PayExpo: what FinTech really wants from crypto

Wednesday 17 June 2015

A strong crypto presence at the UK’s largest payment providers’ conference raises some interesting points about how real-world finance businesses are engaging with crypto.

PayExpo is the UK’s largest event for members of the payment industry. On 9-10 June, representatives from banking, telecoms and FinTech met to find out the latest developments - and this time, there was a strong presence from the cryptocurrency community.

Read also: Interview with Drachmae 

The assumption is often that banks and other established players view bitcoin as a threat to their existence or way of business. That feeling may have softened in recent months, but the emphasis is still on exchange integration and basic money transfer. So, how did traditional FinTech engage with the new technology offered by cryptocurrency? Bas Wisselink from the Nxt Foundation explained how they are actually interested - though not in the ways you might have imagined.


PayExpo: turns out FinTech is 'actually quite interested' in crypto - just not bitcoin so much

‘We've talked to quite a lot of people from both the banking and payment industries,’ says Bas. ‘They don't actually hate bitcoin or crypto, but bitcoin is definitely not being considered as much as you’d expect. Not so much because it's “bad”, as that now that they have seen the potential of the newer technologies. They see more opportunities in newer tech that is built with new ideas, but taking the innovations of bitcoin.’

Use cases

Critically, the simple function of money transfer alone that bitcoin serves is not of great interest to Western businesses. ‘Uses that people are looking for are primarily secure and auditable ledgers and tokenisation. For the "developed" world, the currency angle doesn't really strike a chord, but for the "developing" world, the currency side is potentially HUGE. We got a few people wanting to work on that, too.’

One of the lessons for cryptocurrency communities looking to drive adoption, says Bas, is therefore looking for solutions that solve a problem for a large demographic. Slick client interfaces are important when it comes to the end-user, but for the FinTech sector it’s all about the power of the underlying protocols. ‘The point is NOT to show anything finished, but to present simple use cases that work. No one who is in a position to make decisions looks at skins and nice cosmetics: it's usability they are looking for. So, now that the PayExpo is over, we'll be putting our energy in that. We will do follow up on the businesses we've met and work towards real results.’

Lee Gibson Grant, a payments industry professional who also attended to discuss his Drachmae project to create a blockchain-based currency for Greece, added, ‘All the big banks are looking at and experimenting with Smart Contracts and Smart Bonds. Microlending and loyalty programmes based on your digital identity is also a big topic within the banking sector as they hold so much information on you; the use of the blockchain for digital identity requirements is in high demand due to considerations of Big Data and security.’


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