XRP News: Post-SWELL Edition

Hodor

Hodor

I blog about Ripple & XRP. FULL DISCLOSURE: All views are my own. I do not work for Ripple; I am not a professional financial analyst, and the majority of my crypto holdings are XRP.

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They were masters of communication.   Of course, we've become spoiled by their skill in describing challenging topics in a way that brings complex cross-border payment processing into clear focus.

Ripple, in its earliest days, was small and humble;  the lack of resources forced the initial team to wear many hats, including that of designer, developer, social media poster, and presenter.   This mindful flexibility of its leadership team was on full display during SWELL, with Ripple facilitating and orchestrating multiple fruitful sessions where industry topics were expounded upon by their current customers, other financial industry experts, and of course by the Ripple facilitators themselves.

The conference was not restricted to planned corporate marketing, but instead was interspersed with exciting interactions that revealed substantial changes since one year ago when banks were only beginning to explore the concept of crypto-assets.   It helped to have Cory Johnson operating as ringmaster between the sessions, and providing some commentary on various topics;  some of his statements made their way into the recorded videos on Ripple's official YouTube channel.  

And Ripple, as a company, has learned how to do this 'conference thing' in grand fashion, using social media, its own corporate website, and its contacts in mainstream news to get their message out.   They were prepared, organized, and pulled it off without any (apparent) hiccups.  

Congratulations to Ripple on the second SWELL conference;  something tells me that the third one will be more than twice as big.

General Crypto News

Strangely enough - or perhaps not so surprising - is that another high-profile conference impacting crypto-assets started on Wednesday, October 3rd this week.   The Delta Summit showcases Malta's growing presence in blockchain technology, along with several large businesses that have located within its borders.   In addition, many large players in the crypto-assets space will be there.  

According to its own website:  1

"Delta Summit will be Malta’s official platform from where to promote this technology and its related business opportunities.  It will also serve as a venue from where cryptocurrency enthusiasts, doubters and experts can congregate and exchange ideas."

Malta, due to its commitment to clear regulatory guidance and legislation for crypto-assets and blockchain technology, is quickly becoming one of a handful of international capitals for the growing industry.  

The conference will have a diverse set of topics, including:  2

  • Crypto-Finance
  • Blockchain and AML-KYC
  • Security Tokens
  • Tokenization
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • IoT & The Sharing Economy
  • Smart Cities
  • Property Management
  • Micropayments
  • The Future of Music, Media & Entertainment

Some of these topics will be interesting to me, including "Blockchain and AML-KYC" which I think will be looked at closely by the financial industry and many large centralized exchanges.   If there is an efficient way to automate KYC and AML, and it's available in an understandable way to end-users, I can see the large centralized exchanges like Binance sponsoring and pushing its adoption.  

I'm also interested in the concept of 'security tokens' as I believe that most worldwide stock exchanges will eventually transition to issuing stock certificates 'on a blockchain' instead of through a central issuer.   This will make a stock issuance easily verifiable to investors and traders, with the end result of enhanced levels of trust.   I expect to see a lot more about 'security tokens' in the next few years.   (Note that the Decentralized Exchange (DEX) on the XRP Ledger is perfect for hosting security tokens, in my opinion)

Now that SWELL has completed, it will be interesting to track the crypto developments being reported from Malta's Delta Conference.  

SWELL Retrospective & Ripple News

In his introduction, Brad Garlinghouse provided some explanation and background to the conference attendees about the props that were used for dramatic purpose during the two days.   Both a shipping container and airline seats were used to demonstrate the powerful concepts behind what Ripple is doing, and no wonder;  sometimes the complexities of value-and-data interoperability can leave business attendees scratching their heads.   But most of us can identify the concepts behind what Ripple and its team have created.   We know very well the economic impact of a shipping container on global commerce.  

And we understand intuitively that it's 'just plain wrong' that it's faster to fly money to another country than to try and send it there through the current banking system.  

Brad Garlinghouse unfortunately had the daunting task of following Bill Clinton on stage, but he did a superb job in my estimation, steering the conversation towards the topics that would be front-and-center for the rest of the conference.   Some of the points he made emphasized concepts that underpin what Ripple is doing - and will do - to transform the global pipelines of value transfer.  

In reference to how instant messaging and email changed the entire concept of postal mail, Brad stated one very profound - and sometimes overlooked - concept:

"It wasn't that long ago, that you put a postcard in the mail, you put a stamp on it...  you had no idea when it got there...  you had no idea actually if it got there...  compared to today - the explosion of instant messaging in various forms;  whether you're using Snapchat or all the various ones.

...as the friction went down, there's been an explosion in the usage."

Correctly, he emphasized this point, and drove it home with hard statistics about the high costs of the current correspondence banking framework.  

There were several other moments in Brad Garlinghouse's introduction that were worth noting, including a nod to the developing connection between the IoV and the IoT, which has already been pioneered by some XRP community developers like WietseWind, and an example of how Uber would like to pay its drivers in real-time.  

But the big news in his introduction was the formal announcement of xRapid going live:

"One of the things we are ...  most excited to announce today is that we are moving xRapid into production.   That has been a big step and certainly (has been) watched across the industry ...

...  We now - and actually I got an email moments ago - that we've now done our first production payment partnered with Cuallix into Mexico - live, within the last hour."

This disclosure was carefully planned, and was made in conjunction with Ripple publishing an Insights article and sending out a Tweet informing those on social media of the same information.   The formal announcement was an historic event, and will be remembered as the beginning of xRapid's rise in using digital assets to settle international payments.  

