Dragonfly Fintech Pte Ltd.
NEM Core Team Member
Abstract: A major challenge for financial institutions is the
inherent inefficiencies of multiple ledgers within their systems. A
blockchain solution with multiple ledgers for multiple assets
provides a transformation approach to addressing this issue. We
present the all new Catapult blockchain solution platform based
on the original NEM technology and concepts. An open platform,
the solution is designed to bring down the cost of implementation
and ownership, and is a solution that will power the present and
future needs for blockchain driven solutions. The Catapult
solution is architected to allow for easy integration with most
applications, and therefore is agnostic to existing banking
standards. It allows for interoperability between blockchain
instances thereby permitting shareable and non-shareable data
to co-exist in a homogenous environment. This paper is
intentionally written to address a wide spectrum of readers.
Keywords: Catapult, Mijin, NEM, Tech Bureau, Dragonfly
Fintech, blockchain, smart contract, permissible chain, open
system blockchain, banking standards, multi-ledger.
Table of Contents
2. Relevance ..............................................................................3
4.1. Feature Highlights ..........................................................7
4.2. Consensus ...................................................................... 9
4.3. Perspective - Use Cases.................................................10
4.3.1. Mutual Fund – Transfer Agent ..........................10
4.3.2. Interest Rate Swap Arrangement.......................12
4.4. Extensions..................................................................... 13
5. Summary ............................................................................. 15
6. Other initiatives - A Comparison........................................16
6.1. Ethereum ......................................................................16
6.2. Bitcoin........................................................................... 17
The NEM blockchain technology has been around for more than
two years. Designed with mainstream applications in mind, it is
the intent, therefore, that the NEM team should develop a
solution based on what it can do in the most extensible manner.
The focus of the NEM project has always been to unleash the
power of the blockchain technology as a priority and quickly
allow projects to build applications on top of this platform and
realise the power of the blockchain technology.
We are of the opinion that blockchain technology is trying to find
its place in the industry, but lacks uniformity in approach and
standards. From what is available in the market space, one can
immediately conclude that most blockchain initiatives revolve
around the blockchain ledger, all with subtle variances on how
the blockchain is run, and with slightly different flavours.
Our approach takes a different twist. Functionalities and features
of a powerful blockchain are not our only emphasis. We have
incorporated equally important elements that are hitherto
subject to much neglect. These include:
1. allowing any solution to sit on it independently;
2. an abstraction layer with a full suite of APIs, allowing for
ease of integration, and thereby harnessing the power of
the blockchain ledger; and
The purpose of this paper is to describe how NEM achieves this
and how NEM as a solution, is a best of breed solution that not
only serves a very important role as a blockchain technology but
also sets a new standard for blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology is a ledger solution. Naturally, as a ledger,
its distinct feature is particularly relevant to the financial
industry, too. All financial institutions use the ledger as the single
most important element in its core banking solution.
Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that many applications
built upon the ledger for various banking services are designed
based on proprietary ledgers befitting each service application.
Over the years, the number of ledgers and applications grow and
reconciliation becomes a massive problem.
A compounding effect and risk exist when banks start to transact
among each other, each with a plurality of systems that may or
may not be compatible. Built over decades, these systems have
become a monolithic mash that is too expensive and almost
impossible to streamline. The best way forward for any bank to
add new services and solutions is to continue to patch them onto
their existing systems. Workarounds are often made by making
sure these solutions fit into existing platform solutions.
From a technology standpoint, middleware becomes a thick layer
that binds this monolithic construct with a potpourri mix of
traffic and information traversing across all different ledgers,
applications, and services. It not only poses operational risk, but
it also takes a lot of the resources which the bank could otherwise
do without in managing problems and errors in these
There is a need to standardise the existing core banking solution
to make it more efficient. Currently, standardisation happens at
the middleware layer and systems rely on this middleware layer
to talk to one another.
