Global payments giant Visa is launching a new crypto API pilot scheme designed to help banks facilitate Bitcoin and cryptocurrency services. First Boulevard, a digital bank whose mission is to help “Black America build wealth,” is the first to participate in the groundbreaking program.
Jack Forestell, the Chief Product Officer at Visa, said the firm is already working on bridging the gap between crypto and its merchant network. But the API scheme intends to take this to the next level by bringing banks into the ecosystem.
“We set out to make Visa the bridge between digital currencies and our global network of 70 million merchants and today we are the leading network for crypto wallets with 35 crypto platforms choosing to issue with Visa.
With this pilot program, we want to extend the value of Visa to our neobank and financial institution clients by providing an easy bridge to crypto assets and blockchain networks.”
Using Visa’s crypto APIs, banks can purchase, custody, and trade cryptocurrencies held by Anchorage digital bank. Anchorage provides institutional-grade custodial services. Its co-founder Diogo Mónica describes this as “financial plumbing that other companies depend on.”
The scheme will serve as a testing ground for banks to access and incorporate crypto products into their lineup. Visa expects the finalized service to launch later on this year.
Diversity and inclusivity
Visa states that teaming up with First Boulevard was a deliberate attempt to level the playing field. Especially in terms of bringing new technologies to marginalized groups.
The partnership will new Visa-backed product offerings from First Boulevard, including a cashback scheme and Visa debit card. But crucially, First Boulevard and Visa will work together to develop educational resources to demystify crypto amongst under-represented communities.
Donald Hawkins, the CEO of First Boulevard expressed his excitement with the tie-up by saying:
“We are thrilled to partner with the leader in digital payments, Visa, and leverage their crypto APIs to provide another channel for the Black community to access crypto as a new asset class that can help build Black wealth.”
Institutions can no longer afford to dismiss crypto
Back in early 2018, Visa CEO Alfred Kelly spoke badly of cryptocurrency. Kelly called it a speculative commodity not backed by anything. What’s more, he flat out refused to deal with it.
However, later on in the year, it became apparent that Kelly was having a change of heart. Speaking on CNBC, he acknowledged that crypto was gaining ground in terms of legitimacy. And while he remained somewhat gridlocked on the matter, he conceded that Visa will embrace the trend if need be.
“We want to be in the middle, Jim, of every payment flow in the world regardless of how it happens or what the currency is behind it. So if we have to go there, we will go there. But right now, it’s more of a commodity than a payment vehicle.
Today, Visa is one of many tech giants driving the crypto uprising forward. And with its API pilot scheme, this may well turn into a full-blown revolution.