Dan Schulman: “I do believe that digital currencies are going to come into the mainstream. I do think the entire world is moving toward digital first. I think transactions that used to be all-digital, that were online, are now moving digital offline as well. So, all in-store transactions are moving toward tapping your phone or a QR code. I think it’s just… The time is now.”

  • PayPal CEO and president Dan Schulman spoke about PayPal’s recent decision to incorporate cryptocurrencies. “As we thought about it, digital wallets are a natural complement to digital currencies. We’ve got over 360 million digital wallets and we need to embrace cryptocurrencies.”
  • Schulman spoke about how PayPal thinks about digital currencies, who he sees as competitors, the mainstream viability of cashless currencies, and the need to work hand-in-hand with regulators.
  • Schulman joined European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban at the online conference Web Summit, which had 100,000 attendees.

Schulman, in his first interview since PayPal’s decision to incorporate cryptocurrency, said that crypto will become an everyday payments tool, and he also spoke about the fact that the global pandemic has accelerated a number of trends, including consumers abandoning cash. “[The pandemic] has pulled these trends forward anywhere between three to five years in five to six months,” he said.

Schulman was interviewed by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin at Web Summit.

When Ross Sorkin asked whether the decision to incorporate crypto was already in PayPal’s roadmap for 2020, or if it changed over the course of the year, Schulman noted that “parts of it were on the roadmap and parts were not.”

“We were going to provide the capability for our customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies inside the PayPal wallet because we had done market research and something like 54% of our base wanted that capability,” Schulman said. “What we hadn’t had on our roadmap is the ability to use cryptocurrencies as a funding instrument to purchase at any one of our 28 million merchants. We moved that up because once you buy cryptocurrency, you really want to be able to use it both as an investment vehicle but, importantly, as a funding source to make other purchases.”

On the volatility of Bitcoin and whether people will use it as a currency if it fluctuates the way it has, Schulman said volatility had been his primary concern because he thinks that Bitcoin is a “poor form of currency” that has the potential to wipe out small merchants’ profits.

But what PayPal has done that’s different is to allow consumers to know the exact exchange rate of crypto at the moment of purchase. That way, neither the consumer nor the merchant face volatility risk.

“It bolsters the utility of that underlying cryptocurrency, and you can do more with it than just ride the ups and downs of it. In effect, you’re taking that as an instrument that can conduct commerce at our 28 million merchants.”

Looking into the future more broadly, Schulman said he sees digital currencies becoming mainstream.

“I think that if you can create a financial system, a new and modern technology that is faster, that is less expensive, more efficient, that’s good for bringing more people into the system, for inclusion, to help drive down costs, to help drive financial health for so many people... So, over the long run, I’m very bullish on digital currencies of all kinds,” he said.

About Dan Schulman

As president and CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman is focused on transforming financial services and e-commerce to improve the financial health of billions of people around the world. With extensive experience in payments and mobile technology, Schulman is leading PayPal to reimagine how people move and manage money and how merchants and consumers interact and transact. Under his leadership, PayPal was named one of the top companies on Just Capital’s and Forbes’ Just 100 list. Additionally, it was recognized as Change the World company in Fortune for its work on tackling the biggest challenges facing society today.

Schulman has been recognized as one of Fortune’s top 20 Businesspersons of the year, and he is the recipient of the 2017 Brennan Legacy Award, given in recognition of his contributions to social justice. Prior to PayPal, Dan served in leadership roles at American Express, Sprint Nextel Corporation, Priceline Group and AT&T. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and currently co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Steering Committee to promote global financial inclusion. Schulman earned a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He is also an avid mixed martial arts practitioner.

About Web Summit

Inc. Magazine had this to say about the event: “Web Summit is the largest technology conference in the world.” Forbes says Web Summit is “the best tech conference on the planet.” Bloomberg calls it the “Davos for geeks.” Politico has dubbed it “the Olympics of tech.” And as a salute to a local festival, the Guardian called it the “Glastonbury for geeks.”

Useful Links:

Web Summit website: https://websummit.com/

Web Summit Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/websummit/albums/

Web Summit YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJtkHqH4Qof97TSx7BzE5IQ