Transaction arrangements between banks are being served by an
external messaging system, often conforming to a standard. A
dominant service is the SWIFT1 messaging and transaction
system. Designed more than 40 years ago, the SWIFT system is a
proven piece of technology, albeit it is extremely inefficient by
today’s standard, requiring some of these messages to be
managed manually as it goes through multiple hops and
Such a solution can be slow and tedious while posing some
operational risks. Banks and corporations spend hundreds of
millions of dollars every year to use the SWIFT system. When
dissected, the Internet is just as good a message routing system,
more efficient and much cheaper to use. However, the effort to
switch is a mammoth task, requiring everyone to participate and
to switchover, which in itself, is an expensive exercise and
For all intents and purposes, there is enough evidence to suggest
that the plurality of systems coupled by disjointed monolithic
1 Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
systems within financial institutions contribute much to the
operational risks and inefficiencies that we are witnessing today.
It is not as if these problems that we are seeing were problems of
recent times. It has been a perennial issue, with a compounding
effect each passing year as financial services and offerings get
added onto the core banking system. This is further exacerbated
by each new service offering getting more complex and
The blockchain technology poses a possible long term solution to
reducing costs; improving efficiency; allowing settlement
finality; increasing efficiency of compliance efforts; providing
greater auditability and traceability; enhancing structured
processes (recently, termed as smart contracts); and cutting
multiparty dependencies on global and local transactions.
By providing a blockchain platform that can satisfy the unmet
needs above, any financial institution would see the benefits
immediately. The blockchain platform is a standard by itself and
allows any add-on application to integrate with it using an
industry standard compliant instruction set.
We have been analysing the financial industry for 3 years, long
before the industry itself took cognisance of the impact of
blockchain and the role it can play.
Our 3-year long analysis and assessment point to a very
important conclusion from where we now unveil this blockchain
platform as an important means to an end. These goals were
drawn upon the following important conclusions:
Smart contracts have long been in existence in all financial
institutions. They have been programmed into the core
banking solution (automated) or acted upon manually
based on agreements and protocols between parties,
internally or externally. These smart contracts cost
financial institutions billions of dollars to set up the
infrastructure over the years, and to be able to transcribe
that to a new platform will incur much more resources,
time, and risks. It is a complicated web of work that is not
quite possible to just change instantaneously. NEM has
recognised this and is approaching it in another manner.
The approach here is to make the smart contract an
external component, whether centralised (i.e., status quo
with existing systems) or decentralised. The outputs of
these smart contracts will then enter their transactions
into the ledger through a secure transaction process.
Build a platform that is inexpensive to deploy with
minimal risk, time, and resources, while at the same time
allow a financial institution to carry on business as usual
with minimal interruptions – enabling organic growth.
Create a blockchain platform with multiple ledgers for
multiple use cases – mutually exclusive or not – and at the
same time, allowing transactions between ledgers to be
Create one single abstraction layer for all the ledgers in
this same blockchain to be integrated into any existing
core banking system and solutions.
Recognise privacy and allow each financial institution to
control and manage its very own blockchain platform.
Allow for seamless cross-platform transactions,
payments, and settlements through direct transactions
without the need to implement an expensive, standards
and protocol driven messaging system. The end result is a
reduced infrastructure system with settlement finality as
well as less reconciliation work, risks, and errors.
Figure 1. Blockchain Platform added initially as an adjunct
solution to be built over the long term as the core ledger system.
Catapult2 is a second iteration and an extension of the NEM
blockchain technology that was launched in March 2015. It is
scheduled to be released in various stages, starting from the first
quarter of 2017. Its predecessor is Mijin, which itself had
undergone vigorous tests. Mijin and Catapult are permissible
blockchains. The development difference is that Mijin is an
extension of the NEM public blockchain. The second version,
Catapult, shall be the reverse, i.e., it shall be an extension of the
private chain into the NEM public chain. It is specially designed
to add more functions and features to support the financial
industry where critical features and functions are required of the
4.1. FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS
Catapult is re-written entirely new in the C++ language,
borrowing the core concepts from its first generation NEM
release, augmenting these concepts from lessons learned, and
amending and extending these concepts to enhance the offering.
