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This Startup Beat Out IBM to Put RBC’s Rewards Program on the Blockchain

When Chris Finan left his job as a cybersecurity advisor at the White House, he used his experience to build a blockchain technology and security startup in Silicon Valley, and he convinced the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to hire his team at Manifold Technology, over blockchain giant IBM, to put RBC’s rewards program on the blockchain.

The young startup told Bitcoin Magazine they’ve accomplished “what large corporations have yet to do.”

Manifold Technology CEO Chris Finan said:

“Manifold Technology (with little funding) just accomplished what big corporations (like IBM, Accenture, PwC, etc.) have yet to do: deploy the first large-scale blockchain for a global bank (Royal Bank of Canada). Our team helped a big bank move quickly in an area of tech that is emerging and often criticized for being theoretical and too complicated.”

While RBC is still working with IBM on an ongoing project with SecureKey on identity management (which uses IBM’s blockchain service), they decided to go with a smaller startup to rebuild their rewards program.

A representative from RBC told Bitcoin Magazine:

“We are working with Silicon Valley–based Manifold Technology on a number of exciting new functionalities that could be provided to clients as part of the bank’s loyalty program, RBC Rewards.

“This beta release represents one of the earliest blockchain releases in our industry, which will result in our clients enjoying more real-time data about their RBC Rewards account and a better user experience.”  

RBC was convinced that the scalability and security of Manifold’s blockchain was ideal for a program like RBC Rewards, and that they could get all the benefits of blockchain technology without changing either the bank’s basic infrastructure or its customer experience.

Ultimately RBC was convinced by Manifold that their blockchain technology was more secure than any database could possibly be.

Eddy Ortiz, RBC Solution Acceleration and Innovation manager, commented:

“We connected with Manifold Technology early in our blockchain journey as they had significant blockchain and security expertise that helped us better understand this technology and enable capabilities much faster. Manifold is one platform that we are working on, but we also have significant knowledge about Ethereum and Hyperledger.”

Manifold Technology Creates Its Own Private Blockchain

Although an RBC official told Bitcoin Magazine the technology running the rewards program was “proprietary,” Finan was able to give us some information about their new private blockchain.

“We’ve developed our own platform to achieve the scalability that we knew banks would eventually prioritize. Based on our security experience, we also felt like we needed to build from scratch to architect a platform that would be able to provide the security and resiliency guarantees financial institutions will need,” said Finan.

“RBC was comfortable with a product approach, which says a lot about their culture in my opinion, and they liked the robustness of our platform.”

Manifold is counting on their private blockchain to become a banking industry standard, although a number of experts have said that private permissioned blockchains defeat most of the purpose of using blockchain technology.    

Finan commented: “We make no qualms about our belief that banks need a platform that is centrally operated with transparent governance to provide the assurance and reliability their customers have come to expect, while offering the highest possible throughput.”

ShapeShift’s Chief Information Security Officer Michael Perklin agrees with Manifold Technology that a properly implemented blockchain with securely managed keys can be significantly more secure than a centralized database.

Perklin told Bitcoin Magazine, “If RBC is indeed moving their rewards program onto a blockchain, that’s exciting news.”

However, while acknowledging he is not familiar with Manifold’s technology, Perklin had a number of questions about how it would work, including how reward points would be transferred.

Regarding Manifold Technology’s decistion to use a private blockchain, Perklin commented:

“Of course it’s possible to make a blockchain closed and proprietary, but then end-users will have difficulty accessing it from the public internet.

“In almost all cases that I’ve ever seen, private blockchains make the application more complex, less efficient and more expensive than a centralized database,” he added.

Manifold’s view is that the current scalability problems with Bitcoin along with Ethereum’s vulnerability as shown with the DAO hack leave the field open to a new blockchain solution.

Manifold has patented their private blockchain and says it is currently working with a large Asia-Pacific bank and several healthcare multinationals to develop an application that will offer greater data privacy and security.

“We see the real future of this technology as an embedded service within infrastructure, so much of our focus is now building partnerships with cloud service providers and enterprise data management companies to provide our platform in their suite of offerings,” said Finan.

“We also believe our patents are going to give us an important advantage as institutions begin to think about longer-term production deployments.”

Jessie Willms

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