The week that was: 29 January – 2 February

John casts a weary eye over some of the week’s news stories.

Blockchain! It’s all blockchain all the time folks and now everything you own has been put on the blockchain, along with what’s left of your patience. As January shuffles back into hibernation for another year and February slumps indifferently into sight, the blockchain buzz has started up again with a vengeance.

This year is, for many, when blockchain will finally be introduced to the markets. Subsequently, the European Commission (EC) has decided it would quite like to be involved in that process, albeit from a distance, through the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum.

Never mind that the EC is only now getting involved at a more granular level with blockchain – yes, they have already funded research projects and will continue to do so, but let’s not allow facts to barge into this – but it’s chosen moniker provides a concerning insight into how the initiative will function.

“Observatory” and “Forum” imply passivity; watching, discussing and deliberating without action. Blockchain development projects, on the other hand, have bounded forward with all the enthusiasm of a toddler that’s just consumed half its body weight in refined sugar.

The EC’s brainchild will form part of its wider approach to and support of FinTech growth across Europe, which in itself is worthy endeavour, but there is still a clear distance between the regulatory and governmental parties and the work being done on the ground/in the labs when it comes to blockchain.

It’s also odd that the EC would choose ConsenSys, a US-based software vendor, as its technology partner on this. While I am not in any way suggesting the firm is incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities of furthering the development and eventual adoption of blockchain in Europe, perhaps selecting a European-based firm may have been a better fit for a Eurocentric project.

In the meantime, the blockchain train continues to chug merrily on, with Crédit Agricole dipping its toes into the frothy waters by taking a minority equity stake in multi-asset, multi-currency institutional payment and settlements service, SETL.

The French bank says the partnership will help to build out the work it has already carried out on blockchain in conjunction with SETL and marks its first investment in an external FinTech company, marking it out as something of an outlier in an industry where sell-side institutions have been gobbling up FinTech startups for some time now.

There has been a plethora of other news this week – including Europe’s CCPs passing the second round of ESMA stress tests with only a couple of concerns, Citi announcing it will begin accepting exchange tradedfunds as collateral, and the usual raft of people moves – but quite frankly, my brain is squishy from blockchain burnout and it’s time for have a nice lie down.