8 Best Blockchain Platforms for Building Modern Finance Applications

The Coming Blockchain Disruption of Financial Services

Blockchain technology has exploded onto the fintech scene in recent years, bringing the promise of faster, more secure, transparent, and accessible financial services. According to Allied Market Research, the global blockchain in banking and finance market size already hit $1.7 billion in 2021 and is projected to soar 100x to over $162 billion by 2028. What‘s driving this monumental growth?

In essence, blockchains serve as decentralized ledgers for recording transactions and asset ownership in a permanent, tamper-proof way. This allows financial processes to become more efficient, global, and error-free by removing unnecessary intermediaries and overhead. Rather than relying on banks, exchanges or auditors as single sources of truth, blockchain-based networks establish consensus from distributed nodes. Software automation in the form of "smart contracts" can also execute complex business logic transparently.

The end results are faster trade settlements, lower fees, always-on operations, and real-time transparency. These technical and cost advantages have motivated major financial institutions like VISA, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Fidelity to pursue blockchain integrations. Smaller startups are also disrupting traditional offerings via decentralized finance (DeFi) apps.

Now let‘s dive deeper into understanding exactly how blockchains achieve their magic, and analyze specific leading platforms well-suited for finance use cases. By the end, you‘ll be well-versed in this transformational technology!

Blockchain 101 – Key Concepts and Capabilities

Before covering specific blockchain platforms, let‘s review some fundamental concepts, using banking as a familiar example:

  • Distributed ledger – Rather than a single central database, the blockchain ledger of transactions and account balances is replicated across thousands of independent computers (nodes). This removes single points of failure and increases resilience.
  • Cryptographic hashes – Each block of transactions is stamped with a digital fingerprint that chains them together sequentially in an immutable timeline. Just as paper bank statements prevent fraudulent backdating, hashes establish proof-of-occurrence on blockchains.
  • Consensus protocols – Rules encoded in software that allow the distributed nodes to agree on the current definitive state of the network. For example, Bitcoin uses "proof-of-work" mining while Ethereum is transitioning to "proof-of-stake".
  • Smart contracts – Programmatic code that runs automatically when predefined conditions are met, enabling self-operating financial agreements. Imagine auto-canceling insurance policies or paying artists royalties without any human involvement!

Under the hood, these and other key innovations provide the functionality for blockchain networks to exchange value, tokenize real-world assets, and build decentralized applications. Now let‘s analyze the top platform options for finance use cases!


Origin – Proposed in 2013 by then 19-year old Vitalik Buterin and launched in 2015, Ethereum pioneered the concept of a generalized programmable blockchain that could support distributed applications beyond just cryptocurrency. Over $18 billion is now secured on the platform across DeFi, NFTs, metaverse worlds, and more.

Consensus – Currently proof-of-work (PoW) based on energy-intensive mining, rapidly transitioning to the more sustainable proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus model.

Native Token – Ether (ETH), second largest cryptocurrency with $200 billion market cap, which powers the ecosystem as gas for transactions and staking collateral.

Speed & Scalability – Currently ~15 transactions per second (TPS), with layer 2 solutions and the upcoming Eth2 upgrades aiming for 100,000+ TPS. Recent optimizations have net fees 90% lower than 2021 peaks.

Key Tools – Solidity and Vyper programming languages, Truffle Suite and Hardhat for dApp development, Web3 libraries to connect applications to the blockchain.

Notable DeFi apps – MakerDAO for stablecoin issuance, Aave and Compound for lending, Uniswap for trading, insurance protocols like Nexus Mutual.

Benefits – By far the largest developer community with over 250,000 ecosystem contributors and 4,000+ live de-centralized apps, along with robust security and a trusted brand.

Drawbacks – Historical scalability issues leading to periods of network congestion and high transaction fees, since mitigated by infrastructure improvements.

Cardano – Scientific Blockchain for Finance

Origin – Launched in 2017 by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson, with a research-driven design focused on security, scalability and sustainability. The protocol specifications and critical components underwent extensive peer review prior to launch. Over $20 billion is now stored on Cardano across numerous assets and applications.

Consensus – Uses Ouroboros proof-of-stake (PoS) for energy efficiency, enhanced network security by shuffling validators, and easy ability for token holders to earn rewards for participation.

Native Token – ADA, designed to allow staking for returns averaging 5% APY and community governance voting on network upgrades.

Speed & Scalability – Currently over 250 TPS, aiming for 1 million+ TPS as additional scaling solutions launch such as Hydra state channels and sidechain interoperability. Transaction fees average just $0.30.

Key Tools – Plutus smart contract language, Marlowe simplified finance-focused contracts, full Node.js SDK.

Example Finance Uses – Asset tokenization, decentralized identity and KYC solutions, crypto debit cards, regulated DeFi platforms, commodities and equity trading.

