IBM Scores Deal With US Credit Union Group to Use Hyperledger Blockchain

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CU Ledger, a consortium of U.S. credit unions that’s been experimenting with a range of private blockchains, has added one more to the list: IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric solution.

The consortium will use IBM’s tech to create “an immutable audit trail that can be used to create new business models and transform existing business processes for credit unions,” Big Blue said Monday.

In particular, the new solutions will be built for such services as identity authentication, compliance with know-your-customer (KYC) regulations, lending and payments, the tech giant said. The first blockchain-based services will be available to CULedger members “later in 2019,” IBM said.

However, the consortium told CoinDesk it will keep its relationships with previously announced partners R3, Hedera and Evernym.

“The use of a specific blockchain platform will be dependent on each particular application or use case that is being developed. Our partners, such as IBM, Evernym and Sovrin, each play a role within our overall strategy and solutions,” Julie Esser, CULedger’s chief experience officer, told CoinDesk.

“We are not replacing any of the relationships that we have previously announced,” she said. “CULedger is building a network of networks that will facilitate the peer-to-peer exchange of anything digital. As we continue to develop our solutions, there will be applications better suited for different networks, and CULedger will enable those networks to interact with each other.”

For example, CULedger is building an identity solution for its members leveraging the Hyperledger Indy platform (the code for which was developed by Evernym and contributed by the Sovrin Foundation). But the new KYC-related product will use Fabric (which IBM contributed to the open-source Hyperledger project), Esser said.

Past partnerships

Last May, the consortium announced it was going to use Hedera’s Hashgraph distributed ledger technology (DLT) to build a public system for cross-border payments. In December, CULedger also announced it was joining R3’s global network of companies building on the open-source Corda platform. The group also said earlier its identity solution MyCUID was developed with Evernym, an identity-focused blockchain company.

At the moment, CULedger isn’t building on Corda, Esser explained, but “there is an opportunity in the future” for the consortium to leverage R3’s tech. Evernym remains a key partner, providing the front-end solution for MyCUID. As for Hedera, CULedger “doesn’t have a specific use case at this time” in the works for Hashgraph, including the earlier mentioned cross-border payments, Esser said, but, “it is still on our roadmap.”

According to Esser, eight credit unions participating in CULedger now are piloting different use cases using MyCUID, including one for call center user authentication. The consortium has 38 member institutions overall, according to its website.

CULedger was first unveiled in 2016, led by the Credit Union National Association with 55 credit unions on board at the time. The consortium managed to hire away Mastercard’s executive vice president of North America markets, John Ainsworth, who became CULedger’s president and CEO in December 2017.

At the end of January, CULedger announced that it had successfully closed a $10 million A Series funding round.

Hyperledger image from Consensus 2018 hackathon, image via CoinDesk archives.

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