The end objective is a high performing, secure enterprise-class
solution with open connectivity. Some of the more notable
feature highlights that are being developed now for Catapult
High scalability, design based on the industry standard
tiered web architecture commonly found in enterprise
computing, a holistic offering yet to be seen in any
Introduction of a high performance and highly scalable
API gateway server layer with an open integration
High throughput message queues for real-time analysis
and big data analytics of transactions
Use of nosql database at the API layer, which is more
suited for high speed messaging
Embedded escrow service for exchange of assets on the
blockchain – a special transaction contract
High transaction rates (in excess of 3000 transactions per
2 Catapult and Mijin are developed and marketed by Tech Bureau, Corporation
as a permissioned ledger. Both Catapult and Mijin shall be released as part of
NEM’s Open Source solution at a later date.
Permissible access to accounts, i.e., each person can only
access what she can see.
Interoperability – allow external decentralised or
centralised applications or smart contract solutions to
transact using the blockchain.
Business Rules – rules where object states can result in an
indisputable transition to a new state as a result of a
definite and conclusive action, specifically on the
calculation of transaction charges based on a predefined
set of irrevocable and immutable input criteria.
Metadata – Accounts and assets shall have configurable
In addition to the above, the existing functions and features
already present in the current release of NEM, will be enhanced
and ported across to the Catapult project. These include:
A built-in messaging solution
A process activated or manual sign-off function for
transactions, with multiple approvals, where needed.
A multiple ledger with multiple corresponding assets in
Every account can hold multiple assets from multiple
ledgers in the same blockchain so that these accounts can
be used for all products and services the bank is offering,
e.g., one account can be holding USD, EUR,GBP, Gold,
Interest Rate Swap, ETF units, etc., each with its own
history of transaction records and balance.
Every account can be controlled by the financial
institution – allowing for compliance and AML control
mechanisms to be implemented in order to manage these
Transaction reversal with full audit trail and
The end result of the Catapult solution is a strong and highly
customisable blockchain solution that can be utilised by financial
institutions as a basis to form its core operating platform in the
The principle behind the design is to provide a universal and core
blockchain solution as the basis for the greater system of a bank.
Further, it is premised on not creating a disequilibrium to the
existing system but allow for sub-system migrations over time.
Outlier and non-critical solutions can be ported across without
risking the banking system. New and older uncomplicated
products and services can be developed, or ported, and launched
using the blockchain.
This bespoke and yet highly flexible solution allows the bank time
to get accustomed to it and implement solutions on the fly while
not losing out on its growth path towards a blockchain driven
Its API gateway allows the blockchain to be easily dovetailed into
other centralised (new or existing solutions) or decentralised
(new consensus driven solutions implemented by other
initiatives) systems including smart contract systems, internal
process driven solutions, settlement, payment, and clearing
The Catapult blockchain platform is, like most things blockchain,
driven by a consensus mechanism. It consists of a network of
nodes (either permissioned or permission-less) networked
together in a peer-to-peer (P2P) configuration. Transactions are
broadcast out and each P2P node will record these transactions
and verify them as they come in. At periodic intervals, called the
block time, these transactions are grouped together and the
transactions undergo a hash process (digital fingerprinting)
linking it to the previous block, and then added on as a new block
of information in the blockchain. The permissioned ledger does
not have mining per se, and follows a controlled Proof-of-stake
algorithm, while the permission-less (Public Chain) is based on
an algorithm called Proof-of-importance3.
Built into the NEM blockchain solution is a mechanism
(Eigentrust++ reputation management algorithm) for ensuring
each P2P node is reputable and therefore not fraudulent.
