Santander is piloting an international payment app powered by the Ripple consensus ledger.
The lender claims to be the first bank in the UK to use distributed ledger technology to power international payments. The pilot is currently being rolled out internally to 6,000 staffers, with the intention of introducing the app to the wider client base by the end of the year.
The app is also supported by Apple Pay, which is used to confirm payments securely using Touch ID. The transfers can be worth between £10 and £10,000 and made in pounds, euros and US dollars. Currently, payments made in euros can be sent to 21 countries and US dollar payments to the US only.
This marks a further move towards a cashless system of money transfer. “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,” says Sigga Sigurdardottir, head of customer and innovation at Santander.
“As an early adopter and pioneer in the banking industry, Santander is the first bank in the world to transfer real funds externally. In doing so, they are creating a new, exemplary standard of service,” says Chris Larsen, Ripple CEO.
While the Ripple network is often called a blockchain, it works in a slightly different way. Like the bitcoin blockchain, it is a distributed, immutable ledger that records unique transactions, but the ledger is not open to the public and the asset transfer is not created and stored in the “blocks” that make up the bitcoin blockchain. Ripple’s ledger is a closed transaction network that uses a consensus protocol (a different process than the bitcoin mining) to settle transactions instantly.
Sigurdardottir believes the distributed ledger technology will play an increasingly important role for the bank. “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,” she says.
A 2015 paper published by Santander Innoventures and co-authored with Oliver Wyman and Anthemis Group suggested that the distributed ledger technology could cut banks’ costs related to cross-border payments, securities trading and regulatory compliance by between US$15bn and US$20bn per year by 2022.