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May 27, 2016

Santander looks for positive Ripple effect by becoming first bank to pilot blockchain payments app

News: App will connect to Apple Pay.

By James Nunns

Blockchain technology has finally broken into the banking sector after Santander launched an international payments app.

The bank is introducing the technology in order to facilitate international payments of between £10 and £10,000 at any time of the day.

Providing the blockchain technology underpinning the app is Ripple, a company which Santander Innoventures has invested in, something which highlights Santander’s two pronged approach to fintech, invest and collaborate.

Sigga Sigurdardottir, Head of Customer and Innovation at Santander said: "The need for finance has evolved from providing a physical Pound in your pocket or card in your purse, where you pay at a till, to being seamlessly integrated into a new, always on, connected lifestyle.

"At Santander we work hard to ensure our banking is simple, personal and fair and believe new Blockchain technology will play a transformational role in the way we achieve our goals and better serve our customers, adding value by creating more choice and convenience."

Currently the app is being rolled out to staff as a pilot but the plan is to expand the technology at a later date, suggesting that it will eventually become available to customers.

After downloading the app, users will need to complete a profile before they can start making payments. The app will connect to Apple Pay and users will be able to confirm payments by using Touch ID.

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Payments can be made from GBP to EUR and USD and payments made in EUR can be sent to 21 countries.

Blockchain technology has appeared as a potential technology that could significantly change how banks operate. However, until now it has typically been trialled in proof of concept tests in sandbox environments.

Banks such as HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Barclays for example have been testing blockchain technology to be used for smart contracts, but nothing appears close to becoming a live deployment.

Companies such as Red Hat, Microsoft, IBM, and Deloitte, have all revealed tools, developer programmes, and services that are aimed at pushing the technology closer to real-life use cases.

Banks are looking at the technology as a way of improving the transfer and value of data by making it more accurate and faster.

As with any new technology, security has to be a priority. Santander says that all transactions are recorded uniquely so that it can help improve fraud protection.

The bank said in its release that security and regulatory compliance is central to all activity that is undertaken at the bank, going on to assure potential users that the app has gone through the same rigorous testing as with all its technology.

Santander will be hoping that the introduction of the technology will help it to fend off competition from the likes of TransferWise, a digital payment business, in addition to other fintechs that have been faster to take the plunge with blockchain and other technologies such as cloud computing.

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