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PwC Launches Vulcan, a Compliance-Oriented Blockchain for Banks and Governments

This week, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) launched Vulcan Digital Asset Services, a new blockchain-based platform designed for all sorts of digital transactions. The platform has an emphasis on identity verification and compliance services that, PwC hopes, should make it attractive to banks and financial service providers.

“Vulcan is a cloud-based platform that enables banks and corporates to offer a suite of new digital currency related products and services to individual, retail and institutional customers within a trusted, transparent and compliant ecosystem,” said Robert Allen, PwC Director and Vulcan Lead, in a PwC Australia press release. “It is the first of its kind globally and has been created to bring digital assets and currency to the mainstream.”

Vulcan’s services include digital asset wallets, international payment processing, and investment and trading services. The platform will soon offer point-of-sale and merchant services, and the ability to create and support native digital currencies and rewards-based systems. The brand new Vulcan website describes the platform as “a next generation infrastructure, fusing financial and commercial services by using ground-breaking developments in digital currency technology.”

The Vulcan platform is centered on the Vulcan blockchain, a distributed ledger that creates an immutable, auditable record of all transactions that take place on it. The platform’s identity verification services include “user authentication and validation against government sources.” Its login and key management mechanism create “an online identity that can then be biometrically linked to the customer through the onboarding process.” From the description, it appears that Vulcan is designed to enforce traceability of all transactions and a real name policy. In fact, the Vulcan platform includes a compliance and regulatory reporting module.

“Vulcan’s platform provides institutions with the ability to use Netki’s identity standard, to immediately comply with existing regulatory requirements,” said Justin Newton, CEO at Netki, the digital identity startup that collaborated with PwC for the development of Vulcan. He added that Netki provided “the only open standards way to meet sanctions list and other risk and compliance needs around knowing your customer’s counterparty.” Besides PwC and Netki, enterprise blockchain solutions provider Bloq, and Libra, the blockchain integration, reporting, compliance and analytics provider, participated in the development of Vulcan.

“Traditional financial services companies have taken a cautious approach to digital currencies because of the perceived issues with trust and transparency,” said John Shipman, PwC’s Fintech Asia Leader. “Vulcan came about because we were looking at these issues in relation to Bitcoin — the poster child of digital money — and in particular, how we can solve challenges relating to the issues of anonymity and existing regulatory requirements, and recourse given its cross-border nature, lack of central control and function as a store of value.”

Vulcan aims to be a single platform that permits users to transact cheaply and quickly on the Vulcan blockchain, while at the same time eliminating anonymity and providing full legal, compliance and regulatory risk management and reporting. With Vulcan, it seems evident that PwC is targeting banks, financial service providers, and even government agencies that want to experiment with next generation distributed ledgers without sacrificing the ability to track and monitor user transactions.

“Vulcan is a secure, transparent and regulatory-compliant platform that takes care of these risks and technical challenges so banks and corporates can safely transition to this new market structure supported by distributed ledger technology,” added Shipman. “We’re already running several pilots within multiple industries looking at capturing digitized assets within our trusted wallets, as well as issuing customer reward points as digital money. We’re also working with governments to see how these services can enhance transparency around humanitarian aid programs, through the use of smart (programmable) money.”

The PwC press release adds that Vulcan is currently being piloted by an international banking group and a central bank, and is being assessed by an airline and three other multinational banks.

It’s worth noting that, as reported by Bitcoin Magazine in June, PwC was one of the first firms to partner with the Bank of England (BoE)’s fintech accelerator, aimed at mainstreaming blockchain technology and planning for its introduction to the overall economy. While the Vulcan press release doesn’t go into details, it seems plausible that the BoE could be the central bank piloting the platform.

The launch of Vulcan can be seen as one more step in the ongoing mainstreaming — but also taming of — distributed ledgers. It remains to be seen, however, if Vulcan and similar initiatives will be able to achieve the powerful network effect of the disruptive, untamed Bitcoin blockchain.

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