Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

COVID-19 pushes out go-live of ASX's blockchain-based CHESS replacement

Industry-wide testing is still pencilled in for July.

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has been building the world's first actual industrial-scale blockchain use case -- a new post-trade solution to replace its legacy Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS) platform, which has been running for around 25 years.

When delivering the organisation's financial results in February, ASX CEO Dominic Stevens said the system would be ready for industry-wide testing in July and that full-functionality should be expected come April 2021.

The ASX on Wednesday announced that this would no longer be the case due to the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic and requests from users on functionality change.

It told shareholders that in June it would seek user input on the new schedule. 

While the go-live date will be pushed back, the ASX is sticking to the target of opening an Industry Test Environment (ITE) in July.

"We are conscious of the importance of providing a new schedule, and the need to get the valuable input of CHESS users. Right now, however, in this environment of heightened volatility and activity levels, the industry needs to focus on day-to-day operations," ASX deputy CEO Peter Hiom said.

"We will therefore wait until June to consult on the new timetable when we expect everyone will have more time to consider the replan and better assess the implications of COVID-19."

According to the ASX, the revised plan will provide additional time for users to complete their operational readiness activities and consider the rule changes that accompany the new system.

It will also increase the time available for back-office software developers to familiarise themselves with the new system in a production-like testing environment, as well as enable them and ASX to complete software development and testing.

"ASX remains fully committed to CHESS replacement," Hiom added.

"The investments we are making in the new system and in distributed ledger technology are for the long-term benefit of the financial services industry and the Australian economy."

There's about AU$2 trillion worth of equities currently registered in CHESS. Per day, around AU$5 billion is processed through CHESS, and 300-500 transactions and up to 1,500 messages are processed per second.

MORE FROM THE ASX