For those looking to work in finance, jobs at top investment banks are still among the most sought-after options. As much as these institutions have developed a reputation for challenging new, young employees with long hours and difficult work situations, they’ve also considered to be very rewarding in the long term - not to mention lots of young professionals use these jobs to gain experience (and money) before seeking MBAs. It’s a difficult path, but one that’s been taken by a lot of people who find a great deal of success at a young age.
That said, it’s also fair to ask if the very nature of these jobs is on the brink of significant change, and if they’re about to be more complicated. Specifically, we’re examining whether or not blockchain technology is ready to play a significant role in major financial institutions, and whether it should be part of your education if this is a field you’re interested in.
Very recently, reports have been circulating suggesting that top banks are investing $50 million in a digital cash settlement project. More specifically the indication is that these leading banks are building a “blockchain-powered digital cash system” in order to simplify and improve transaction settlement. Supposedly as many as a dozen major banks are involved, and while we don’t know which ones these are exactly, there’s speculation that some of the involved names are Credit Suisse Group AG, Barclays PLC, and Bank Of New York Mellon Corp. In a separate but related story, it’s also been confirmed that JP Morgan Chase is launching its own blockchain-powered digital coin, which it will call JPM Coin.
For those not familiar with blockchain tech and cryptocurrency, it’s easy to imagine an eye-roll at this point. These technologies have been around for years now, and most casual observers still don’t take them seriously. However, there are some subtle signs that perhaps they should, in fact, be taken more seriously.
For one thing, the cryptocurrency market is, as of this writing, gaining some confidence and reassuring investors in a very real way. Mired in a year-plus-long slump after its late-2017 surge, bitcoin - the leading digital currency - has had a strong 2019 thus far and has people feeling bullish about cryptos again. That doesn’t mean the strong run will continue, nor that bitcoin itself is necessarily a good investment. However, investors matter, and bitcoin’s strong but steady 2019 is helping to reverse the popular narrative that it’s too volatile to be taken seriously.
Another interesting factor to consider is that slowly but surely, cryptocurrencies are becoming more useful (and could in turn gain more value). The gaming market is an interesting example here, because it’s one in which cryptos have already gained a foothold, lost it, and are now making progress again (almost mirroring the price patterns).
At a certain point, bitcoin was accepted by multiple major game providers, and was responsible for some brand new online casino providers that only accepted cryptos. Then, the gaming giant Steam, run by Valve Corp., dropped bitcoin due to its volatility, and digital casinos run on PayPal gained dominance in the UK and elsewhere that casino gaming flourishes. Since these setbacks though, cryptos have proven resilient: There are still multiple gaming platforms (including Microsoft) that accept them as money, and there are more and more casinos allowing cryptos among their depositing options. This same thing is happening in multiple industries, indicating that cryptos are at least getting the chance to prove their use once again.
All of this adds up to what could be a more significant future for cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology than we might have expected a year or so ago. Stabilized prices, growing utility, and direct interest in the tech from big banks add up to a picture that’s worth paying attention to. And while it’s difficult to determine what specifically this is going to mean for big banks, it may be worth considering that the blockchain and cryptos are becoming more important areas of focus for prospective investment banking applicants.