Canadian financial institution ATB Financial has established an office of innovation in Alberta, with the objective of assisting startups, including in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors.
Mike Brown, the innovation director of ATB Financial, gave an interview to Bitcoin Magazine, speaking about his ambitions for the institution. Brown acknowledged the difficulties blockchain and cryptocurrency enterprises face when looking to acquire basic banking services, leading ABT Financial to pilot a provision of these services to such businesses.
He described the objective behind the pilot to understand how to mitigate the barriers financial institutions face when looking to provide the startups’ services. He said the project would help ”build [ATB Financial’s] knowledge and understanding of the nuances and unique challenges associated with this industry”.
Brown did, however, say that the provision of these services to cryptocurrency companies does not act as an endorsement from ATB Financial, nor does it provide an opinion of cryptocurrency as an investment asset.
The economy of Alberta
ATB Financial services only the area of Alberta in Canada, with the predominant industry of this region being that of oil and gas. Through smart contracts on the blockchain, it has enabled those working in these sectors to pay royalties in an easier manner.
Brown explained, “ATB has built a proof-of-concept blockchain to streamline oil and gas royalty payments. We have validated the model with the industry and have recently engaged two large industry players in designing the next round of solution development and pilot testing.”
While the contract negotiations take place separately, ATB cements the finished document onto the blockchain. Terms of the agreement are maintained confidentially between the parties, with only ATB seeing details of the payments.
Alberta is described as a crypto-friendly region with a business-friendly attitude open to innovations. Brown noted that there were currently several cryptocurrency startups in the province, with more looking to move into the area. He listed cryptocurrency exchanges operating out of Alberta, as well as mining operations and initial coin offerings.
Crypto regulation in Canada
Financial institutions in Canada have been largely favorable in their outlook on blockchain technology, with even Canada’s central bank conducting pilot research. Cryptocurrencies, though, are still generally viewed unfavorably, with most banks unwilling to provide banking services to companies dealing with digital currencies.