Fitch Ratings Acknowledges Blockchain Technology Could Disrupt State Street’s Business

On August 22, 2017, global credit ratings and research firm Fitch Ratings released its rating outlook for State Street Corporation (State Street), affirming the financial services company’s Long Term Issuer-Default Rating, used to determine a company's credit risk, at AA-.

The AA- rating is indicative of relatively stable business operations. The report, however, cites the possibility of disruption caused by blockchain technology. It is the second year in a row that Fitch has suggested the possibility that the technology could allow another business to gain a competitive edge over State Street:

"State Street and its peer trust and processing banks are beginning to face risk of potential technological disruption from distributed ledger technology. More commonly referred to as ‘blockchain’, it is an electronic means of settling, reconciling, and reporting on client transactions, which is the core business of State Street and its peer banks. Fitch believes it is highly probable that State Street and its peer trust and processing banks will work to harness this technology to drive efficiencies across their respective platforms. However, it's also possible that over a long period of time a new entrant could offer an alternative distributed ledger solution that potentially disrupts the trust banks' business and erodes their barriers to entry, which would be viewed negatively from a rating perspective. At present, Fitch views this risk as well outside of the Rating Outlook horizon."

However, State Street, which is responsible for over 10 percent of the world’s assets, has not turned a blind eye to blockchain technology and has developed educational tools on its website. Earlier this year, the financial institution formed a partnership with the representative body for Ireland’s international investment community, Irish Funds Association, and Deloitte to assess the application of blockchain technology for regulatory reporting. Additionally, over the course of 2016, State Street tested a blockchain system for securities lending.

It remains to be seen what other use cases for blockchain technology State Street will develop, but it can be certain that the company will be working in a space that has a growing number of businesses interested in FinTech.