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Nasdaq, LHV Bank, Technology Startups Develop Blockchain-Based Fintech Applications in Estonia

Op-ed - Nasdaq

The leading stock exchange Nasdaq is no newcomer to the brave new world of blockchain technology. In May, Bitcoin Magazine
reported that Nasdaq would begin experimenting with the blockchain technology that powers Bitcoin, starting with a pilot project in Nasdaq Private Market , a marketplace that handles pre-IPO trading among private companies.

Interestingly, Nasdaq didn’t plan to develop an alternative blockchain. Rather, the company said that it would leverage the colored coin protocol Open Assets, which works on the original Bitcoin blockchain. In June, Nasdaq partnered with San Francisco-based bitcoin API startup Chain to implement the Bitcoin blockchain technology. 

Nasdaq is scheduled to launch the pilot project operationally later this year, helping companies keep track of the shares they issue and enabling them to almost instantaneously settle transactions, Nasdaq Co-President Hans-Ole Jochumsen, said in an interview reported by Reuters.

Jochumsen added that Nasdaq is planning to develop several blockchain applications through its operations in Estonia. Nasdaq owns the Tallinn Stock Exchange, Estonia's only regulated secondary securities market, as well as the Estonian Central Securities Depository (ECSD).

The ECSD administers share registers for all joint stock companies operating in Estonia, as well as all securities and pension accounts opened in the country and other electronic securities, such as private company shares, bonds and securities transactions histories. The ECSD also provides clearing and settlement services for securities trading, payments of corporate dividends and interest, and other securities-related services.

"[Estonia is] a smaller country, so it's not very complex in size, and there is a government that is very keen to use technology,” said Jochumsen. “They claim that they are in the forefront of using technology in the public center worldwide."

Estonia is, indeed, a leader in deploying advanced communication technologies in the administration and public services sectors. In 2014, Estonia invited anyone, anywhere, to become an e-citizen of the Estonian digital society, open a bank account in Estonia, or start a business. The Estonian e-Residency program, launched on December 1, 2014, is an innovative and potentially disruptive initiative that enables anyone with an Internet connection to establish a financial base in Estonia, with no need of being physically present.

Banks and startups in Estonia are developing financial service applications based on the blockchain, which use the same technology – colored coins on the Bitcoin blockchain – selected by Nasdaq, and could be related to Nasdaq’s initiatives in Estonia.

In particular, LHV Bank is developing CUBER (Cryptographic Universal Blockchain Entered Receivables), a new kind of certificate of deposit designed to be used to store or generate value, transfer value, manage liquidity and automate transactions between machines, which can be used as a building block for innovative financial products, Finextra
reported in June. LHV claims it is the first bank in the world to experiment with real programmable money, issuing receivables in the form of colored coins.

In parallel, LHV Bank set up fintech technology startup Cuber Technology, which together with Swedish “blockchain 2.0” company ChromaWay is developing the IOS and Android app Cuber Wallet for fast, free, peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile fiat currency payment.

Both CUBER and Cuber Wallet are built on top of open colored coins technological standard and at the moment use the bitcoin blockchain as a database.

“The potential of CUBER is huge – think telecommunication industry developments last 20 years,” said Rain Lõhmus, CEO of Cuber Technology. “How many new cool applications we are daily using have come out from Development Departments of telecom companies. No, they are coming from startups. This is possible due to the widespread usage of decentralized TCP/IP protocols. We hope CUBER can do something similar to financial industry – liberate innovation from organizational borders, truly decentralize it. And true innovation in financial sector will flourish.”

“Our partnership with LHV Bank and the product Cuber is a milestone,” notes the Chromaway website. “[It] is the first time an established financial [institution] issues assets on the blockchain.”