KPMG: Fundamentally what blockchain does is digitize trust

In late 2020, KPMG’s blockchain team outlined to TBR the efforts the firm has made to evolve its blockchain practice, expanding into concrete and discrete areas in which the firm can “create an ecosystem around something that already exists, then add a layer of trust, enabled by blockchain,” as made evident by the three focus areas detailed by the KPMG team: cryptoasset custody and analytics, climate accounting infrastructure, and energy trading reconciliation. KPMG explained that the firm’s digital transformation initiatives, which underpin the entire blockchain practice, remain anchored by data, identity and ecosystem — conveniently core elements of blockchain. 

Americas Blockchain and Digital Assets Leader Arun Ghosh went one step further, saying KPMG had intentionally moved away from “leading with blockchain” to building a message around digitalization and trust: “Blockchain is digitizing the infrastructure. Fundamentally what blockchain does is digitize trust.” In TBR’s view, this business-problem-first, technology-second approach mirrors what consulting clients say they want and plays to KPMG’s strengths.

Measuring environmental commitments: Climate Accounting Infrastructure

Businesses face challenges in proving to clients, stakeholders and regulators that their efforts to address climate change have a measurable impact on the environment and meet enterprisewide goals. Stepping up to address that challenge, KPMG saw an opportunity to deploy blockchain solutions as part of a Climate Accounting Infrastructure (CAI) offering. In essence, verifiable emissions data depends on trust, which can best be built and sustained through a combination of tools, including blockchain solutions, AI, enhanced IoT sensors and cloud.

For KPMG, the journey to a blockchain-enabled climate accountability offering started with a client in the financial services sector that was seeking help to meet its sustainability goals. Operating across multiple regions, with overlapping and sometimes conflicting standards and regulations, the client wanted to invest smartly, prove value to its shareholders, and build trust with customers and regulators, all while fully understanding the costs and potential impacts, both positive and negative. Once KPMG devised a blockchain-enabled approach — which KPMG says provides “near real-time climate accounting and reporting to help clients meet their climate goals” — the firm narrowed its focus down to two core industries: real estate and oil & gas.

As Ghosh explained to TBR, these industries face increasing compliance pressures, as well as structural challenges to meeting environmental standards, making them excellent initial target clients. The specific blockchain component, according to KPMG, comes through securing the massive amounts of structured and unstructured data in a way that can be verified but not altered, leading to greater trust and transparency for all parties.

In a Dec. 29, 2020, article, The New York Times detailed the pressures facing the real estate industry in New York City, starting with the sheer volume of carbon emissions coming from the city’s buildings (close to 70% of the city’s total emissions). According to the article, a 2019 law “requires owners of structures 25,000 square feet or larger to make often sizable cuts in carbon emissions starting in 2024 or pay substantial fines” and “affects 50,000 of the city’s roughly one million buildings, including a substantial number of residential buildings.” The city’s role as a global financial hub and KPMG’s heritage in accounting and financial services present a strong opportunity for the firm to begin building a use case for its CAI offering, particularly if the firm leverages its existing NYC-based client relationships to gain introductions to commercial real estate owners.

Last fall, TBR met with KPMG’s blockchain leadership team, including Americas Blockchain and Digital Assets Leader Arun Ghosh, and discussed changes the company’s blockchain practice has undergone since the October 2019 Blockchain Analyst Day. As TBR prepares in 2021 to add a blockchain-specific component to our Digital Transformation portfolio, examining in detail how IT services vendors and consultancies have been building blockchain practices, we will publish special reports describing specific vendor offerings and how those offerings and supporting capabilities fit within the larger blockchain ecosystem.

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