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Ex-Thomson Reuters CEO: 'Big banks feel they can be fast followers' on blockchain

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The former CEO of financial data giant Thomson Reuters said on Monday that big banks are experimenting with blockchain but are unlikely to use the technology on a large scale any time soon.

Tom Glocer, who ran Thomson Reuters between 2008 and 2011, told the Conensus conference in New York on Monday: “The big banks all feel they can be fast followers.

“The right strategy at the moment is not to take your entire equities franchise and suddenly push it onto the blockchain because of the inefficiency, because of the security issues, because of the environmental impact as well. But rather to run a series of controlled experiments.”

Glocer sits on the board of Morgan Stanley but said he was not speaking on behalf of the bank.

Since leaving Thomson Reuters, Glocer has focused on investing in areas including financial technology and was an early investor in US cryptocurrency company Coinbase.

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“If you ignore it forever, one day it sneaks up on you and it may be too late so I think what we see lots of banks doing are running lots of small experiments,” Glocer said.

“Societe Generale did a small Eurobond doing the whole issuance on blockchain, not because they’re about to turn over their entire fixed income business but because they want to understand how it works, they want to play with the technnology, they want to question. I think for the moment that’s what you’ll see the large institutions do.”

Blockchain is a form of shared database technology first popularised as the underpinning of bitcoin. It can be used regulate things like transactions and information security and allows people to cut out middle men.

The Consensus conference Glocer appeared at is an annual gathering for the cryptocurrency sector.