Mixed Views as MasterCard Goes Blockchain

It is not the first time a major financial corporation will enter the blockchain space in a similar fashion but is Mastercard’s foray into the space going to be anything different? The payment service provider announced a strategic partnership with R3 enterprise blockchain software provider to bring blockchain-enabled payments to businesses across the globe. The idea is to focus on connecting global faster payments infrastructures, schemes and banks supported by a clearing and settlement network operated by Mastercard.

The new platform, whose announcement has attracted expert takes from blockchain industry leaders, is to help develop and pilot a new blockchain-enabled cross-border payments solution to tackle industry issues like costly payment processing, liquidity management and a paucity of standardization and connectivity between banks and domestic clearing systems.

While an argument could be made that investments like this are driven by a need to either protect against disruptive change or improve on models to tackle a sector of high growth, the co-founder of Cypherium enterprise-ready blockchain solution says Mastercard’s blockchain interest is not new. Rather, Sky Guo, submits that the difficulty lies in “distinguishing institutional recognition of this valuable technology from corporate appropriation.”

“On one hand, we can’t survive as new financial systems without meaningful recognition from and conversation with legacy systems, such as MasterCard and other centralized goliaths,” Guo says. “On the other hand, these technologies — especially the public blockchains — pose a very real threat to the business models of a number of these companies, and in order to quell their disruption, giants like MasterCard want to absorb crypto projects on their own terms.”

However, he hints that there may be little need for the kind of private distributed ledger technologies JPMorgan, Facebook and, now, MasterCard propose if blockchains scale to their full extent. He adds:

“The true killer Dapp will make obsolete these private networks; it will be faster and cheaper to use while returning financial economy to its users; that is the promise of Bitcoin that so many new chains are trying to fulfill. So one can see that their motivation in entering the space is, at least partially, guided by their need to street the conversation, to dictate the way in which blockchain technology enters the world. For now, though, blockchain must support and participate in these projects.”

For the CEO of Findora, Charles Lu, Mastercard’s proposed move to develop a blockchain-based cross-border payments platform is a welcome move – though it is not clear yet whether the proposed initiatives will go beyond proof-of-concept. He believes tech giants like Mastercard “play an influential role in encouraging the acceptance of cutting-edge technologies”. Hence, the news is symbolic of Mastercard’s willingness “to challenge the status quo and seek solutions to improve current payment systems”.

“Change is on the horizon and, as technology continues to evolve, we are witnessing cryptographic breakthroughs including zero-knowledge proofs, multiparty computation, and scalability solutions — all of which have the potential to shake up the financial industry as we know it.”

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