Visa, the world’s leading payment system, is looking to hire a senior project manager to work with its research development team to expand ostensibly its planned initiatives in the Fintech arena. Per the posted job description: “The person should possess a functional knowledge of the crypto industry and major players involved, as well as in-depth knowledge of distributed ledger technology and a deep understanding of existing retail payment solutions. Familiarity with advanced cryptography will be preferred, the job description notes.”
Visa has been low key in its first steps into the crypto/blockchain space, possible because early Bitcoin evangelists had portrayed Visa and its banks as being the enemy that cryptos would eventually push to the side of the road. Such rhetoric may have generated press copy, but no one ever expected such a shift to occur within decades, if ever. Visa CEO, Al Kelly, was moved to declare last year that, “Cryptocurrencies do not pose a challenge to the company’s dominance in the payment sphere in the short- to medium-term. Crypto needs to move from being a commodity to really being a payment instrument before it can represent a real competitor to the traditional financial system.”
Recent financial press headlines seem to echo these sentiments, as well, as Facebook and IBM have made news with their intended use of blockchain technology and crypto tokens in the form of stablecoins to facilitate more efficient cross-border payments. Even JPMorgan Chase with its internally focused “JPM Coin” is designed to speed up the transfers of billions of dollars a day of cross-border remittances by tapping into the efficiencies of decentralized ledger technology.
A major portion of Visa’s daily transactional flow involves millions of cross-border purchase and money transfers. The Visa infrastructure, however, is totally based on a centralized set of protocols that attempt to distribute value-added services from the central core by searching for patterns that might signal where potential fraud might occur. Cross-border fraud is typically a “10X” multiple of domestic fraudulent activity.
Using the power of the blockchain and its decentralized ledger update capabilities would be anathema to Visa’s basic way of doing business, but the Fintech giant understands that it cannot ignore what has been described as the next great innovative wave to sweep the planet. In that regard and in late December, it announced the acquisition of Earthport for $250 million. Earthport provides cross-border payment services to banks and businesses, but more importantly, it has been partnering with Ripple, the blockchain-based payment network, since 2015.
Ripple’s CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, has been quite outspoken in the payment space, declaring that his firm will supplant SWIFT, the banking consortium and intermediary for all wire transfer activity between banks in the global payments system. His last missive: “SWIFT said not that long ago they didn’t see blockchain as a solution to correspondent banking. We’ve got well over 100 of their customers saying they disagree.” Earthport has been working closely with Ripple for three years, but it can also call the Bank of America, Hyperwallet, Transferwise, Payoneer, and Japan Post Bank as being clients, as well.
Earthport has engineered its own success story. Per one report: “In January 2016, Earthport launched the world’s first distributed ledger hub (DLH). Using DLH, Earthport clients can use the group’s distributed ledger technology through a simple and inexpensive single API — a first for the financial industry. The API not only provides access to the Ripple ecosystem, but also offers access to the wide array of payment methods that Earthport offers in over 200 countries.”
How will Visa integrate the power of Earthport’s new technology into its proprietary framework? We suspect that the new senior blockchain manager, once on board, will spend every waking hour in pursuit of the best possible answer to that question. In the process, any efforts by Visa in the crypto ecosphere will add more fuel to the fire that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are here to stay.