3 NEM Technical Reference - https://www.nem.io/NEM_techRef.pdf
Figure 2. Principals of design. Simple and yet highly flexible
The NEM blockchain solution also created an all new P2P time
synchronisation algorithm to ensure that each node is
synchronised with one another in the right time slot.
4.3. PERSPECTIVE - USE CASES
The blockchain is intentionally designed as an open system
satisfied through a set of industry standard JSON RESTful APIs.
Therefore it is standards agnostic and is compatible with any
application that conforms to a messaging standard such as
ISO20022, or the FpML markup language. Catapult treats them
as processes with defined outputs to update or broadcast
transactions into the ledger. This method of integration and
interoperability allows for the reuse of legacy applications and
4.3.1. Mutual Fund – Transfer Agent
We now examine a typical contract and settlement solution for a
mutual fund purchase.
In a typical mutual fund scenario the actors are:
1. Mutual Fund Manager
2. Transfer Agent
Figure 3. Tiered Architecture with API Gateways to integrate
with other systems, or directly with thin client devices. Agnostic
The legal contract of the mutual fund spells out certain key points
that results in the value of the sale and purchase of each unit of
asset in the mutual fund. These include, but not limited to:
1. Net Asset Value (NAV) derivation
2. Investment details and conditions
5. Management fee
6. Trustee fee
7. Transfer fee
This legal contract in the traditional sense would have been
translated into a calculator application of which the outputs
would result in one or multiple writes into the database followed
by a series of actions, automatic or manual.
The buy and sell process initiates a request which is either
manually processed or automatically triggers a series of
operations. These operations eventually result in an outcome. In
a buy process, the outcome is:
1. Await a settlement period
2. Upon settlement, make transfer of units
3. Issue a certificate of ownership
The function of a Transfer Agent is to manage the sale, purchase,
and distribution of these assets. The job can be tedious and
Figure 4. The asset certificate is translated into an asset and is
configured into the blockchain.
Every unit holder, when she buys units of a mutual fund, will get
certificates, each representing one unit that she owns in the
blockchain. Each transaction becomes immutable and
Calculation of fees and dividends thereof will be extracted from
the blockchain from another application via an API call.
The original contract document, with its hash stored in the
blockchain, could be stored in a distributed file system. Order
processing could be another solution of which the outputs will
transact with the blockchain via an API call. User balance can be
accessed by the user with the same front end application to read
from the blockchain through an API call. Analytics again, can be
implemented on top and data extracted from the blockchain
through an API message queue call. Payment and settlement is
done through the user account directly with the blockchain.
The blockchain system is border agnostic and can be multiple
ledgers sitting in the same set of nodes. This gives rise to a very
powerful system that transgresses beyond the shores of a country
and allows for multiple countries to operate, each with their own
set of regulated rules - pertinent to the country of offer - and
conditions (smart contracts) that can be implemented in a
decentralised or centralised manner.
Smart contract templates can be built and applied across to any
Blockchain solution has its settlement mechanism that can easily
be automated, cutting down settlement time to almost
instantaneous, and without intervention.
While this solution is already available in version 1 of the NEM
project, Catapult will enhance its performance and take it to the
next level based on the aforementioned improvements.
4.3.2.Interest Rate Swap Arrangement
When two parties decide to exchange interest rate contracts,
there is first an agreement. It is made between the parties
concerned and the quantitative outcome would have been
affirmed. This agreement is digitally notarised and a hash digest
is stored in the blockchain while the agreement is put onto the
distributed file system.
The computational outcome can be commonly agreed based on a
templated decentralised smart contract, or separately computed
by the participants. In any case, the blockchain will trigger the
pay-offs based on the outputs of these computed actions.
The above are two of many use cases that can be implemented
using the NEM blockchain. In a financial institution, everything
revolves around a ledger which is a core element to all processes.
Often, the cause of reconciliation issues, delays, risks, and
failures is the absence of a central ledger system with multiple
sub-ledgers that can work together in a homogenous platform.
