End users are still getting used to the idea of using digital assets to make payments, but is a complete market takeover the goal? It is easy to assume that new innovations in blockchain will simply replace traditional payments and existing market leaders, but new introductions like JP Morgan’s JPM Coin suggest otherwise. Can digital assets and traditional financial institutions coexist? Oscar Williams-Grut, Senior City Correspondent for Yahoo Finance UK, joined a panel of experts from the payments industry to discuss how far blockchain will go, and what role traditional financial institutions will play in the transformation of the industry.
Although digital assets can be used for some retail transactions, it’s still in the early stages of mass adoption. When PwC’s Pauline Adam-Kalfon asked how many people in the room bought their tickets for PBWS with a digital currency, not that many people raised their hands, and that was a concentration of the people who believe in blockchain the most. However, for wholesale banking there are more use cases, as companies are beginning to see the benefits it can provide, especially when it is more cost effective.
Instant payments may sound fantastic, especially for use in wholesale banking. However, the increased transaction speed could be worrisome for customers who are weary of hackers or technological issues. The buffer of time that customers need to wait for transactions to go through reassures them that someone is making sure that the payment has been processed correctly, although they need to wait longer to receive money. Is there a way for instant payments to be just as trustworthy as current transactions? According to the panellists, the ultimate goal is to get as close to instant payments as possible, with a way to track the payments in case something goes wrong and to avoid hacks.
It’s not very realistic to say that everyone is going to completely switch over to digital asset payments tomorrow, but crypto assets can definitely be introduced into the market as an alternative. Digital assets powered by blockchain also provide a point of entry and financial inclusion for people living in areas where they don’t have much access to banks, or for people who are marginalized by their societies for entry into financial markets. Blockchain can provide solutions for this kind of problem that banks cannot solve because of their centralized nature.
Although many people aren’t 100% happy with their banks, especially after the 2008 crisis, most people do trust them, because they don’t have a choice, and because they know that payments are verified. Digital asset providers are going to have to achieve that level of trust (or more) in order to become mainstream. They also have to set a standard, to become what everyone uses. Digital assets haven’t reached that point yet. They must also be accessible and easy to use, because, as Pauline Adam-Kalfon points out, “you can’t talk payments without customer experience.”
Blockchain can be a convenient and quick solution for countries who can no longer depend on their currencies, like Venezuela, who quickly adopted cryptocurrencies like Dash when their economy was in trouble. This has also been a solution for some EU countries in times of need, like Greece after the 2008 economic crisis.
This has only been a sample of the key takeaways from the “Blockchain: The Future of Payments?” panel from the Paris Blockchain Week Summit 2019. The full transcript of the panel is available below for even more insights.