By Jemima Kelly
LONDON (Reuters) - China's second-biggest insurance company, Ping An Group, has become the first Chinese member of a global consortium led by fintech firm R3 that is working on ways blockchain technology can be used in financial markets, the companies said on Tuesday.
Ping An <601318.SS> joins a group of more than 40 of the world's biggest banks and other financial institutions, such as Barclays and Goldman Sachs, brought together last year by New York-based R3 to work together on using the technology that underpins digital currency bitcoin.
Chinese financial firms -- some of the biggest in the world -- had been conspicuous by their absence in the consortium.
R3 CEO David Rutter, formerly CEO of electronic trading at ICAP, one of the world's largest interdealer brokers, called the addition of Ping An "an important milestone".
The blockchain works as a huge, decentralized ledger of every bitcoin transaction ever made, which is verified and shared by a global network of computers and therefore is virtually tamper-proof.
The technology is being viewed as a potentially "disruptive" force that could reduce the role of banks and other intermediaries, and change the way trades in financial instruments are cleared and settled.
"We are excited about joining R3 and look forward to developing and using blockchain technology to create a more efficient way of managing financial assets digitally end-to-end," said Ping An Group's Chief Operating Officer Jessica Tan.
(Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Editing by Catherine Evans)