Benefits – Technically peer-reviewed architecture with formal verification of core code. Committed long-term roadmap for scaling, security and sustainability.

Drawbacks – Less rich ecosystem currently versus Ethereum, with fewer integrated traditional finance partners and live dApps.

Polygon – Scalability for Ethereum DeFi

Origin – Originally called Matic Network when launched in 2017, renamed to Polygon in 2021 along with expanding scope beyond a single sidechain scaling solution for Ethereum.

Consensus – Customized proof-of-stake (PoS) layer 2 framework designed to massively scale Ethereum Dapps while benefitting from its superior security model.

Native Token – MATIC, primarily used to pay gas fees and enable staking from validators. The asset has a $9 billion market cap.

Speed & Scalability – Over 7,000 TPS currently across Polygon PoS, with framework to theoretically scale on-demand to 65,536+ TPS via sidechains and other layer 2 solutions.

Key Tools – Seamlessly compatible with existing Ethereum languages (Solidity), wallets and APIs like Web3.js. Leading Ethereum tool Truffle Suite also available.

Example Finance Uses – Aave (lending), Curve (trading) and Balancer (indexing) ported over from Ethereum, easy bridges to transfer assets between.

Benefits – Near instant and extremely low cost Ethereum transactions leveraging shared dev community and interoperable security model.

Drawbacks – Relies on Ethereum for final settlement guarantees, so inherits limitations from the base layer like periods of network congestion.

Comparison of Leading Blockchain Platform Capabilities for Finance

Let‘s compare high level metrics across the top blockchain ecosystems to evaluate the current landscape:

Bitcoin Ethereum Cardano Solana
Live Since 2009 2015 2017 2020
Market Cap $400B $200B $18B $10B
Avg. Transaction Fees $1.50 $2.40 $0.30 $0.00025
Consensus Mechanism PoW PoW -> PoS Ouroborous PoS PoH + PoS
Transactions/Second 7 TPS 15 TPS 257 TPS 50,000 TPS
Languages/Frameworks Bitcoin Script Solidity, Web3.js Plutus, Marlowe Rust
Developers 1,300+ 250,000+ 1,000+ 1,000+

While Bitcoin pioneered digital money without centralized control, successive blockchain platforms have innovated in areas like smart contract functionality (Ethereum), sustainability and scalability (Cardano) and lightning speed (Solana) to power more advanced financial use cases.

However, Bitcoin still serves a valuable role in finance as a scarce, digital store of value and settlement network protected by the largest computing network on the planet – no other blockchain can match its resilience against attacks.

Key Considerations for Financial Institutions

Given the variety of blockchain capabilities for finance across networks, how should financial institutions approach evaluating options? Here are 5 critical factors I advise teams to weigh:

  1. Required throughput – Will your application need to support heavy transaction volumes like retail trading and payments? If so, ultra-high capacities from Solana or Polygon may work better than early-stage platforms.
  2. Data privacy – Public blockchains promote radical transparency which improves auditability but limits confidentiality. Private or permitted solutions could be better suited for sensitive applications.
  3. App complexity – Will you just transfer tokenized assets or currencies like Bitcoin, or execute more advanced logic like batching payments or automatically dispensing loans as on Ethereum? The more composability needed, the more that tilts towards smart contract platforms.
  4. Ecosystem maturity & talent pool – For integrating with existing systems and apps or composably using pre-built DeFi modules, Ethereum currently provides the deepest set of building blocks and most blockchain developers familiar with Solidity.
  5. Budget – Building on public networks powered by large numbers of globally distributed nodes can be more operationally and financially demanding versus smaller consortium chains. Carefully evaluate costs.

By weighing these design considerations and consulting blockchain experts, financial organizations can make informed platform decisions tailored to their unique requirements and blockchain adoption strategy.

The Future Looks Bright for Blockchain Finance

Financial services are being upgraded day-by-day as blockchain solutions see ballooning real-world adoption from major banks, central banks, exchanges and disruptive FinTech startups. The platforms detailed here lead the way in enabling the next generation of faster, fairer and more transparent blockchain-based software architectures for finance.

As blockchain capabilities advance across decentralized ecosystems, virtually every aspect of banking, insurance, investing, trade finance and payments could be upgraded or replaced altogether via natively digital, peer-to-peer and crypto-economic networks. Financial processes might run 24/7/365 without human involvement via smart contracts on censorship-resistant, programmable money blockchains interweaving the worlds of software and finance.

For forward-thinking developers, entrepreneurs and incumbents eager to innovate in fintech, there has never been a more exciting time. By arming yourself with knowledge of the unlocked capabilities of blockchains today, you can turn bold visions for the future of finance into deployable code solving real business challenges. The possibilities are endless as finance finally enters the decentralized blockchain age!