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I recently sat down with Kris Hansen, Senior Principal at SAP Financial Services to talk about why innovators at leading-edge financial services organizations are intrigued by blockchain’s promise, and how they’re getting ready for what will be the next enormous industry transformation. Hansen is particularly surprised at how blockchain “seemed to come out of nowhere.” Below is an excerpt from our conversation, which you can read in full here.

“The genesis of blockchain is what blows me away. This very disruptive concept of a shared, immutable ledger was dropped anonymously at a forum in 2009. Since then, it has slowly, steadily gained ground to become a major industry phenomenon. Unlike so many disruptors, it wasn’t built in an R&D lab, by a major think tank, or even by designated experts in financial industry labs. Now it’s being applied to areas like Bitcoin and approaches like SAP’s partnership with Ripple Labs and ATB Financial to disrupt the market.”

Like most innovations, blockchain won’t immediately dominate landscapes in one fell swoop. Or as Hansen put it, “It’s not a zero sum game.” We can expect blockchain co-existence with other approaches for the near future as companies figure out how to align current portfolios with blockchain for beneficial disruption.

Regarding where SAP stands in the market, Hansen is pretty clear. “Our strategy is to stop talking and start doing things. We’re focusing on getting blockchain out of the white papers, rolling up our sleeves, and getting our innovations into the hands of our customers,” he said.

Taking action includes the many long-running, evolving conversations Hansen said he is having with CFOs and CIOs about blockchain’s potential, and how their organizations might harness its power. “It’s become a disruptive element even in terms of how organizations think of their business model and industries at-large. For example, if you work in an insurance company, you’re imagining how blockchain might change the relationships between the people in your industry – it’s pretty disruptive and something to be concerned about. Some customers may be conducting R&D isolated from the rest of the business.”

What’s not surprising to Hansen is that since SAP is their enterprise platform in the traditional ledger, these customers are asking us for help in connecting the dots between the labs and real systems today. Their big questions revolve around how they can turn the blockchain concept into business results. In fact, Hansen happens to believe that the SAP HANA Cloud Platform is the ultimate “cool innovation catalyst.” The way he sees it, SAP is a leader in enterprise software, and blockchain is a potential disruptor of that concept. It makes perfect sense that customers want and expect SAP to help define the possibilities for them.

“We want to help our customers re-envision their business operating model, and blockchain is a great way to get them to rethink their business, and reimagine how a business or industry operates. This has our customers thinking broadly about change. And when it comes to simplifying their platforms and connecting the dots on this new business model, we have the platforms to make this happen.”

And if you haven’t heard about it yet, check out how SAP customer, ATB Financial, recently collaborated with Ripple Labs to make the world’s first blockchain transfer from Canada and Germany. While blockchain is just emerging, the potential is unlimited for reimagining business and industries.

Follow me @smgaler

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