UBS CEO has cryptocurrency doubts but is big on blockchain

Sergio Ermotti told CNBC that while UBS has seen success in its trade finance blockchain platform, he was “not necessarily” a believer in cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies still need to be "defined" but the technology behind them will be pivotal in transforming the financial services, the chief executive of Swiss lender UBS (Swiss Exchange: UBSG-CH) said Friday.

Sergio Ermotti told CNBC that while the bank has seen success in its trade finance blockchain platform, he was "not necessarily" a believer in cryptocurrencies.

When asked whether he liked virtual currencies, he said: "Not necessarily cryptocurrencies, I think that needs to be defined, but I believe there is a future for blockchain technology, and technology will play a big role in changing and reshaping our industry."

Also known as distributed ledger technology, blockchain allows data to be stored across a network of computers around the world rather than at one single location.

UBS has been involved in a blockchain project — called Batavia — with IBM and other banks, including Commerzbank and Bank of Montreal.

"Our strategy there is very simple. We try to initiate and get as many other financial institutions and clients into teams like trade finance with other banks and IBM was a successful venture," Ermotti said.

Ermotti added that the technology would form an ecosystem that enables financial institutions to "operate and transact at a cheaper, more efficient level."

UBS posted a 14 percent rise in net profit Friday, but its earnings results missed estimates from analysts at Thomson Reuters.

Banks fond of blockchain, not bitcoin

Several banking executives have voiced similar sentiments on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon is one of the most notable critics of the digital token, having previously called it a "fraud".

The CEO said : "I could care less about bitcoin. I don't know why I said anything about it." But Dimon said he liked blockchain, adding: "The blockchain is a technology which is a good technology."

And this week, China Renaissance CEO Fan Bao told CNBC that bitcoin was "getting a little bit bubblish."

"I think we have to separate bitcoin from the blockchain," the investment banker said. "I think blockchain is very exciting technology, probably the most disruptive technology in our industry, the financial services industry."

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