose Fulbright hosts ASIC, CBA and ASX cutting-edge blockchain discussion
Last Updated: 3 May 2016

Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright hosted a wide-ranging and practical discussion by senior representatives of ASIC, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the ASX on blockchain technology and regulation. Held on 27 April, the 'Unlocking the blockchain' session focused on the potential applications of blockchain and distributed ledger technology and the key legal and regulatory considerations for those wishing to use the new technology.

Norton Rose Fulbright APAC head of technology and innovation, Nick Abrahams, and consultant Tessa Hoser joined the panel alongside Michael Eidel, Executive General Manager Cash-flow & Transaction Services, Commonwealth Bank; Amanda Harkness, General Counsel, ASX; and Mark Adams, Senior Executive Leader, ASIC.

Mr Abrahams commented:

"Blockchain will radically impact the financial services sector. With the work done by the ASX, CBA and, even our regulator, ASIC, Australia has truly taken a global leadership role in exploring the opportunities of this disruptive technology. As with any innovative and disruptive new technology, the regulatory developments that sit alongside its adoption are front-of-centre in the minds of many of our clients. Our expert panel led a detailed discussion about how to unlock value from blockchains, what is happening now and some of the regulatory issues arising."

Mr Eidel focused on the importance of identifying how blockchain will help to remove client's pain points in end-to-end processes. "Trade finance and simplification of the many layers in supply chains are likely to be among the first sectors where cost efficiencies and better customer outcomes could be achieved by using blockchain technology," Mr Eidel said.

Mr Adams noted that ASIC had already met with over 50 start-ups and other interested parties regarding the blockchain sector.

From an ASX perspective, Ms Harkness noted that ASX's investment in Digital Asset Holdings was part of a project aimed at bringing the efficiencies of blockchain technology into its settlement of listed shares transactions. She said that the collaborative networks that have been established in the blockchain community seemed to represent a different way of developing real-world applications for that technology.

Wrapping up the event, Ms Hoser commented:

"Key issues remain in establishing appropriate regulatory settings, both domestically and internationally, regarding blockchain technology, but there are promising signs of collaboration between the various regulators. The ability to use distributed ledgers to hold information for "know-your-customer" checks could result in quicker and safer identification processes in a range of transactions."

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