Even if there is a central ledger system requiring sub-ledgers to
Figure 5. An IRS agreement with the quantitative
Figure 6. Interest Rate Swap on the blockchain.
individually update the central ledger, it can be an integration
nightmare, usually causing more issues.
Identifying the root cause of these problems and providing the
necessary platform not only takes away much of the risks and
problems, but will also allow financial institutions to take on new
and more complicated service offerings that have otherwise been
too costly to do.
The NEM technology solves that issue and the design guarantees
absolute finality and integrity of transactions that are immutable
and irreversible. Any reversal of transaction can only be done by
an opposing transaction, and which can be controlled with a full
The existence of API server gateways enable the blockchain to act
as a core to applications that require the use of a ledger. It is
therefore, an open system and allows for standard conforming
applications, including legacy and new decentralised smart
contracts to integrate with the ledger seamlessly.
The design of Catapult is premised on a single private blockchain
for each entity or financial institution. There is a parallel project
within the NEM initiative to develop a special routing system to
allow interoperability across entities using a common shared
ledger system. This common shared ledger system brings out the
power of the NEM blockchain technology and enables seamless
transactions, thereby disintermediating the need to have multihop
settlement and payment systems. It opens up a new
dimension where payments are straight through transactions
from account to account with minimal messaging.
The option of each financial institution being able to operate its
own single private blockchain allows privacy of data to be
confined to the financial institution. The existence of a shared
ledger system allows financial institutions interoperability so
that they can settle and make payments with one another
In fact, the shared ledger system can stand on its own, offering a
seamless solution that does not require any bank to own a private
blockchain to be able to participate. It is, after all, a ledger of
records and transactions, allowing for settlements and payments.
4 Dragonfly Fintech is the developer for the homogenous cross-chain
interoperability solution to link multiple instances of blockchains together.
It calls on a slightly different set of rules, away from traditional
methods of settlement and payment. Additionally, it conforms to
regulatory frameworks that are put in place today.
It can be seen that the NEM blockchain technology is an offering
that helps in the transition of financial institutions from using
traditional solutions into one that is powered by the blockchain
The NEM project team strongly believes this is the way forward
for transitioning. It gives rise to a low entry barrier for financial
institutions to embrace the blockchain technology while at the
same time, it also allows a financial institution to work on the
blockchain technology and be familiar with it.
The Catapult project is in its late stage development. It shall be
released in multiple stages where the features highlighted in
section 4.1 will be added on at each stage. It is scheduled for its
first release in Q1, 2017. The enhancements of the solution are
unique and powerful, setting a new standard in blockchain
Its powerful abstraction layer makes it agnostic to existing
banking standards, the intent of which is not to disrupt currently
installed solutions, but instead to dovetail into these existing
systems seamlessly. Current systems running standards
complying solutions - such as FpML and ISO20022 –will only
need to make use of the outputs to integrate with the blockchain
via the abstraction layer. This method of deployment allows
financial institutions to migrate their systems in a timeframe that
better suit their business operations – as soon as they minimise
their need for some of these standards – into the blockchain
platform. At the same time, the Catapult solution can then be
used by financial institutions to enable growth, expansion, and
creation of new products, leveraging on the use of the blockchain
for faster and inexpensive deployment.
6. OTHER INITIATIVES - A COMPARISON
Catapult is a uniquely positioned solution and is a second
iteration of its first solution, Mijin. Most other projects are
derivatives and add-ons to existing blockchain solutions, which
makes it rather clumsy as a holistic offering.
We present here 3 initiatives that may be relevant to what the
NEM project is working on. While Ethereum and Bitcoin are in
production phase, Corda is still in the conceptual stage at the
time of writing.
