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FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Weekly Global News Wrap: Banks take small steps to commercialise blockchain; Lenders welcome VR for trading, networking

And Italy's Treasury picks Bank of America, Orrick for struggling lender's privatisation.

From CNBC

After much hype in 2017, as the value of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin skyrocketed, lenders aren’t as vocal about new blockchain pilots as they were back then. But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped investing in the technology.

Banks have so far mainly opted to take some of the principles behind blockchain, adapting the technology for different use cases to crypto. The pandemic may have a role to play in spurring banks to roll out commercially viable blockchain products, according to Lex Sokolin, co-head of fintech at blockchain firm ConsenSys.

Sokolin added banks and other financial institutions are also now less hesitant to experiment with digital currencies as they once were. The People’s Bank of China is already testing a digital version of the yuan, whilst other central banks have laid out a framework for how such virtual currencies could work in practice.

From Reuters

Once the preserve of gamers, virtual reality (VR) has been seized on by the financial sector as a way of enlivening home working for lonely traders or isolated executives and replicating real-world sales, networking or training events.

Some practices could stick beyond the pandemic, particularly as home working becomes more widespread.

Swiss bank UBS has experimented with issuing its London-based traders with Microsoft HoloLens smart glasses, which it says allows staff to recreate the trading floor experience at home.

From Reuters

Italy’s Treasury has picked Bank of America and Orrick as financial and legal advisers to secure a merger deal for bailed-out bank Monte dei Paschi (MPS) as part of its privatisation plan, sources reveal.

Rome aims to clinch a merger with a healthier peer in 2021, the sources said, to provide a long-term solution for the bank, which has been backed by the government since 2017 following a $9.5b (EUR8b) rescue deal.

The Treasury’s efforts, however, face resistance from the co-ruling 5-Star party, as well as unions and local politicians in Tuscany, who have been asking for the sale to be delayed.

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