PwC takes on 15 new staff to develop bitcoin technology
Accountancy firm PwC has hired 15 new staff to begin developing technology to help commercialise the rise of the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The firm is building a 'blockchain' team, which will be based in Belfast and is expected to grow to more than 40.
The announcement comes after UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, urged the Government to adopt the technology that powers bitcoin to run various public services.
Bitcoin is a digital currency or 'internet money' which can be used to purchase a range of goods and services, which doesn't require banks or the traditional financial institutions.
Blockchain is a public record of all bitcoin transactions which have been executed. Last year, Belfast family-run coffee shop Boden Park Coffee Company became the first indigenous Northern Ireland business to accept bitcoin in store.
And while still very much in its infancy here, Northern Ireland-founded firm Bitnet, is at the forefront of bitcoin - helping big name retailers process their online payments.
This week, First Trust boss Des Moore told the Belfast Telegraph that, one day, it's "feasible" the currency could take banks out of the equation altogether.
Announcing the new bitcoin team, PwC partner Steve Davis said there is now "clear evidence that banks, institutions and even governments are looking at blockchain technology as a secure storage and distribution solution". PwC says its decision to focus on cryptocurrency "represents a major step in the firm's move towards developing 'fintech' (financial technology) solutions".
While bitcoin is yet to become a mainstream currency, the blockchain technology in the background, which consists of "blocks" of data in a digital ledger, is believed to be highly resistant to malicious tampering.
That could offer governments and businesses a greater deal of security.
Paul Terrington, PwC regional chairman in Northern Ireland, said blockchain could be the greatest advance in the financial technology sector in a decade. "Blockchain technology is worrying major players in the financial services industry, as they don't know where it will go or its potential to disrupt business models," he said.