Italian Banking Industry Chose Decentralization Over Centralization

The Italian Banking Association, or ABI, uses a blockchain-based system called Spunta, built with decentralization in mind.

In a recent panel, as part of a digital Unitize blockchain conference, ABI chief innovation officer Silvia Attanasio explained why the banking entity chose to go the decentralized blockchain route for Spunta — its blockchain solution built on enterprise blockchain platform Corda. 

If ABI had gone the decentralized route, the entity would have needed to locate a centralized party to gather and manage a large amount of data on various fronts, Attanasio said on the July 8 panel, noting ABI’s rationale behind choosing a decentralized approach.

“It wasn’t so easy to identify a single actor that could have run the centralized solution,” she said. 

Spunta is a way to transfer information

The Associazione Bancaria Italiana, or ABI — also known as the Italian Banking Association, operates as a central hub on behalf of Italy’s banks, Attanasio said. The entity decided to transition into a blockchain-based format called Spunta. 

“Spunta is a reconciliation process based on bilateral account,” Attanasio explained, noting the system as a method of operation behind the scenes. “It is about an exchange of information rather than an exchange of value,” she added.

The ABI unveiled the blockchain-based concept in June 2019, pointing to a March 2020 launch date. The system, known as Spunta, essentially enhances processes around settlement and dealings between banks.

Beginning with 32 banks, the ABI initiated its transition over to Spunta on March 1, Attanasio detailed. “I’m particularly proud, especially as an Italian, that we set this date, I think in March 2019, and we were so punctual,” she said. “We didn’t have one single day of delay,” she noted. ABI has also added additional banks since March. 

“By October 1, the old process will be dismissed and the old rules will be cancelled,” she said. 

Spunta’s decentralized approach changes the old format 

“We wanted to transform the process, to reshape the process, in order to include some key component of the distributed paradigm, and this was made possible with the distributed solution,” Attanasio said. This, as opposed to a centralized format requiring each bank to hold its data, transferring that data to a single centralized database from time to time. 

ABI did, however, choose a permissioned blockchain structure, instead of a permissionless one that allows participation from anyone. The choice stemmed from the entity’s position in the banking sector and the importance of trusting specific parties with information, Attanasio explained. 

Over the past few years, a number of other mainstream entities worldwide have recognized blockchain’s potential, exploring various solutions with the technology, including Walmart, JPMorgan Chase bank and a host of others. 

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