Three headlines in the cryptocurrency space this week show how seriously Big Tech, Big Fintech, and the world’s largest financial services companies are taking the rise of digital assets. And while each of the three companies listed below varies in the degree to which it is embracing our increasingly crypto-friendly future, their continued interest in the space suggests that the pace of adoption of digital assets – and the proliferation of use cases – is only likely to grow in the months and years to come.
Are Cryptocurrencies Coming to ApplePay? – AppleInsider reported early this week that Apple is considering integrating cryptocurrencies into its Apple Pay solution.
The report is based largely on an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook had with Aaron Ross Sorkin as part of the DealBook Online Summit sponsored by The New York Times. That said, those looking for a firm commitment from Apple in Cook’s conversation with Sorkin will be disappointed; while Cook expressed interest in cryptocurrencies from a “personal point of view … for awhile” and admitted that he believed that it was “reasonable to own (cryptocurrencies) as part of a diversified portfolio,” the idea of Apple accepting cryptocurrencies as payment for Apple products and services remains just that – an idea. Cook also expressed skepticism toward the notion of Apple investing in cryptocurrencies as part of a corporate investment strategy.
Apple’s relationship with cryptocurrencies has been cautious, to say the least. Back in 2014, Apple removed a number of Bitcoin wallets from its App Store, including one trading and storage app with 120,000 users, and another wallet app from Coinbase. More recently, there has been some softening of Apple’s stance, with Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey conceding the the company is “watching” the space and sees “interesting long-term potential” in digital currencies just a few years ago.
It’s worth noting that Apple’s reputation in technology is less as a first-mover and more that of a technology enhancer that often comes along and does a better job at innovations initiated by others. So the idea that Apple’s approach to embracing cryptocurrencies would be similarly slow-rolling is consistent with how the company has long operated. Nevertheless, Apple Pay’s fintech rivals – such as PayPal, Square, and Stripe – have been far more eager to pursue opportunities in crypto. Add to this the fact that Google Pay has teamed up with digital asset marketplace Bakkt in a deal that will enable users to spend Bakkt Card crypto funds directly from their Google Pay accounts. Together, it seems much more likely that a closer relationship between cryptocurrencies and Apple Pay is a question of “when” rather than “if.” As interest in digital currencies accelerate, and the solutions and services from these crypto-friendly fintechs become more widespread and even mainstream, it is hard to imagine Apple Pay remaining on the sidelines.
Revolut Takes Steps Toward Building a Cryptocurrency Exchange – The rumor that aspiring super app Revolut is looking to build a cryptocurrency exchange hinges largely on a job posting at LinkedIn. According to reports, Revolut wants to hire an individual with at least seven years experience in technology and in building order matching engines to lead a technical team to “architect and built Revolut Crypto Exchange.”
The crypto exchange would further establish Revolut as a leading player in the cryptocurrency space and potentially enable the company to diversify its services and create new cash flow, which could help Revolut establish another reliable revenue source going forward. The exchange news also follows reports that Revolut was looking into launching its own crypto token. And while Revolut has not commented on what it has referred to as a “mere rumor”, the report, first shared by Coindesk earlier this fall, does bolster the notion that Revolut is deepening its commitment to digital assets – a space the company has enjoined aggressively since introducing in-app cryptocurrency trading functionality in 2018.
In April of this year, Revolut added 11 new crypto tokens to its platform. The following month, the company launched its public beta for Bitcoin withdrawals. “I said before that 2021 would be the year of crypto and Revolut is here to deliver on that promise,” company Head of Crypto Edward Cooper announced in June when the company revealed that it would add Dogecoin to its current cryptocurrencies offerings for traders. “One of the most popular user requests over the past couple of months has been to add Dogecoin and we have answered the call!”
Revolut has more than 16 million customers around the world, and conducts more than 150 million transactions a month on its platform.
Mastercard Introduces Crypto-Linked Cards for the APAC Region – Also this week, Mastercard announced that it has secured partnerships with a trio of cryptocurrency companies – Amber, Bitkum, and Coinjar – who will issue crypto-funded Mastercard payment cards. The collaboration represents the first APAC-based cryptocurrency service providers (Amber and Bitkum are based in Thailand, Coinjar is headquartered in Australia) to join Mastercard’s Crypto Card Program, an initiative designed to enable companies to offer secure payment cards that meet regulatory requirements with regards to cryptocurrencies.
“Cryptocurrencies are many things to people – an investment, a disruptive technology, or a unique financial tool,” Mastercard EVP for Digital and Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows in the Asia Pacific region Rama Sridhar said. “As interest and attention surges from all quarters, their real-world applications are now emerging beyond the speculative. In collaboration with these partners that adhere to the same core principles that Mastercard does – that any digital currency must offer stability, regulatory compliance, and consumer protection – Mastercard is expanding what’s possible with cryptocurrencies to give people even greater choice and flexibility in how they pay.”
Mastercard’s APAC announcement comes on the heels of news that the company will enable the banks and merchants on its payment network to integrate cryptocurrency offerings into their products. The new arrangement comes courtesy of a partnership with Bakkt and will empower bitcoin wallet providers as well as issuers of credit and debit cards that offer rewards in crypto and enable digital assets to be spent. Also benefitting from Mastercard’s plan are those companies that offer loyalty programs that allow points from travel or hotel stays to be converted in to cryptocurrencies.
“Mastercard is committed to offering a wide range of payment solutions that deliver more choice, value, and impact every day,” Mastercard EVP for Digital Partnerships Sherri Haymond said. “Together with Bakkt and grounded by our principled approach to innovation, we’ll not only empower our partners to offer a dynamic mix of digital assets options, but also deliver differentiated and relevant consumer experiences.”