It's not exactly clear what blockchain will amount to, but Capgemini is convinced it will be too good an opportunity to miss.
"We see big uses for blockchain, and it's a driving force to invest in this space right now," said Nilesh Vaidya, senior vice president at Capgemini.
Capgemini has already done some early work with financial institutions on blockchain, using the technology to update systems that power retail and commercial banking, and insurance. Capgemini’s experience has turned it into an evangelist for the technology.
In the coming months, Capgemini plans to expand its team of blockchain specialists, who will pan out to provide consulting and technology services such as feasibility studies, business cases, operational models, advisory services and systems architecture and integration.
As the early service menu suggests, the technology is still looking for its ideal use case. And time is of the essence. Companies like Visa, Nasdaq, Citi Ventures, Capital One and Fiserv are also aggressively putting money into blockchain technology, and Microsoft and Deloitte are offering open development techniques for third parties to build applications off of blockchain.
"When you compare it to the Internet, the first exchange of information was impossible to quantify," Vaidya said. "With blockchain, we are at the point of use cases flying around, the goal is to find out quickly what's working and what's not working."
Blockchain, a distributed ledger system commonly associated with bitcoin, has proven attractive to members of the investment and banking industries that want to replace third parties with a secure network to power data accumulation and sharing.
In the payments space, Capgemini is looking at new applications that improve the transactions that fund low value lending, and adding efficiency to cross border transfers.
Blockchain-powered international transfers are already taking off.
Venture capitalists are funding startups that use blockchain to take steps out of international transfers, such as Align, which uses email to conduct transactions and blockchain to move funds across borders, allowing users to pay in their own currencies. Ripple is also applying its blockchain technology to power international transfers.
"There are multiple solutions in this space. We want to help them achieve proper scale, right now there is a lot of good concepts and technology, but they need to be 'industrialized'," Vaidya said.
"We have contacts with fintechs and can act as a broker between large institutional clients and fintechs," said Jeroen Holshcher, the payments leader at Capgemini.
The cross border services are designed to remove correspondent banks and other parties that can extract fees from payments and slow processing. Blockchain facilitates this goal by providing greater transparency, said Andy Schmidt, an executive advisor at CEB, who called blockchain the "most disruptive and enabling" technology to enter the payments market in a generation.
"One of the main challenges with transactions such as remittance is not knowing exactly how much money will arrive at the final destination," Schmidt said. "In a blockchain the fees are transparent."
Capgemini also hopes to use blockchain move beyond transfers into other services tied to payments execution and processing, such as authentication.
Blockchain will play a substantial role in the payments industry because of its ability to reduce inefficiency, Schmidt said, adding any "opaque" payments product can benefit.
"There are so many things blockchain can do," Schmidt said.