Israel-based GetGems mobile wallet and messenger app earned the title of the “most visionary social solution” for “instant payments across social platforms” in the Citi Mobile Challenge in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Citi announced the results on May 28 at the culmination of the challenge in which they invited technological developers to “reimagine digital banking.” According to GetGems’ press release:

“The GetGems app is poised to provide instant payment solutions across social platforms and [...] explore a commercial relationship with Citi.”

One of more than 740 applicants across 101 countries, GetGems and the other award winners demonstrated what Jim Cowles, CEO of Citi for EMEA, called a “maniacal focus on creating a truly distinctive client experience.” He said such an intense level of focus was necessary for winners to show that they had what it takes to be successful over the long term.

GetGems is one of the first digital currency startups to link mobile payments on the blockchain with a social networking platform. Through their wallet, both banked and unbanked users can instantly send money through the networks of GetGems and Telegram — the open-source software on which the app is based — through text messaging.

By awarding GetGems with the title “Top-10 FinTech Startup,” Citi has recognized the “truly inspiring” app as “a solution that could transform financial services and fuel progress in other industries like transportation and education.”

Citi itself seems intensely focused on the future. The global bank recently requested that the UK government create its own digital currency, the adoption of which Citi called “inevitable.” In a country where digital payments overtook cash transactions for the first time in 2014, commercial relationships with FinTech startups may be a beneficial long-term plan for any bank that wants to remain relevant in today’s quickly changing financial landscape. Cowles said:

“As banks continue to redefine themselves, they must work with the broader FinTech community to discover fresh ideas that can help create the client experience of tomorrow.”

Jim Cowles, CEO of Citi for EMEA

The third-largest global bank by assets, Citi recently pled guilty to the criminal charge of manipulating markets, along with four other big banks, including Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS. The banks have agreed to pay US$5.6 billion in combined penalties. 

In a conversation with Daniel Peled, CEO of GetGems, Cointelegraph asked about Peled’s reaction to the charges, the potential relationship between GetGems and Citi, and how the two companies may work together in the future.

Cointelegraph: What does a “commercial relationship” with Citi mean for GetGems?

Daniel Peled: It’s early to say, but they are very excited with what we are doing and the technology we are using. We have a follow-up call early next week, and Citi has a group in Israel that leads the collaboration. The biggest problem with financial services is compliance.

When people’s money is involved, regulation moves to the top of the agenda. Basically, banking disruption requires resources. You need a lot of capital to deploy and meet regulation. Citi can potentially offer a big support.

“Because of our extensive development work, we were up to the challenge and could show how GetGems would scale and integrate into a large system such as Citi has.”

Daniel Peled, CEO of GetGems

CT: You say you are “poised to provide instant payment solutions across social platforms.” Can you say which ones?

DP: We are currently working with Telegram, which has 62 million active users, and we have a “proof of concept” working with Facebook’s new SDK [software development kit] (with their 1.5 billion users), which we have presented to Citi.

CT: Is there anything specific in the works with regards to scaling your app to work with Citi’s worldwide clients?

DP: As part of the competition, we worked with the Citi API to integrate our application with hypothetical Citi customers, to allow payments based on blockchain technology across social networks. Because of our extensive development work, we were up to the challenge and could show how GetGems would scale and integrate into a large system such as Citi has.

CT: What would be a sample use case?

DP: Citi and all banks have the same problem. Users trust them, but their applications are “old” and require many steps to send money — compared to the social “fun” applications such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. People trust their banks, but outside of banking, they engage with social applications.

GetGems’ technology bridges this gap between banking (bank users) and social (social networks). Instead of having to trust your bank account details with every social network — i.e., Facebook, Snapchat, WeChat, Twitter, etc. — you will only need to verify your account with your bank.

CT: Given the recent charges against Citi, do you have any reservations about associating your startup with the reputation of a big bank?

DP: We are a startup that happens to be working in the financial sector precisely because Bitcoin is a new way of looking at finance. Most people have bank accounts and even though banking might change significantly in a few years because of this great technology, there is regulation in place to address specific concerns.

GetGems is a legal business registered in Israel and we have no reservations about working with major companies in this sector, any more than Bitpay, Circle, Coinbase, or any of the other major Bitcoin businesses.

CT: Shapeshift recently integrated the Gemz asset (your official token) into its digital currency exchange, which is a sign that you’ve achieved a certain level of dependable trading volume. Did the addition have an effect on value or demand?

DP: Volume increased the days after, yes, and then it calmed down.

CT Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DP: We are very pleased that the iOS and Android development is slightly ahead of schedule and we are able to focus on enhancements leading to the airdrop and rewards system implementation. Certainly our award from Citi is motivating, and we are also very pleased as a team that there is such great input from the community.