Blockchain Tech Coming to Commodity Markets, Blythe Masters Says


(Bloomberg) — The blockchain is coming to commodity markets, Blythe Masters told guests at the London Metal Exchange annual dinner this week.

The virtual ledger technology underlying cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin promises greater confidentiality, fewer paper exchanges, better provenance and a boost in productivity, the former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive said in a speech at the gathering Tuesday night.

Masters, the wunderkind who made managing director at JPMorgan at 28, went on to become head of global commodities and helped develop the credit-default swap. Now as the chief executive officer of New York tech startup Digital Asset Holdings she’s pitching blockchain as a way to revolutionize supply chains.

“Supply chains are notoriously complex and inefficient,” Masters said. “This is especially true in the metals and mining industry where many operational and commercial practices remain inefficient and antiquated, leading to critical data omissions, security vulnerabilities, expenses, corruption, and unethical provenance.”

The technology is finding a natural home in commodity markets, where it’s seen as a means to track material through supply chains in gold, diamonds and oil. Banks including Standard Chartered Plc, which was ensnared by a scandal involving forged commodity-storage receipts, have said they’re looking at the technology to address the risk of multiple-invoice fraud.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to impact mining industry supply chains profoundly,” Masters said. There are “tens if not hundreds” of projects under way.

Masters addressed about 2,000 metals producers, buyers, brokers and investors at the dinner — a key event during LME Week. Previous speakers have sometimes used the opportunity to rail against the encroachment of technology into the LME, where prices are still set via an open-outcry trading ring.

“Blockchain facilitates the exchange of critical trade documents, bills of lading, letters of credit between connected users securely and confidentially,” Masters said. “Clearly the indications for metals mining, shipping, storage, and logistics industries are nontrivial.”

(Updates with further comments.)

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