Stablecoins and CBDCs can play a ‘meaningful role’ in payments – Visa CEO

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The CEO of credit card giant Visa remains convinced that blockchain-powered solutions can be integrated into its services and offerings to enable the next generation of payments.

Speaking at Visa’s annual shareholder meeting on Jan. 24, outgoing CEO Al Kelly — who will officially step down Feb. 1 — briefly shared the company’s plans for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and private stablecoins.

According to a Jan. 24 report from the San Francisco Business Times, Kelly said:

“It is still very early days, but we continue to believe that stablecoins and central bank digital currencies have the potential to play a meaningful role in the payments space, and we have a number of ongoing initiatives.”

“We have made an intangible amount of investment in crypto funds and companies as we try to invest in the payments ecosystem,” explains the outgoing CEO.

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Kelly also confirmed that Visa’s balance sheet has not been impacted by some of the “high-profile failures” that rocked the cryptocurrency space in 2022:

“We have had no credit losses related to these failures […] Please know that in everything we do we are extremely focused on maintaining the integrity of Visa’s payment system and the payment system as a whole and of course the reputation of our brand that stands for trust.

Over the years, Visa has worked on a number of crypto-related initiatives.

The research team began work in September 2021 on a blockchain interoperability project called the Universal Payment Channel (UPC) initiative. The project was designed to create a “network of networks” for CBDCs and private stablecoins to traverse different payment channels.

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However, Visa has not provided an update on the UPC for over 12 months.

More recently, the payments giant announced on December 20, 2022 that it was developing a plan to allow automated bills to be paid from a user’s Ethereum-powered wallet.

Visa has also recently rolled out several “zero fee” cryptocurrency debit cards, including a now-terminated agreement with FTX and a partnership with Blockchain.com on October 26, 2022, which is still in effect.

An example of a Visa-FTX debit card before Visa finally ended the partnership agreement. Source: Yahoo Finance.

While Visa’s 2022 annual report only included data through Sept. 30 — about five weeks before FTX collapsed — more information may be revealed in Visa’s Q1 2023 earnings call on Jan. 26.

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Visa President Ryan McInerney will officially replace Al Kelly as CEO on February 1, while Kelly remains on board as executive chairman.

McInerney seems equally, if not more optimistic about blockchain-powered payment solutions.

In an interview with Fortune in November 2022, McInerney said that Visa still has “$14 trillion in cash spent by consumers that can be digitized” and that they continue to explore where crypto payments are best used.