Today Dutch bank ING announced its latest results with an upbeat performance with a first quarter net profit of €1.1 billion ($1.25bn) including increased lending of €8.7 billion ($9.7 bn) and net deposit inflows of €4.8 billion ($5.4 bn). The bank’s blockchain initiatives were worthy of a notable mention by CEO Ralph Hamers. The company has been active in progressing Zero-Knowledge Proofs, an important privacy tool used in blockchains.
“We took several steps in blockchain and distributed ledger technology to further improve our offering and client experience,” said Hamers in the statement. “For example, we made codes we had created to ensure data privacy even faster, safer and easier to use with a new release called Bulletproofs. These codes, which are open source, were successfully used in the first quarter in a proof of concept with a university in the Netherlands.”
A typical example of Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKP) involves the ability for someone to prove they are of drinking age without providing their date of birth. Last year ING unveiled Zero-Knowledge Set membership which would enable someone to prove they have a salary within a certain range without disclosing it, or that they live within the EU without saying which country.
Two weeks ago ING unveiled Bulletproofs. The latest initiative addresses many of the ZKP weaknesses one of which is slow performance. Plus ZKP requires a special setup, which if compromised, undermines the privacy.
“Usually, zero-knowledge solutions require a trusted setup. This means that the secret value is known by the creator of the setup parameters and can be used to the creator’s advantage. It’s one of the reasons why currently there are limited cases of zero-knowledge proofs in production,” explained Mariana Gomez de la Villa, global head of ING’s blockchain programme. “Because Bulletproofs don’t rely on a trusted setup, parameters can be generated without a secret value, providing a higher degree of trust for all the users on the blockchain.”
Plus the invention has been open sourced. There have been other Zero Knowledge breakthroughs that address similar issues, including Starkware which was founded by the inventors of ZK Snarks. However, Starkware is not open source. And recently one of the co-founders, respected former Israeli Technion Professor Eli Ben-Sasson, was sued by the university alleging Starkware was based on university research.
Breadth of ING’s blockchain involvement
Back to ING’s financial announcement, CEO Hamers continued re blockchain: “ING is also co-developing a platform called MineHub to help clients in metals and mining to lower costs, increase transparency and contribute to sustainable production and trading. Our work does not go unnoticed. We rank fifth among global listed companies with the highest blockchain potential for 2019 in Forbes.”
Apart from Minehub, ING is also rumored to be involved in an initiative with the London Metals Exchange (though it’s conceivable it could be the Minehub one). ING is also a shareholder in VAKT the post-trade blockchain for the oil industry.
Plus ING is a participant in three out of four of the major international trade finance initiatives: komgo, Marco Polo, and Voltron. And it’s a significant financial backer of TradeIX, the developer behind Marco Polo which is based on R3’s Corda platform.