Northern Trust Strengthens Private Equity Audit via Blockchain Technology with PwC

March 19, 2018

The private equity fund Northern Trust (Nasdaq: NTRS) has announced that audit firms will now be able to use blockchain technology to audit private equity lifecycle events.  Northern Trust is no stranger to blockchain innovation—last year, Northern Trust created the first commercial blockchain application for private equity.

This latest development gives audit firms the ability to run their own blockchain nodes, which provide the data necessary to perform audits in real time.  Northern Trust, in partnership with the audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and other audit firms in Guernsey, has proven that auditors can use the private equity blockchain to audit specific events in the history of private equity funds.

Essentially, this gives audit firms access to a “golden copy,” an immutable master record, of the private equity fund’s data.  The audit firms have the choice of either exporting the data into existing audit applications or creating new tools to audit directly from the blockchain.  By continuing the development of audit capabilities, firms can streamline the audit process and ensure transparency between funds and their auditors.

Pete Cherecwich, president of Corporate & Institutional Services at Northern Trust, said,

“By expanding our private equity blockchain ecosystem to the audit community, Northern Trust has enabled audit transactions to be recorded on a blockchain in real time.  This will result in direct efficiencies to both the audit firms and Northern Trust, and provide investors with a more timely and valued assurance product.”

Nick Vermeulen, partner at PwC Channel Islands, said,

“Our ability to directly access distributed ledgers such as the one within the Northern Trust system will allow us to build upon our own blockchain investments. Such innovation assists clients as they invest in the opportunities arising from emerging technologies. This ongoing process will help ensure we are in the best possible shape to adapt in the coming years of change.”

Northern Trust’s blockchain development is based on the open-source Linux Foundation Hyperledger Fabric.  Northern Trust is also utilizing the IBM Blockchain Platform on the IBM Cloud to operate and maintain the network, as well as using cryptography and key management to ensure the safety and scalability of transactions.

Blockchain initiatives such as these serve as an excellent bridge between the cryptocurrency space and traditional finance.  Hopefully, the utilization of blockchain technology for purposes such as increased transparency between private equity funds and auditors will showcase the beneficial uses of this technology, and help dispel the erroneous notion that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have only illegitimate uses.

As more and more financial institutions begin to accept or even embrace the transformative power of digital assets and blockchain technology, there will be a shift in the public’s perception of this new and still largely uncharted territory.  Virtual currency and blockchain technology will no longer be a novelty for tech enthusiasts in the public eye—rather, they will be fundamental parts of a digitized, decentralized economy.  

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