Most experts agree that the storm created by massive returns on crypto investments has just begun.
The evidence is pronounced... when one country of fifty million people can single-handedly form the backbone of volume for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP, it's a testament that the industry is still at its beginning stages.
Which country am I talking about?
South KoreaThe phenomenon known as South Korea has shown its muscle - powering volume behind almost all of the top crypto choices. XRP traders, as well as some Ethereum traders, underestimated the impact that this relatively small country (by population) would have on price levels.1
From an XRP perspective, the addition of several prominent South Korean exchanges was very quick, with each racing each other to add XRP to their listings:
However, I soon learned the business influence that South Korea holds over the crypto markets! The volume on the XRP Ledger is led day-over-day by South Korea; this is an important market, and Ripple quickly identified it as such with a mention in Quarter 2's XRP Markets Report. Ripple's Head of XRP Markets, Miguel Vias 5 noted:
“XRP/FIAT volumes in Q2 were 21 times greater than XRP/BTC volumes in Q1. While some of this can be attributed to growth in USD and EUR pairs at Bitstamp and Kraken, the bulk of this transition was due to increased activity on Korean exchanges.”This acknowledgement was prompt and decisive, with the recognition by Ripple that no matter the cause, South Korea deserved their attention.
The Wider Asian MarketRipple has not fallen into the trap that some Western companies find themselves in - focusing on a silo of domestic or continent-specific customers. Instead, they've purposefully cultivated a very diverse global presence, with offices in six different countries. 6
While I've blogged about Ripple's purposeful focus on Asia previously (Part 1 of Ripple and the Keys to Asian Commerce), it is wise to look at their most recent activity and gauge the progress that they've made four months since that original blog entry.
Why Asia?It's sheer size and market power makes this part of the world attractive, to be sure, but there is another reason that Ripple's strategy fits almost perfectly with the countries in the Pacific Rim.
Inefficient CorridorsIn a post detailing Ripple's overall strategy for XRP, Ripple's Chief Cryptographer David Schwartz (a.k.a. JoelKatz), discussed the general steps involved in market adoption.7 The original post can be viewed here for those interested: XRPChat Link However, I'm going to focus in on two parts of that overall step listing:
"4) We don't target the biggest corridors like USD->EUR because they're efficient. We target an inefficient, but fairly high volume, corridor. For example, EUR->INR. Market makers have very small profit margins, so even a small incentive to place good EUR<->XRP and XRP<->INR offers can beat what banks are getting now through the correspondent banking system.
- Once we get one corridor, we hang other countries off each end of the corridor, expanding the reach of XRP. "
In the West, USD is used as the predominant bridge currency. Likewise in Europe, the Euro serves as a common mechanism for transfer of value across borders. However, in Asia and the countries comprising the entire Pacific rim, this is not the case. While USD is still primarily used, it involves the costly approach of many nostro accounts, and the need for large organizations to source liquidity themselves - essentially putting large amounts of capital on ice.
This is a combustible mix for XRP.
xRapid is Ripple's approach to make sourcing liquidity easy for banks. Patrick Griffin talked a bit 8 about xRapid's model in a presentation during SWELL:
“…however, when you go into more exotic currencies where liquidity is constrained for a whole host of reasons, having the ability to move in and out of that market on an on-demand basis and pick up liquidity that is made available through competitive exchanges where market makers, hedge funds, trading firms, retail speculators, are providing spot pricing against a local currency, is a very attractive tool to very quickly move in an out of these markets without having to go through the more traditional rigamarole of pre-funding an account, opening up credit lines, opening up bank accounts; so it’s not a replacement, as I said before. It’s more of a new application – a new tool – that treasurers can use.”The soft sell from Patrick Griffin is a direct result of Ripple's understanding of how to interact with banks - some of the most conservative of businesses.
Until now, these banks have opted to play a waiting game when it comes to blockchain technology. Banks do not like taking risks - they wait until technology maturation before consideration of an addition to their technology stack. With xRapid, along with Ripple's forward thinking when it comes to sourcing liquidity and integration with high-volume exchanges, this concern is looking to play into Ripple's strengths.
JapanJapan is a potentially massive & relatively untapped market for crypto-currency. While Japan is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to banking, it is requiring each exchange operator to register officially with the FSA in Japan (Financial Services Agency). Thus far, eleven exchanges have been approved10 by the FSA:
- Fisco Virtual Currency Exchange (part of Fisco)
- GMO Coin (part of GMO)
- Money Partners
- SBI Virtual Currencies (part of SBI)
- Tech Bureau
Ripple's ForesightRipple clearly understood the potential Japanese market, and one of the first banking partnerships was a consortium based in Japan - yet another example of forward strategic thinking by Ripple.
