Project Infinity, launched in May 2017 by NEX Group (formerly ICAP), could be the biggest drain that the distributed registers sector has seen to date, with a cost of about $ 31.7 million and dozens of marginalized jobs, say former employees.
Led by Jenny Knott, former head of NEX Optimization, the project had a great vision to bring the entire portfolio of post-sales services of the company onto a single, interoperable blockchain architecture. However, NEX issued a notice of profit in October 2017 and only two weeks after Knott left the company.
In a blow to the nascent project, the declaration of results specified that the investment in blockchain had reduced margins by 4 percentage points.  Sources say an agreement to sell the company to CME for $ 5.5 billion, announced by NEX chief Michael Spencer in March 2018, was a driver in cutting costs at the company.
A former NEX executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CoinDesk: "They significantly downsized [Spencer] would not have invested another penny that would not have given him short-term revenues. . "  An industrial blockchain source who claimed that his company had hired former staff of Infinity, went further, arguing that the project had not been resized but had actually been "boxed".
"They got rid of Knott and then about two months ago, the staff fired the project, 47 of the 50 employees were fired," the source said.
CoinDesk spoke with five former NEX employees, who confirmed the severity of serious staff reductions, if not the specific figures. One reported that, in his particular division, nine out of 10 jobs were lost, adding that there were some divisions like his; another affirmed the figure.
"People doing strategic work have mostly disappeared," he said.
In terms of rising project costs, a former employee said that NEX made a mistake when he decided to make Infinity a "program" that brought added costs and expectations.
"When you do something in a" program "it means hiring all these people who plan things and make tons of spreadsheets and so on," said the former employee.  "There was a huge group of people doing business requirements, managing user groups for opinions. Some of these things are necessary, but not the scale," he continued.
Another cost factor related to Traiana, the NEX division most closely related to the project, they said, was updating its infrastructure that ended up in the project books, thus increasing the perceived costs.
He is alive
Still, NEX himself is challenging the claims of former staff members.
Andre s Choussy, CEO of Traiana, said that Project Infinity has not been completely archived. On the contrary, he said that he entered the stage of execution in a live environment with the blockchain builder Axoni. However, he admitted that the project was downsized
"[Infinity] had a vision, vision is a sonic vision that we would still try to get to one day, but we are realistic," said Choussy.
"You see it from many of the DLT initiatives, moving the market into something completely new is not an easy task, so what we have done is to focus our efforts on specific applications, specific use cases that are really plans- driven, "he said.
NEX could not comment on the number of jobs lost in the project, but confirmed that the number of employees involved had been reduced. No specific number has been provided by the company.
Choussy said the part of the DLT project was restricted to focus on post-trade FX.
In fact, NEX was an investor who was returning to the recently announced Series A loan round in Axoni, which is said to be building "a massive FX post-trading data network".
NEX is also an investor in the Digital Asset of the DLT provider and was one of the first members of the USC (Utility Settlement Coin) project, although a source involved in USC said it had fallen out of communication with the group.
A former project engineer has painted an image of the tough challenge to meet the requirements of the case of use with DLT, followed by a missed opportunity to get a product out of the door.
Axoni was selected from the beginning because it provided a unique partitioning capability that some of the other vendors did, said former NEX engineer. Throughput has been a problem, but transaction processing has increased with the evolution of the project, he said.
In addition to the work done with Axoni, the engineer claimed that a "Hyperledger" implementation was implemented that has achieved privacy partitioning by creating different networks, as well as a built-in ledger, "basically a schema of glorified replication, but with cryptographic evidence and forced privacy checks "that could handle very high throughput.
"We were really right at the edge of the razor to bring this stuff out of the door when there was a massive set of layoffs and the whole team in London was let go," he said, adding:
"The politics around the situation has changed, even the company was preparing to try to make things look good to the acquisition CME."
The architecture of DLT of Infinity it had to anchor and capture an extremely rich data set coming from multiple parties – brokers, banks, buy-sides – whi ch serve as a backbone for a one-stop financial cloud that offers automatic learning and intelligence artificial as a service at the top.
In the end, this became a pungent irony. An anecdote told by a former employee recounted how the day after the interruption of the entire machine learning team, Spencer returned from Davos enthusiastic about AI and AI learning and wondering what he was doing NEX in that area.
A proposal for a company Also the strategy of the IA has been put together, said the former staffer.
Opinions seem to be divided on how well the remains of the Project Infinity blockchain could be fair once NEX becomes the property of the US trade giant CME. The former member of the NEX technology team said the original vision of a post-trade ledger with data analysis platform still has great value and could even be the "crown jewel" in the eyes of CME.
However, the former manager was doubtful about Infinity's progress, saying, "CME had its own distributed registry strategy."
CME Group declined to comment once reached.
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