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technology

Ex-Barclays Chairman Walker Joins Blockchain Startup SETL

Ex-Barclays Chairman Walker Joins Blockchain Startup SETL

  • Investment banker Caroline Silver will help SETL raise cash
  • SETL's COO Randall was CEO of the Chi-X Europe stock market

A financial technology startup has enlisted heavyweights from Barclays Plc and Moelis & Co. as it seeks to differentiate itself in a much-hyped sector.

QuickTake Bitcoin and the Blockchain

The company is called SETL, and it’s seeking to overhaul the transfer of assets using the blockchain, the encrypted digital ledger that makes bitcoin work. SETL has appointed Sir David Walker, the chairman of Barclays until April this year, as its own chairman, according to a statement on Tuesday. He previously chaired Morgan Stanley International and worked as executive director at the Bank of England.

SETL has also enlisted Moelis’s Caroline Silver, a banker who advised on the sale of NYSE Euronext and the London Metal Exchange, to raise funds for the company. Walker will begin his role after the company has finished raising funds.

To its fans, blockchain is the future of finance -- a way to complete transactions in seconds or minutes, instead of days. It could displace creaky back-office systems, but for all its promise, blockchain has yet to be integrated into mainstream finance.

Most of the companies involved have little in the way of revenue or demonstrable products. Blockchain startups and initiatives targeting capital markets have attracted about $105 million of spending so far, according to Aite Group LLC, a consultancy.

Participants in the industry have used high-profile hires, partnerships with top-tier banks and money from investors to document their progress in the still nascent sector. R3, headed by former ICAP Plc executive David Rutter, has agreements with 25 of the world’s largest banks. Digital Asset Holdings LLC arguably started the fever for blockchain when it hired former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Blythe Masters as chief executive officer in March.

SETL has built a functioning blockchain and demonstrated it using payments data provided by the Bank of England. The system is designed to work alongside existing infrastructure without forcing institutions to replace their current systems.

Unlike the original bitcoin concept -- which relies on an anonymous, widely distributed system of computing -- SETL’s ledger consists of a network of known users.

“We are moving along very rapidly in terms of implementation,” said SETL Chief Operating Officer Peter Randall. “We can show a functioning system. We can show a phased approach. We can show experience in innovation. Those are things which not all firms talking in this space are able to demonstrate.

“We say that we believe the SETL blockchain will do to payments and finance what the container did to shipping and world trade,” said Randall, who used to be CEO of the Chi-X Europe stock market, which helped open European equity markets to competition in 2007.