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Deutsche Bank Says Blockchains Can Help Weather Margin Pressure - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 06, 2024

(Bloomberg) -- The blockchain technology underlying the digital-asset sector provides an opportunity for banks to respond to the margin compression across financial services, according to Deutsche Bank AG.

The German lender recently began testing a platform based on the Ethereum network, crypto’s key commercial highway. The platform offers digital services for tokenized funds through Project Guardian, a Monetary Authority of Singapore initiative exploring potential liquidity and efficiency benefits from blockchains.

“It will help us stay relevant, because with the kind of margin compression impacting the overall financial services industry, the only way one can survive is by innovating,” said Anand Rengarajan, the bank’s Asia-Pacific and Middle East head of securities services and global head of sales. 

Blockchain and smart contract-based solutions can lower costs, transaction times and risk, he added. Smart contracts are self-executing software programs built on top of blockchains to help deliver financial services.

Fee Pressure

Fund managers face continued downward pressure on fee income as passive investment products capture greater swathes of the market. The average asset management fee in 2023 was 22 basis points, down from 25 basis points in 2015 and 26 basis points in 2010, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group.

Project Guardian is a collaborative effort by policymakers and finance firms to explore tokenization use cases across fixed income, asset management and foreign exchange — and a cornerstone in Singapore’s efforts to establish itself as a global blockchain hub.

First unveiled two years ago, companies experimenting under the initiative include JPMorgan Chase & Co., DBS Group, Ant International, Standard Chartered Plc and T. Rowe Price Group. They are aiming for industry standards for tokenization in areas like cross-border forex settlement and bond trading. 

Tokenization refers to the process of creating blockchain-based representations of real world assets. Citigroup Inc. has estimated the tokenization market could swell to $5 trillion by 2030, spanning the likes of bonds, property and private equity. The sector remains a nascent one and unproven at scale.

Multi-Year Investment

Through its platform, Deutsche Bank will offer record-keeping services to help issuers of tokenized funds keep tabs on investors, custody arrangements and valuations, according to Rengarajan. 

The service is meant to be interoperable so that any fund manager can use it regardless of what blockchain underpins their tokenized fund. The project remains a proof-of-concept for now, Rengarajan added, but ultimately the bank hopes to commercialize it. 

“The investment that we will make over the next two to three years and what we made in the last two to three years should pave the way for a good commercial future,” he said. 

Deutsche Bank partnered with Swiss crypto technology firm Taurus SA last year to begin work on a digital-asset custody service. That’s part of a trend of major financial institutions continuing to explore crypto and blockchains for commercial potential.


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