Buy-Side Technology Awards 2017: Best Distributed-Ledger Technology Project—Symbiont

Symbiont repeats as the Best Distributed Ledger Technology Project


Symbiont wins the category for the best distributed-ledger technology project at this year’s Buy-Side technology Awards, repeating its feat from last year when the category was first introduced. Symbiont currently has two projects where the buy-side is involved: a syndicated loans initiative where it has partnered with 19 financial institutions including four buy-side firms, and a distributed ledger program with the state of Delaware known as the Delaware Blockchain Initiative. .

Caitlin Long, Symbiont president and chairman, says the buy side is attracted to projects that level the playing field. “I think we offer a truly decentralized platform where there are no gatekeepers,” says Long. “The buy side is attracted because a lot of the technology they use, say for syndicated loans, are prescribed by the originators of the financial instrument, the sell-side. They don’t have much choice in which technologies to use. But with distributed ledger, it’s an even playing field.” 

She adds that some distributed-ledger projects often have “supernodes” or assigned gatekeeper roles to sell-side institutions, but the projects Symbiont so far has initiated do not feature such nodes. The firm recently upgraded the multi-layer privacy feature of the syndicated loans blockchain project. It partnered with Credit Suisse and R3 for the proof-of-concept. Long says it was done to ensure that buy-side firms are able to hide their identities in transactions yet be transparent to regulators. She adds that stability enhancements to the platform were also added in order to be able to meet Credit Suisse’s go live date of 2018. The project was first announced in September 2016 and the proof-of-concept was deemed a success in March. “It’s been our goal to provide value to the buy side and be the premiere distributed-ledger provider,” says Long.

Speaking broadly about distributed-ledger technology, Long feels the hype cycle has moved ahead of reality, so people might see a slowdown in projects being launched and may even see some shelved. But this does not mean that these blockchain experiments have failed, just that the technology is now in the evaluation phase before being scaling up. “Enterprise blockchain has to go through a high due diligence so there is a perceived slowdown. It’s easier to do a science project than to get it out so that’s where enterprise blockchain is now,” she says. “All the hype has gone to initial coin offerings but that’s really because people are in the process of evaluating current projects, particularly since these are regulated markets. It just takes time to implement.”

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