World's Largest Bank ICBC of China Moves Toward Blockchain

Although it may not be a household name in various other parts of the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is nonetheless a colossal figure in the global banking scene. ICBC, founded in 1984 and, by certain metrics, the largest bank in the world, will reportedly include a greater focus on developing blockchain technology, according to its chair. Among other focal points that Chair Yi Huiman described, according to Coin Telegraph, are big data, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) innovations.

Smart Banking and Blockchain

ICBC has been focused on so-called "smart" or "intelligent" banking since 2017. In an effort to find use cases for smart banking, ICBC aims to improve service in the global financial world and to increase security of financial data which may be shared with third parties. Given the natural tendencies toward anonymity, immutability, and data sharing, blockchain seems like a strong tool to use in pursuit of the goal of developing smart banking technologies and applications.

Chinese Authorities

At the same time, though, the Chinese government remains broadly opposed to digital currencies in many ways. Since September of 2017, China has tightened regulations on digital tokens. However, authorities have been much more open to the possibilities inherent in blockchain technology; indeed, China is actively developing blockchain technology for use in many different industries. Earlier in the summer, the Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County of Sichuan Province partnered with Beijing Sinfotek Group to establish a new blockchain company designed for "forestry economic development and industrial poverty alleviation," for instance. The Communist Party of China also recently released a blockchain primer which details many of the potential applications of this new technology.

Specifics about how the ICBC hopes to utilize blockchain technology in its new projects remain sparse at this time. With more than 5,000 corporate and 530 million personal customers, however, ICBC has the opportunity to dramatically impact the financial world both inside and outside of the digital currency space. If ICBC were to fully embrace blockchain technology, it would mark a crucial turning point toward the long-term and broad integration of blockchain into everyday business and life.

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