Wednesday 25 January 2017 4:54 pm

Is blockchain a "new operating system for the planet"? Barclays vice chairman Jeremy Wilson thinks so

Blockchain has the potential to become “a new operating system for the planet” in a generation’s time, while mainstream commercial use is likely to happen within the next decade, one of Barclays’ top executives believes.

“I don’t think I’ve heard it mentioned as anything other than a significant opportunity,” said its corporate banking vice-chairman Jeremy Wilson.

“It will change not just finance, but the lives of everyone. Our view is that if it’s that significant, we better get our heads round it.”

Read more: The government has quietly been testing blockchain for benefits payments

Blockchain has “moved on from the hype cycle” to some serious applications, said Wilson, speaking at The Economist’s Finance Disrupted event on Wednesday.

Barclays is exploring the applications of blockchain and started trialling the distributed ledger technology (DLT) for trade finance transactions late last year and has been working with the department for work and pensions on a small scale test of the technology for making benefits payments.

“It’s moving much faster than we anticipated,” he said, but, “it won’t be anything less than five to 10 years” when we start seeing the technology fully in action.

Read more: The Royal Mint is putting gold bullion on the blockchain

A confluence of regulators and central banks getting on board with blockchain, as well as government adoption, could see the technology become mainstream beyond finance, Wilson told City A.M..

“If you add that all up together, that’s a new operating system. That’s the direction of travel,” he said. “It’s a 20 or 30 year game.”