Banking Giant ING In Stealth Mode on Blockchain Innovation

By Bill Taylor/Managing Editor – Quietly and in very stealth mode, Netherlands-based ING bank is proving that fintech startups are not the only way to pursue innovation. Many large institutions are observing, and waiting, for how new cryptography will be advanced and then see how it could be applied to their operations. But not ING, they are taking the steering wheel and driving the car. Seems financial institutions have been worried about something called ‘zero-knowledge proofs’ (who knew?) and with ING’s blockchain innovation they managed to tweak the code of these ‘zero-knowledge proofs’. Think of it this way – this new code will allow someone to prove they know a secret but they don’t have to reveal the secret. Trippy, right?

Financial institutions love the benefits of a shared ledger but are concerned they might reveal too much data to their competitors. So, ING came up with a solution; “zero-knowledge range proofs”. As an example, ING open sourced ideas that can be used to allow someone to prove they have a salary that falls within a range without not having to be specific as what that salary is. Very helpful in obtaining a mortgage.

Not to stop there, ING is again tweaking blockchain privacy concerns by leveraging a type of proof called “zero-knowledge set membership”. Set memberships can let the prover share a ‘secret’ that they are part of a generic set. These ‘set memberships’ are even more powerful that ‘range proofs’

“For example, imagine that you could validate that someone lives in a country that belongs to the European Union, without revealing which one.”

Obviously these sets can be very helpful in eliminating gender, racial, location and income bias BUT still allowing transparency and openness. With innovation driven internally by ING’s blockchain leaders the bank is now being sought after to team up with the world’s top cryptographers.

So, a bank being a LEADER in innovation? That’s the role startups had a lock on.  Looks like things have changed.