In 2017, Banque de France launched MADRE, a project using blockchain to improve the interbank system to enable the exchange of Single Euro Payments Area ( ) creditor identifiers between Direct Debit ( ) scheme participants. Today, four large French banks have already joined the project and three more are on the way. We interviewed Stéphane Kunesch, Deputy Head of Banking Services at the Banque de France to find out more about MADRE.
First, how would you describe MADRE for those who are not familiar with the project? What was its underlying vision?
We have been following blockchain initiatives in the financial sector and, given the widespread interest in this technology and its disruptive potential, we decided to go a step further and adopt a hands-on approach.
We decided to prototype in Le Lab (our innovation centre), then test and go live with a limited number of counterparties on a noncritical, relatively low-requirement and limited-scale application, MADRE, that aims to share the repository of Creditor Identifiers (SCI) between banks.
Could you elaborate on the key challenges faced by the MADRE project?
The absence of standards and interoperability is a key challenge that could stop the implementation of large-scale blockchains.
Another challenge may be confidentiality: public blockchain solutions are the most advanced to date but do not natively match all banks’ business requirements.
Finally, decentralisation raises governance issues on a strategic as well as an operational level. A blockchain project requires a reengineering of the business process and re-think of the relationship between all parties.
Could you share the most significant achievements, benefits and lessons of the project?
Overall, we got a better understanding of blockchain. We did confirm our ability to use the blockchain technology to cover a simple but real business use case.
We went live on this blockchain in 2018 with four other large banks. Since the launch, no incident or bug has been registered and the blockchain has proved its robustness.
Another lesson is that an interbank blockchain could actually be a vehicle to transform the interbank relationship, but there is still a lot of work ahead and strong collective endorsement will be required to implement it!
And lastly, what are the next steps for MADRE and more generally for the use of blockchain by Banque de France in the coming years?
The first step is to ramp up the extension of MADRE by reaching one hundred percent of all French SCIs created by banks connected to the blockchain.
We are also looking forward to sharing our experience with other banking communities.
Other potential use cases must be analysed to check whether there is, under the current conditions, a business case for implementing other services on the interbank blockchain.
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