Today blockchain startup Billon Group announced it will run a pilot with Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) to digitize bank account cash as RBI Coin. This follows a previous proof of concept by the two firms when Billon participated in the RBI Elevator Lab. The Austrian bank with 16.7 million customers has its main activities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), where it may potentially use the RBI Coin.
The project leverages Billon’s Digitized Distributed Cash system, which enables tokenization of national currency. We previously reported that Billon has an e-money license in Poland and the UK. Perhaps the highest profile projects in this area are JPM Coin and Fnality, but there are plenty of others. For example, Daimler and Commerzbank piloted digital cash for machine payments. But all three of these are focused on payments for other blockchain platforms.
Here the focus is more on pure payments to make them faster, more transparent so that customers can check the status themselves and ultimately reduce exception handling. The latter often arises when there are intermediary banks and there’s a hold up because of anti money laundering queries. The benefits have similarities to Ripple’s on demand liquidity offering, but it does not require the use of a cryptocurrency.
“Billon is a great example of a fintech that understands how to adapt blockchain to serve the needs of banks and their clients,” said Stefan Andjelic, Blockchain Hub Lead at RBI. “Specifically during the COVID-19 situation, banks need to partner with fintechs to innovate faster and help clients with payments processing and liquidity needs.”
The startup recently raised $6 million in its Series A, including backing from payments giant FIS. Billon’s previous high profile announcements related to document management solutions for a Polish electricity utility, a bank, an insurer and the main Polish credit checking bureau.
Billon expects the pilot to complete by the end of the year, and apart from a differentiated product offering, it predicts cost efficiencies.
Raiffeissen has extensive blockchain interests. It’s a member of the Marco Polo blockchain trade finance network where it has conducted pilots. In Moscow, it launched a blockchain platform for the fast settlement of intercompany payments – an area that has attracted the interest of Fnality as well. Plus, it has participated in trials of the IVNO platform for digitizing collateral.