Nov 16, 2022
Australian Bourse Pauses Delayed Blockchain Project After Review
(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s main exchange is reassessing plans to replace its settlement and clearing platform with a blockchain-based system after reviews, suspending work on the years-long project that’s been plagued by delays.
ASX Ltd. will revisit all aspects of its work to swap its Clearing House Electronic Subregister System, known as CHESS, for newer technology following an independent review by Accenture Plc and its own internal assessment, the Sydney-based firm said in a statement Thursday.
“While ASX is keen to embrace technology that benefits the market, it’s clear we need to revisit the solution design as well as validate and test the feedback from the independent review to assess changes required to bring the project to market safely, efficiently and for the long-term,” said Helen Lofthouse, ASX’s chief executive officer.
The high-profile plans had been seen as a major coup for the blockchain industry, but came under scrutiny following a string of delays, several millions of dollars of investments and leadership reshuffles at the exchange. Accenture’s report identified a slew of problems with the project, including unclear timelines, design complexity and communication snags.
Read: Blockchain Scores Major Win as Aussie Exchange Plans Shift
Startups and clearing houses have been testing out blockchain systems in a bid to cut down settlement periods to hours from days. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., the main clearing house for US equities, has rolled out a platform built on blockchain as part of a goal to replace its current system.
The way ASX wanted to implement the technology “was very challenging, because essentially what they have tried to do is replicate an existing infrastructure,” making the project more complex, said David Ferrall, chief executive officer of market infrastructure firm FinClear.
The bourse will write off A$245 million ($165 million) to A$255 million in pre-tax costs related to the project in the first half of the financial year, the company said. Its shares have dropped 24% in 2022, underperforming the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index’s 4.2% decline.
Regulators are closely monitoring ASX’s ongoing management of clearing and settlement under its licenses, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Reserve Bank of Australia said in a joint letter to the exchange.
--With assistance from Suvashree Ghosh.
(Updates with additional context starting in 5th paragraph)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.