Ripple's presence in Japan is entirely centered around the business that both they and SBI formed together: SBI Ripple Asia.9
SBI Ripple AsiaThis joint venture was key in forming a banking consortium of more than 70 banks - primarily based in Japan. Each one of these banks is in the process of either deploying or using Ripple software to make cross-border or domestic payments; no other large Fintech has achieved this kind of traction in the banking space thus far.
SBI Ripple Asia Promotes XRPInstead of resting on the significant accomplishment of including almost every major bank in Japan in a consortium, SBI Ripple Asia is now moving on to the next phase of its business goals, which seem to include strong promotion of XRP in Japan and in Asia in general.
SBI recently announced a partnership with DAYLI Financial Group, which is made up of specialized companies in digital finance and remittance. DAYLI's clients include Coinone, which was the first Korean exchange to list XRP. The CEO of DAYLI, Kyoung June Eee, was quoted22 as saying:
“Our partnership with SBI Ripple Asia builds on our previous collaborations, including with South Korea’s first blockchain consortium as well as the Ministry of Science and ICT. We are proud to work with SBI Ripple Asia to bring Ripple’s innovative payments solution to the Korean market in order to enable businesses to send and receive payments quickly and efficiently.”To me, this is an exciting development and shows how seriously Ripple is treating the opportunities in South Korea.
In addition to SBI Ripple Asia reaching across the waters to South Korea, Ripple has sent Miguel Vias to champion XRP with retail and other investors using two publicized meetups - one in Japan and one in South Korea:
Meetups in Japan and South Korea... and more21 Singapore and Hong Kong:
SBI's Promotion of XRPWhile SBI's primary focus is Japan, these latest developments make it clear that SBI's reach is quickly expanding into other areas of the Asian market as well. The other point worth mentioning for those that don't know, is that SBI Ripple Asia has been quite vocal about banks and financial institutions moving to use XRP directly to achieve maximum cost savings.
I was pleased to see some of these quotes33 by Yoshitaka Kitao, the executive chairman and CEO of SBI Holdings. Note that this is the high-level CEO of SBI Holdings:
"In my opinion, we are bracing for a social revolution with blockchain that’s even bigger than the Internet. Using blockchain for global payments is central to this revolution, and by dramatically reducing transaction costs, financial institutions and all users of the financial system will benefit greatly.
Based on Ripple’s estimate, a bank can reduce the cost of processing remittances by 33% using Ripple’s technology, and by 60% if we couple it with XRP."
This focus on XRP's use as a digital asset used for cross-border payment bridging is a positive signal for potential adoption.
ChinaIf you're wondering how big the Chinese market is compared to other Asian countries, I can assure you with no hesitation - China is the biggest banking market in the world. The largest four banks in the world are all based in China, and control over 12 trillion dollars' worth of assets. That's trillion with a "t."23
In fact, the United States has lost its dominance in world banking somewhere along the way, and currently has 10 banks in the top 100 (by total assets), whereas China has 19 banks in the top 100 (by total assets).
And it’s not just the size of the banks’ assets. China has seen explosive growth in the technology that’s driving payments, and international transfers of value. Because of its status as the foremost worldwide banking powerhouse and industrial giant, technology adoption has been relatively quick among users, and the numbers are impressive.
One article recently claimed that AliPay and WeChat processed over $3 trillion in payments in 2016. With a population of 1.4 billion and counting, capturing any part of the Chinese cross-border value transfer business would be a significant addition to Ripple’s market reach.24 25
It's been almost three months since Emi Yoshikawa first tweeted26 about Ripple's Chinese expansion plans and the imminent hiring of team members in China. Here are some interesting developments since then:
- August 21, 2017: Coindesk speculates about a possible Alibaba connection to Ripple, despite official Ripple statements 27
- August 28, 2017: Ripple hosts China's central bank representatives at a meeting in San Francisco 28
- September 4, 2017: China declares ICOs illegal 29
- September 10, 2017: China bans all Renminbi-to-Bitcoin trading 30
- October 6, 2017: First report that trading might resume (with KYC procedures) in China 31
XRP Volume in ChinaThere are several major exchanges in China that list XRP. The largest one is Bitfinex, but it lists XRP alongside many other options, and doesn't offer directly Renminbi-to-XRP trading.32 Volume in China is not what it should be, and its clear that the Chinese market could benefit from a deeper promotion campaign by Ripple.
