Visa Europe’s innovation lab was demonstrating its proof-of-concept remittance app, which sends funds over the bitcoin blockchain. The „remittance journey” starts on the send screen. This is a responsive web page that works on a desktop or mobile browser. The idea is for a user to link a Visa card to the remittance app. Once linked, the app will show an available balance and the corresponding card details.
The prototype comes with BitPesa built in as a third-party service that will enable the recipient to obtain their funds in a fiat currency of their choice. The user therefore has to sign up for a BitPesa or other third-party service account before sending funds, including performing any ‘know your customer’ procedures like uploading identity documents.
Once signed up, the user can then add a list of recipients using a variety of contact information. For example, a user could add a Kenyan telephone number to the recipient list. Once added, BitPesa generates a bitcoin address for the recipient, meaning the recipient never has to generate an address or wallet of their own to receive the funds. The sender can also include a note with the money transfer.
The recipient doesn’t need a BitPesa account to obtain the funds. Instead, they would simply receive Kenyan shillings transferred by M-Pesa, the dominant mobile money channel there.
The app, then, has allowed ‘John’ to send 25 pounds from a Visa card to his grandma in Kenya, who received Kenyan shillings on her phone, with the whole process taking about six steps.
In between, the funds were taken from the Visa-linked account, converted to bitcoin and sent to an address generated by BitPesa, then converted into Kenyan shilling and transferred to the receiver’s M-Pesa account.
The next stage of development for Visa Europe’s bitcoin remittance concept is user research. The last few days have been spent on research groups with users who regularly remit money, asking them questions about their comfort level with using bitcoin for remittances, for example.
Users have been surprisingly curious about the use of bitcoin and its underlying technology. Initial responses from users suggest that they are neutral and sometimes positive about bitcoin’s potential as a remittance technology, with little indication that they are fearful or cautious about using it.
In future, the remittance concept could be integrated with other third-party vendors, taking care of the „off-ramp” problem for users to receive their funds. The app could ultimately be deployed in a number of different ways, including as a „white label” service to banks.
But for now, the concept is drawing to the end of its 100-day development cycle. The user research would inform the team’s next steps, which would be to consider a commercial model for the product. This would include a possible fee structure and consideration of third-party vendors.
However, there is no guarantee that the concept would be used in a commercial setting.
„Tendinţele pe care le-am remarcat înainte de începerea pandemiei s-au accelerat pe perioada stării de urgenţă. Am văzut acest lucru ca o oportunitate, un tipping point pentru bancă. Post-pandemie nu avem cum sa ne întoarcem la comportamentul financiar pe care îl aveam până în februarie a.c. Relaţia românilor cu online-ul s-a schimbat. In plus, cardul fizic se va dematerializa. Vom asista la o scădere a cererii pentru cardurile fizice, respectiv la o creştere a preferinţei pentru componenta digitală a acestora.”