Credit Suisse Perspectives

Hackathon Anyone?

The starting signal of HackZurich will soon be given. Some 550 developers will be able to work on different business cases, including one from Credit Suisse. To stimulate its own employees to come up with new ideas, Credit Suisse holds internal hackathons.

HackZurich, Europe's largest and most renowned hackathon, unites developers from around the world to create a web, mobile, or desktop application within 40 hours. The 2017 edition, where 550 tech talents are set to unite, will be launched on Friday, September 15 at 3:00 p.m. at the Technopark in Zurich. Participants will then be able to choose between the different business cases presented, including the one from Credit Suisse. There may therefore be several teams working on the case. The teams then have until early Sunday morning to present their application to an internal jury – composed of representatives of the company whose case they have been working on – and to an external jury – composed of ten representatives of the industry.

Support from Start-Ups and Established Players
HackZurich's participants will enjoy technical and theoretical support from innovative national and international companies, ranging from start-ups to established giants, from a wide range of different industries. This will give them the opportunity to work with the latest technologies and to apply their knowledge and experience in practice. HackZurich's participants will also be helped by the various workshops held during the event that gives some input on how their business cases can be resolved. Credit Suisse, which is among the partners of this exciting event, is holding a workshop on the subject "Your smartphone knows you best - ask it!"

Credit Suisse Hackathon with Focus on Blockchain Concepts
Internally, Credit Suisse also holds hackathons. "Such events enable our employees to be creative and work on the latest tech challenges such as blockchain. This gives our developers the chance to experience cutting edge solutions, which eventually could shape the future of the entire finance industry and impact all of us," said Ray Mulligan, Chief Architect at Credit Suisse's Global Markets division. For instance, a blockchain hackathon where the bank's developers were challenged to come up with creative blockchain concepts and solutions was held at seven locations across the globe earlier this year. Teams made up of a total of 142 developers across seven departments spent 48 hours establishing a portfolio of innovative blockchain ideas aimed at shaping the bank's future and maybe even the entire industry's future. The guideline given, "+20:20-," was precise: Build applications or programs that can reduce Credit Suisse's costs by 20 percent or more in 20 months or less. "In just two days we saw how quickly our developers were able to design and build blockchain-enabled applications that show the potential for this technology to drive significant efficiency and savings gains for the bank," said Ray.

Innovative Blockchain Solutions Hatched
The 30 teams came up with various ideas such as a mutualized and distributed know your customer (KYC) database, to cite just one idea. Team "Blockchain Gang" from New York, composed of five members, including Prasad Chaturvedula, were among the five winning teams. "We identified a problem we all were very familiar with – internal reconciliation – and tried to create such a platform using the de-centralized ledger concept of the blockchain that would drastically reduce the need for internal reconciliation," Prasad said. "The bank currently uses multiple systems to book trades and payments, generate and settle cash, so there is always a need for central reconciliation. We tried to put three systems on a blockchain to avoid the central point," he explained.

Blockchain Faces Security and Legal Issues

Another winning team, Team Satoshi based in Pune, India, came up with a securities lending platform on a blockchain. "We used Corda – a blockchain platform available for open source development – to develop our application," said team member Parth Patni. Corda is offered by R3, a blockchain consortium with more than 75 of the world’s largest financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, that plays an active role in shaping blockchain standards. "Our idea will unfortunately not go further right now due to legal and security issues that need to be sorted out before being implemented," added Amey Jadiye, another team member. The five team-members, however, all agreed that the hackathon had been great fun. "We got a lot of exposure to the business side and gave multiple presentations to stakeholders, including the CIO of the bank’s Global Markets division, Steve Hook," Mihil Ramaiya said. "It was a refreshing experience and nice to focus on something else than our daily work tasks," echoed Prasad from New York.

Technology that Can Shake up the Financial Industry

Credit Suisse has been an integral part of the ongoing blockchain revolution since its early days. To keep a finger on the pulse, Credit Suisse joined R3, a consortium of the biggest financial institutions founded to conduct research in the field of blockchain. Simultaneously, internal studies are performed to explore its innovative uses.