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Towards ambient accountability in financial services: Shared ledgers, translucent transactions and the technological legacy of the great financial crisis

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The consensus in the finance sector seems to be that the shared ledger technology behind Bitcoin, the ‘blockchain’, will disrupt the sector,1 although many commentators are not at all clear how (or, indeed, why). The blockchain is, however, only one kind of shared ledger and the Bitcoin blockchain works in a very specific way. This may not be the best way to organise shared ledgers for disruptive innovation in financial services. So what is? And why would financial services organisations want to exploit shared ledger technology? This paper sets out a simple shared ledger taxonomy and layered architecture designed to facilitate communication between technologists, businesses and regulators in the financial services world, and explains why the various forms of shared ledgers might be attractive to financial services organisations, borrowing the phrase ‘ambient accountability’ from architecture to suggest a new way to organise a financial sector.
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Keywords: ambient accountability; blockchain; financial services; shared ledger technology; smart contracts; transaction processing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2016

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  • Journal of Payments Strategy & Systems publishes peer-reviewed articles and case studies analysing best practice, emerging issues and new thinking in how to develop a profitable, customer-focused payments strategy. It examines major issues facing the corporate, wholesale and retail payments industry from a business, risk and operational perspective.

    Edited by renowned payments expert Alec Nacamuli and guided by an eminent Editorial Board, each quarterly 100-page issue provides practical, detailed analysis of developments and trends in the payments business, regulation, new entrants and technologies and how to bring them all together to define your payments strategy, as well as actionable advice and ‘lessons learned’ from fellow professionals on how payment processing systems can be leveraged to maximise profitability, security and efficiency and minimise risk. It contains no advertising and no advertorial.

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