This project premise on a virtual machine, having its own
programming language to run smart contracts that are loaded
onto the blockchain. A smart contract once loaded onto the
blockchain, is immutable and irreversible, and the ramifications
can be severe if there is a bug. Additionally, it often relies on
external data known as oracles, to feed inputs into the program
to change its state. These changed states are written onto the
Our solution has no smart contracts as we are of the opinion that
this should be left to the bank to decide how they will want to
incorporate that as a separate exercise. In a way, we are
optimising the blockchain to do exactly what it is designed for,
i.e., a ledger solution, and a multi-ledger solution at that with lots
more features that are not only suited for the financial industry
but generic enough to suit a spectrum of applications outside the
financial industry. In a way, we have also built some smarts into
the blockchain that can be used readily, with certainty and more
often used. These include our multisig solution and the smart
escrow solution where there is no need for a third party to
facilitate a transfer. This smart escrow solution is based on two
parties signing off before assets can be exchanged. If either party
does not sign, there shall be no exchange of assets.
The very existence of smart contracts in an immutable and
irreversible state can only lead to much resources wasted on the
deployment of it, especially if it needs to be 100% full proof and
tested. This is never usually the case in any software solution
project. The more complicated the project is, the more prone it is
to have bugs. A slight mistake can result in a systemic failure, and
no financial institution should even consider that as a possibility.
Square pegs will never fit perfectly into a round hole. Having a
smart contract on a blockchain is one such example. As it is now,
most financial institutions already have well defined centralised
smart contracts that they have been using for years. These are all
controlled and they can be stopped, corrected of bugs, and run
again. Outputs are final and definite. Any such bilateral or
multilateral contract is cross-verified between multiple parties. A
smart contract on blockchain is not possible to do that, i.e., the
smart contract cannot be replaced with another program after
being put onto the blockchain.
A smart contract cannot work in isolation. It still relies on
external inputs or oracles. It cannot execute in a void and reliance
on third party input has a trust issue, which in the first place is
meant to be trustless. It is a paradox because the main value
proposition of a decentralised smart contract solution was to be
a trustless smart contract platform, which is not possible. In fact,
having smart contracts in a blockchain could increase the cost of
implementation exponentially. The end does not seem to justify
Bitcoin is a blockchain project and is a proof of concept on the
use of a decentralised blockchain to manage transactions.
Catapult has the same end point objective of hashing and storing
transactions on the blockchain, like the Bitcoin project. In fact,
most blockchain projects follow this same principle
Where NEM differs is the method of competing for the right to
create blocks of data onto the blockchain. Other differences are:
System Architecture – NEM is much more scalable
NEM does not have unspent transaction output (UXTO).
It follows the standard ledger convention of using an
account with multiple balances of assets - multiple ledgers
in one account - inside it. All inputs and outputs go
through this single account.
Business logic – Bitcoin is a plain ledger. For example,
NEM has on-chain signing of transactions - do not rely on
additional centralised servers to queue transactions for
signing before broadcasting onto the blockchain - which
gives it a very powerful utility.
Bitcoin does not have an inherent, purpose built multiple
Bitcoin does not have a node reputation management
solution as part of its core offering
Most of Bitcoin offerings are workarounds patched on
solutions that require dependent third party providers,
thus introducing another layer of concern for service level
and quality dependence, security, performance, and
Machine competition – Bitcoin is designed with mining in
mind. They have proof-of-work as a necessary element to
secure the blockchain. For a permissioned blockchain
solution, there is no need to compete in order to mine a
block. NEM’s approach has been a simple and yet very
powerful way of securing the blockchain, requiring much
less computing and energy resources to manage and
Transaction throughputs of Bitcoin are too low to be
practical for a financial application. Their transaction rate
per second is single digit in magnitude. NEM’s Catapult
transaction rates are 4-figure.
Bitcoin confirmation time takes too long and is not
suitable for the financial industry.
Corda is in concept stage and it appears that they are following
the route of Ethereum with some subtle differences in the way
they manage oracles and having stateless functions in a shareable
ledger. They are proposing to use Java Virtual Machine to
develop their solution. If at all, it appears that NEM could use the
outcomes of these smart contracts to drive processes and outputs
into the Catapult ledger system.