Australian stock exchange delays $190M blockchain overhaul yet again

The Australian Stock Exchange says the blockchain upgrade to its CHESS settlement system, first pitched in 2016, has been delayed once more.
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The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), the nation’s biggest, has announced yet another delay to its high-profile AU$250 million ($188 million) blockchain pivot dubbed “the world’s first industrial-scale use” of such systems.

As reported by NCA NewsWire and relayed by The West Australian, ASX hoped to launch a replacement for its clearing house electronic subregister system (CHESS) in April.

CHESS is the technological backbone that settles share transactions for the ASX. However, it looks like the new blockchain-powered system’s release date will now fall sometime during the second half of the year.

The upgrade to ASX’s 25-year-old system has been plagued by setbacks since it was announced in 2016. The project was originally slated to go live last April.

However, concerns around COVID-19, as well as a public consultation, delayed the ETA by 12 months. ASX has now put CHESS on ice until April this year.

ASX broke news of the delay in a shareholder communications bulletin earlier this week.

ASX exec Tim Hogben said in a statement released Monday: “ASX advises that there is a strong likelihood of delay to the go-live date.”

This time round, it appears the hold up is down to a delayed software release by ASX’s tech partner Digital Asset. The New York-based firm reportedly won the contract to deliver the blockchain system in December 2017.

“CHESS replacement is an ongoing process with the industry, and industry engagement will be even more important as we move into the CHESS user testing environment and operational readiness activities, and as we agree an approach that ensures utmost confidence in a safe, secure and performant system at go-live,” added Hogben.

ASX hopes blockchain will reduce pesky downtime

ASX has endured more than its fair share of tech-related snafus in recent years.

As NCA NewsWire noted, just a few weeks ago, a problem with ASX hardware put a stop to futures and options trading across ASX for hours.

And back in November 2020, a botched software upgrade shut down trading for a whole day.

Read more: [Kickstarter is still pivoting to blockchain, swears it won’t be Proof-of-Work]

The proposed blockchain upgrade to CHESS is intended to make the stock exchange more robust and reduce downtime.

“The ledger (aka the blockchain) is performing well,” Hogben told shareholders in his comms note. “Of note, the same technology (i.e. ledger and language) is now in production in the US and processing billions of dollars of
US debt repo each day.”

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