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American Express CEO says he recognizes the value of Bitcoin’s technology, among statements which demonstrate an industry still nervous about digital currencies.
Speaking at the Dealbook Conference Thursday, Kenneth I. Chenault’s “softer” criticism, as the New York Times describes it, is in stark contrast to comments made by peers MasterCard and Citibank on the same issue.
“The protocol of Bitcoin is going to be important,” he said.
Such statements hardly sound surprising, but American Express stands out among fiat payment processor giants in its measured response to Bitcoin thus far. Whereas Citibank even went to the extreme of stating that Bitcoin was “fiat currency” in a recent report, CEO Chenault instead is frank about the market’s motives while withholding the more nonsensical assertions of his market competitors. He stated:
“The reality is, we compete with any form of payments. Everyone focuses on the displacement of Bitcoin and the credit card industry.”
In terms of AmEx’s history with Bitcoin, Chenault is not alone. His words come as the former Vice President of AmEx’s prepaid card division, Ed Boyle, is launching Blade Financial, the world’s first B2B-oriented payment processor supporting Bitcoin debit cards.
The scheme will be offered to digital currency companies to allow their customers to spend Bitcoin at the near endless array of international merchants.
Boyle’s motivation seemingly comes from wanting to increase both the proliferation of merchant acceptance and ease of spending Bitcoin.
“It’s the age old chicken and egg problem: which comes first, merchants or consumers?” he said in a press release issued Thursday. “Blade takes away half of the equation by fully solving for the merchant side.”
Having presided over a number of industry firsts during his tenure at AmEx, such as the first microchip-enabled corporate card, Boyle appears well-placed to oversee the fulfillment of the latest addition to the ‘banking-reliant’ Bitcoin scene. While it would be difficult to call the move an unprecedented advancement, Boyle’s stance on Bitcoin is to be applauded in its constructive approach.
Blade will offer both white label and co-branded debit cards, allowing Bitcoin companies to “offload merchant adoption to Blade so they can focus on their core business of acquiring and retaining users,” the press release explains.
Meanwhile, CEO Chenault’s words received a lukewarm reception from the community, nonetheless representing a marked improvement over the reaction to both MasterCard and Citibank.
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