IndiaYou may have heard something about India's electronic identity program - started in 2009 - and how this country of 1.3 billion people has managed to register almost all of its inhabitants. The program is called "Aadhaar," and it is a biometric database based on a 12-digit digital identity, authenticated by finger prints and retina scans.12
It was a large-scale effort that resulted in the usage of centralized technology to capture and store information linked to a number for every citizen.
CashlessAadhaar was the first step in an effort to demonetize the country. Starting in 2017, India is officially a cashless country, where all commerce happens electronically. Although exceptions still exist, India made the transition through a series of massive steps from November 2016 to the end of last year.13
India had various reasons why it opted to go cashless, but the after-effects were very positive from a financial perspective. The Indian banking sector saw very significant gains, and new businesses have sprung into existence to capitalize on the "India Stack" - the moniker given to all of the integrations and APIs associated with the Aadhaar database.
Identity on a BlockchainThe next step or evolution for identity in India is the storage of personal information on a blockchain. A blockchain run by Indian banks.
The State Bank of India (Not to be confused with the Japanese-based Strategic Business Innovator Group partnered with Ripple) has launched a program to handle Know Your Customer requirements on a blockchain. This blockchain-based solution would be available for any participating bank to utilize to perform KYC for customers. In India, it's a requirement for banks to perform certain procedures that comply with requirements related to:
- Know Your Customer (KYC)
- Anti Money Laundering (AML)
- Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT)
Ripple Stepping Into IndiaIn early September, Ripple announced the opening of a new office in Mumbai, India.14 Navin Gupta was appointed the Country Manager for Ripple India; his resume includes high-profile positions at HSBC (Largest bank in Hong Kong) and Citibank, handling markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and India.15
Ripple already had traction in the Indian market before this expansion, with two Indian based customers: Axis Bank and YES Bank.16 Expert projections indicate that India's moves to a cashless system have the potential to supercharge its economy, with some estimates stating that the current digital economy - measured at $270 billion - could quadruple by 2022. A quote from Navin Gupta:
“India is the largest recipient of corporate and retail remittances worldwide, totaling close to $71 billion. The businesses and Indian expatriates sending money into the country want their cross-border payments to be as fast and seamless as payments made within India’s domestic digital payment network. Why should a cross-border transfer take any longer than an electronic transfer within India?"
Indian XRP VolumeThe Indian market for XRP has untapped potential. To understand this potential, you must understand the big picture - currently there are very few exchanges that will support Indian Rupee trading with crypto. On Coinmarketcap's listing of exchanges, for example, only two exchanges support direct INR pairings - one for Ethereum and one for XRP.18
Currently, there is only one exchange that supports trading directly between INR and XRP. To address this, Ripple partnered with BTCXIndia to offer XRP trading. Miguel Vias, Head of XRP Markets for Ripple, had this to say17 about the partnership:
“We are pleased that customers in India now have a way of accessing XRP. With its listing on BTCxchange, the digital asset is now available to this very large and fast-growing market,”While the volume on BTCXIndia has been very small compared to other exchanges, it is the first step in developing what could eventually be an incredibly large market for XRP.
NPCIThe National Payments Corporation of India is an umbrella organization for all retail payment systems in India. It's goal is to allow all Indian citizens unrestricted access to e-payment services.19
Starting in April of this year, several sources confirmed that NPCI was working to integrate Ripple technology behind the scenes.20 While Axis Bank and Yes Bank were the initial members of NPCI to utilize Ripple's solution, it establishes a precedent for other Indian banks to follow when looking for a production-ready blockchain technology solution.
Final Points to ConsiderThe Pacific Rim is the largest battleground for Ripple. Current XRP volume is only a small sampling of what market adoption by much larger countries could accomplish. At present there is no contest about which country in Asia exerts the most influence on XRP price discovery:
- South Korea
The probability of imminent price growth in XRP is very high.
Once the other three pieces of the Asian puzzle start to fall into place for XRP, I predict that volume is going to quickly climb far above current levels, and that the volume growth we've seen in 2017 will not only be repeated, but might even be doubled or tripled as banks, financial institutions, hedge funds, and crypto investors start to discover the heir to Bitcoin's throne.