Building the future together

Feature | 8 September 2016

Over the course of 2016, the blockchain has been everywhere. Everyone has heard about it and progressively understands how revolutionary it is. Marie-Caroline de Bignicourt provides an overview of a BizHackathon organised
recently on the topic

What will the blockchain bring to all of us? How will it change our lives? Our roles? Our environment? If we all feel that the blockchain has the potential to change the role of trusted third parties, many questions remain on the governance model (private versus public), the scalability, the regulatory and legal impacts, the different protocols, their evolution and their integration with legacy systems.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain: with the blockchain, peer to peer transactions can be performed with full transparency, security and audit trail. If banks are concerned about the topic and have started to figure out the implications of this technology, so are corporates. Depending on the future landscape of the ecosystem, the consequences for them might be structuring in the near future.

The environment is moving quickly, more than expected, and all actors have a role to play in the development of new solutions. This is why BNP Paribas decided to fully involve its corporate clients in the thinking process and launched the "CIB blockchain Sprint" - involving corporates, experts and bankers, to think and move forward together on the subject.

The Bizhackathan, a first step in the blockchain sprint

The blockchain Sprint started with a two-day BizHackathon that took place in January 2016. Three main objectives were pursued during the event:

  1. Education on the blockchain concept
    The topic is not easy to understand, especially for non-technical profiles. Understanding the blockchain main concepts, their potential applications and which subjects blockchain start-ups are working on, was one of the key objectives of the event.

  2. Co-designing solutions
    We wanted clients to be the drivers of new solutions: starting from their pain-points and their needs is the best way to build our future together. Hence clients and experts were both fully involved in this event.

  3. Elaborating of concrete use cases
    The objective of the BizHackathon was to build up concrete cases. Each team delivered a specific use case detailed through a story board, a KPI analysis, a pitch and a poster.

Six teams including clients, blockchain experts, consultants, facilitators and various BNP Paribas staff members worked intensely together across two days. They went through successive phases ranging from ideation, selection, sharing, to pitching, failing, pivoting and starting again.

Each team worked on one of the streams listed below:

  • Cash management

  • Trade finance and documentation

  • Supply chain upstream/Inventory Management

  • Supply chain downstream/Payables and Receivables

  • Commodity Financing

  • Open accounts

A common approach

The participation of corporate clients in the BizHackathon was key to keeping clients focused and helping them identify service improvements to define new solutions. The blockchain experts supported the teams in this exercise.
They presented the different possibilities brought by the technology and helped them think from a different angle. Each team was encouraged to build a concrete use case in line with the client's expectations and the bank's ambitions, and harnessing the blockchain potential.

The BizHackathon was the starting point of another great adventure: The Blockchain Sprint. All use cases are now subject to further in-depth analysis, prototyping and development of proofs of concept. The organisers decided to move on in a very agile way by using a mix of lean start up and design thinking methodologies.

Each team is now moving forward together with experts, clients, BNP Paribas staff members; the ambition is to deliver the first Proofs of Concept no later than July 2016. All the corporates involved in the BizHackathon were keen to pursuing the adventure. Sharing our ambitions with others, we realised that many clients and other corporates were curious about this approach and prepared to co-develop new services.

What's next?

New stakeholders have been onboarded onto the project since January and we are working with them on the core functionalities of the first Proof of Concept. One Proof of Concept has already been built on the cash management side and a live client test is planned to begin shortly.

Leveraging on corporates, experts and banks networks, and applying agile methodologies, the initiative is generating a real enthusiasm and an incredible energy. People are happy to build together, each of them bringing a point of view and a specific expertise.

Such partnerships create trustful relationships and win-win outcomes, in which corporates are involved in the launch of new services from the very beginning. The door is open to any newcomer willing to take part in this adventure!

Marie-Caroline de Bignicourt is head of Transaction Banking 2.0 at BNP Paribas

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