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Itaú doubles down on blockchain bet in innovation push

Itaú doubles down on blockchain bet in innovation push

Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco has doubled down on its blockchain bet through an agreement with Ripple, a firm aiming to facilitate global payments through the power of distributed ledgers. 

The São Paulo-based bank recently became one the 100-plus members of RippleNet, the blockchain firm’s platform, the tech firm announced in a statement February 21. Ripple allows firms to process payments anywhere in the world ‘instantly, reliably and cost-effectively,’ according to the statement.

Itaú’s blockchain play started back in 2016, when the firm became the first Latin American bank to partner with R3, a firm focused on developing blockchain-based technologies.

When the partnership was announced, Itaú said it would collaborate with R3 in the research, experimentation, design and product engineering needed to advance distributed ledger technology. 

Other firms joining the blockchain bandwagon through Ripple include Brazilian remittance provider Beetech, as well as firms from Singapore, India and Canada.

Overall, emerging markets have become some of the world’s largest remittance markets, with Brazil settling $600 million into banks and money transfer services from the US, according to the statement.

‘When financial institutions adopt blockchain technology for payments, it lowers both costs and transfer times for their customers, which is crucial in developing countries where financial flexibility is limited,’ according to the Ripple statement. 

Crypto clearing

In other moves, Citi Private Bank said at a roundtable attended by sister pulication Citywire Switzerland that it was looking into how to apply blockchain for the clearing and settling of cryptocurrency transactions. 

Philip Watson, the bank's managing director of its global investment lab and chief innovation officer, said at the February 21 event that the project was in early stages. 

Citi Private Bank doesn't currently offer crypto trading but has seen interest from clients. 

Additional reporting by Citywire Switzerland's Margaryta Kirakosian.

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