09.19.2017
By Rob Daly

Buy Side Must Raise DLT Game

The “wait and see” strategy that the majority of asset managers are taking regarding distributed ledger technology will come back and bite the buy side in the long run.

Of the estimated $1.5 billion invested in the more than 700 blockchain-related fintech firms at the end of 2016, only 10% had been made by the buy side, estimated Ian Hunt, a business advisor who spoke at the 2017 Linedata Exchange conference in Manhattan.

Hunt attributed the sell side and custodians desire to dominate the development of the technology and service model as a defensive play. “They do not want to be disintermediated,” he said Hunt. “And the more that we let them do it, the more they will do it.”

The buy side is not lacking for resources that would allow it to dominate or even have the influence it should.

According to Hunt, the buy side’s revenue has been twice that of the sell side since 2014.

A handful of the largest global asset managers like Blackrock, Fidelity, Henderson Global Investors, and Vanguard have invested in the new technology. However, it still is early days with a few proxy-voting and private equities platforms in production.

These early implementations are not going to change the world and deliver the cost savings promised by the technology, according to Hunt.

“When there is talk about blockchain upending the global financial system, it assumes that there are many things already in place,” said fellow panelist Daniel Meisner, senior director, platform head of data and ecosystems at Thomson Reuters.

Hunt and Meisner expect that it will take the financial services industry between five and ten years before the buy side see the expected cost savings benefits of distributed ledger technology.

“The weight legislation and regulation needs to be addressed,” said Hunt citing the example of the EU’s regulation for Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities funds that require the participation of custodians.

In the meantime, Hunt and Meisner disagree whether distributed ledger technology has passed Gartner’s “peak of inflated expectations.”

“Some people are doing big projects and finding that the projects are not as straightforward as they thought,” said Hunt.

For Meisner, the industry finally will turn the corner once the discussion turns towards problem-solving rather from the technology. “It should be ‘We are solving this problem and, by the way, we are using blockchain to do it,” he said.

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