ASX sets April 2022 as go-live for blockchain-based CHESS replacement

The Australian Securities 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 had said the system would be ready for industry-wide testing in July and that full-functionality should be expected come April 2021.

However, in March, ASX announced it would revise the implementation timetable for replacing CHESS and consult with CHESS users in June as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end, the ASX on Tuesday announced a new target go-live of April 2022.

ASX deputy CEO Peter Hiom said the revised timetable provides additional time for the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all stakeholders, accommodates functionality changes requested by users, and offers a longer period for ASX and CHESS users to complete their respective development and readiness activities. 

“ASX has undertaken a comprehensive, risk-based approach to the replan of the CHESS replacement project.  We have listened to the diverse views of stakeholders and accommodated feedback on timing, user readiness and changes to functionality,” Hiom said.

“At its core, the new CHESS system will deliver existing services, new and enhanced functionality, high availability, reliability and performance, and will underpin Australia’s financial markets for the next decade and beyond.”

Read more: Here’s what to expect from ASX’s blockchain-based CHESS replacement

The announcement from the ASX comes as it begins its four-week consultation on CHESS, with Hiom adding the exchange and its stakeholders have “made great progress in challenging circumstances and are focused on delivering the solution in a safe and timely manner”.

Since announcing the pushback in March, ASX said significant progress had been made, including deploying the CHESS replacement application and the distributed ledger to several ASX technology environments across multiple data centres.

It said a seventh software drop has been deployed on schedule into the customer development environment (CDE), which represents 89% of the core clearing and settlement functionality used by customers and that 34 organisations have connected to the CDE, including software providers, brokers, and share registries.

The ISO 20022 Technical Committee comprising ASX and industry representatives, which was formed to focus on the adoption of ISO 20022 messaging in place of proprietary format messaging, also completed its key objectives and activities, the exchange said, and it has published all functional specifications and messaging requirements for software providers to develop to the new system.

The opening of the industry test environment, initially for back office software providers, is being prepared for commencement in December 2020.

The ASX said the rules consultation process is “progressing well”, with ASX having provided its response to feedback on Tranche 1 draft rule amendments and it said numerous collaborative industry requirements and design working groups, webinars, and information sessions continue in virtual form as social distancing restrictions brought on by COVID-19 remain in place across many businesses.

Updated procedures and guidelines aligned to the replacement system have also started to be published, the ASX said, and Hiom said the exchange remains committed to the project and to “working constructively with all stakeholders to ensure we deliver a solution that balances the interests of the whole market.”

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