Blockchain: The Right Reaction to the Chain

Blockchain: The Right Reaction to the Chain

British academic Michael Mainelli was already working on blockchains years before the term even existed. He explains why he finds the term “blockchain” inapt and describes what will remain of the actually not-so-new technology once the euphoria subsides.

June 24, 2016. It’s been clear for a couple of hours now that the UK will leave the EU. Stock and currency prices are nosediving, politicians and the media are in an uproar, and the telephones at SIX Swiss Exchange are ringing off the hook. Otherwise, there is nothing in the Zurich stock exchange building that betrays any indication of the tensions behind the scenes. Today the big display board in the foyer is the only visible sign of ongoing trading. Securities tickers and numbers rhythmically scroll across it at a moderate pace – electronically, continually and silently. Gabriela Rytz remembers when things were different. In the mid-1980s, the then 20-year-old used to sprint up and down a steep staircase a hundred times a day at the old Zurich stock exchange on Bleicherweg. As a “ticket runner,” she shuttled phoned-in buy and sell orders from her bank’s office on the first floor down to the trading floor, where the floor traders clustered around the ring, deafeningly shouting out prices for the orders handed to them. “Not every security was continuously traded during open outcry sessions,” Ms. Rytz recounts. “As a ticket runner, under no circumstances could you miss a time slot. When the alphabetical sequence came to a non-continuously traded security and an order for it was pending, I had to rush it down to the ring.”

Fast and at the Best Price
Incoming orders – information transmission – trade execution: What was once purely physical in 1985 is today taken care of by computers. SIX Swiss Exchange’s electronic platform executes trades in the blink of an eye, reliably and always in line with the same rules. The elapsed time is measured at a constant 37 microseconds. The bustle on the trading floor and the shouts of traders are a thing of the past. “Our electronic trading system is predic- table and ultrareliable,” Swiss Exchange Division CEO Christoph Landis says. “No trader needs to price in risk premiums for uncertain information. Bid and offer prices correspond to supply and demand.”