Following today’s launch of Partior in Singapore, the blockchain-based interbank payment network founded by JP Morgan, DBS Bank and Temasek, we spoke to Jason Thompson, Partior’s CEO, about the startup’s roadmap and governance.
Less than a month into his role, Thompson’s focus is on what Partior can do in the next year. To that end, the current priority is in three areas. Firstly to enable the top 15 currencies, beyond the Singapore Dollar and U.S. Dolar currently live. Next is to onboard more settlement banks and their participating banks. Bahrain’s ABC Bank was mentioned during the launch. Additionally, there’s a need to get service providers operational to enable the ecosystem.
The Euro and Sterling are next in terms of currencies, potentially with the Yen and Renminbi to follow.
We asked about handling foreign exchange and liquidity and Thompson clarified that’s not Partior’s role. “We’re an infrastructure and technology provider,” said Thompson. “The licensed aspect of the transactions still continue to sit with the banks.”
In the early days, the applications that will be addressed include wholesale payments, intraday FX and Payment versus Payment (PvP or atomic foreign exchange). “In the intraday FX and PvP space, we will very much need to partner,” said Thompson.
There will be two types of applications. Some will benefit the entire network, whereas others will be confidential projects for specific partners.
Longer term, Partior aims to participate where there’s a value exchange between participants. ‘Value exchange’ is a pretty broad term when talking about blockchain and tokenization. For now, the focus is on money, including “programmable money through central bank digital currency (CBDC)”.
As an aside, a previous cross border wholesale CBDC trial between the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Banque de France used JP Morgan’s Onyx solution. More recently, MAS has been working with multiple central banks on its M-CBDC solution Project Dunbar which it said would use multiple blockchain technologies.
Back to Partior, in the three to five-year timeframe, its focus on money may expand to tokenization more broadly. So potentially, that could include the exchange of other tokenized assets, be it debt, equity or something else.
Turning to governance, one of the general criticisms of enterprise blockchains is their permissioned nature can restrict participation. Sometimes there are concerns – often unfounded – that a network could bias towards a founder.
Thompson stated that Partior is independent of its founders, which you’d expect him to say. However, one of his comments was particularly persuasive because of incentive alignment. Partior has pretty grand ambitions to be a major settlement platform globally. “We do not want to become polarised,” said Thompson. “If we become polarised, we’ll become boutique. And that’s not the aim.”
To make that happen, there are four sets of governance groups
- The company’s board
- The Partior Product & Strategy Group
- The Network Partner Group
- The Tech Evangelist Group
The board is currently primarily represented by the founders and management, but there are plans to expand. The Product and Strategy Group will canvas partners, but the decision making is internal. “We need to own that,” said Thompson. “If we outsource our strategy and our product, it’s going to be very difficult for us to navigate.”
Perhaps the most interesting is the Network Partner Group, where the aim is to have a Chair independent of the founders. This group will determine network governance, rules, and how people join.
“For me, it is very important that nobody is isolated from joining,” said Thompson. “And once they’re participating on the network, there is equality.”
The final group will also be independently chaired and aims to bring together industry participants to tackle technical innovation challenges.
One of the themes that came through repeatedly was the need for independence and interoperability. “There is no polarisation to our founders. This is a management team looking at what’s right for Partior. Not JP Morgan, DBS, Temasek, but Partior,” said Thompson. “And they’re very clear for me that that’s the way I should be operating.”