Banco Santander and One Pay FX

Ed Metzger, Head of Innovation at Banco Santander, the 16th largest bank in the world, gave a great presentation that talked about some of that bank's experience in creating their One Pay FX mobile application, which has been rolled out to multiple countries throughout Europe and South America.  3  4

Ed Metzger described what motivated Santander's efforts at being one of the first banks to pioneer a mobile applications built on Ripple's technology:

"...rising customer expectations (have) propelled us to think 'what could we do' differently."

He also communicated some real-life anecdotal examples of how customers - including himself - have used the One Pay FX application to move money in real-time, and also described how Ripple technology works under the hood.   Most significantly, Ed Metzger indicated that Santander would be rolling the application out to more countries in the coming months:

"We're going to roll out this service to more customers;  more channels;  more geographies;  we see this as a competitive differentiator for Santander."

His presentation was a valuable testament to how Ripple technology has helped Santander to leap ahead of its slower banking cousins that still rely on traditional correspondence banking's old payment rails.  

Regulating Innovation.  A Global Opportunity

Regulatory certainty, and its absence in many of the Western countries where, unsurprisingly, correspondence banking is still rooted, has been one of the consistent themes coming from Ripple executives in the past few months.   So it was unsurprising that one of the sessions planned for SWELL focused completely on that topic.   The session was facilitated by Anja Manuel, a partner at RiceHadleyGates, in eloquent fashion, as she talked with Sunil Sabharwal, the Alternate Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund: 5

At about the fifteen minute mark, Anja Manuel asks Sunil Sabharwal about which countries that he believes are 'getting it right' when it comes to regulation of crypto-assets.   Here is part of his response:

"Asia hit it out of the block, and is doing very well.   Everybody talks about Singapore and Thailand ...  

...  the Saudis and the Emirates are doing interesting things.   But I'd say that the two that I like - one is actually brand new, and very boldly called 'The Blockchain Act' by Liechtenstein ...  

...  they've drafted the legislation in the Spring (of 2018) and it is going through consultation.   It will become law - I think November is the deadline ...  It is for a tokenized economy."

Both Anja Manuel and Sunil Sabharwal noted that, unlike the US, which is trying to fit the regulatory approach for crypto-assets into existing frameworks for securities or commodities, the approach that Liechtenstein has taken reflects the recognition that crypto-assets are entirely distinct from previous forms of financial instruments.  

This observation and reflection may have long-ranging impacts, and perhaps signals the appropriate way forward.  

He also praised Switzerland's approach, which provided incentives for blockchain entrepreneurs.   And it's not that Switzerland is a free-for-all;  Sunil Sabharwal indicated that the Swiss regulators are very responsive and timely in their feedback to the new industry participants.  

Interestingly, he identified one possibility for the US, if national regulation still lags;  a regulatory sandbox on a state level.   He gave California as one interesting example, given Ripple's location in San Francisco.  

Central Banks Show and Tell

The session featuring the viewpoints of central banks was represented by a wide diversity of regions, including Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Brazil.   Dilip Rao, Ripple's Global Head of Infrastructure, facilitated the session:

When Dilip Rao made the comment about sandboxes sometimes enabling a delay of decision-making for some countries or jurisdictions, Mohsen Alzahrani, Head of Innovation at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, indicated that SAMA decided to forge ahead without resorting to a temporary sandbox:

"We found that using the xCurrent technology of Ripple doesn't change any regulatory framework.  It is only a technology from peer-to-peer and doesn't touch KYC or anti-money laundering or any other regulation;  and that helps us to say we don't even need a regulatory sandbox for this kind of product."

To me, this comment from a SAMA representative provided valuable insight from a large central bank - and regulator - about how the technology should be considered on its own merits and carefully evaluated to determine how it fits into a compliant bank infrastructure.  

Andrew McCormack, Vice President of Payments & Technology at Payments Canada, indicated that the Canadian central bank has run further tests of one of its proof-of-concept programs, and would be publishing the most recent results of its tests by the 'end of the month.'

Marcelo Yared, the CIO of Banco Central do Brasil, indicated that Brazil has built a blockchain technology solution for exchanging information among various parties in their financial sector, including the stock market, the central bank, and insurance.  He ended by saying that the central bank is now turning their attention to faster payments.  

The panel also covered other interesting topics, such as CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies).   Dilip Rao mentioned XRP in response to one of the answers, potentially indicating Ripple's interest in having some central banks consider a no-counter-party digital asset.  

One ominous comment about CBDCs' potential monetary impacts was from Andrew McCormack, when he stated:

"It's not obvious what the impacts would be ...  but if it starts being a drain on deposits, that has bigger implications..."

That was the first time I've heard anybody from a central bank actually voice a concern over the potential of disinter-mediation to significantly impact bank deposits, but when he said that point, I realized that the trend is now for most of the younger generation to use mobile applications to store their value.   And the more cutting-edge consumers actually utilize crypto applications for banking that dynamically convert their holdings into the required currency.  

Interestingly, Marcelo Yared indicated that the logistics of telecommunications are still a very real problem in Brazil when considering a CBDC, because some remote regions of the rain forest do not have direct access to the Internet.   It's easy for some in the West to forget that there are still countries like Brazil with vast areas of no connectivity.  

To wrap up the session, Dilip Rao then turned the topic to how commercial banks should engage with central banks.  

Overall, this session showcased how global Ripple's thinking is when it comes to developing the new world-wide payments infrastructure, and it's evident that their xCurrent technology is quickly gaining traction among some of the most influential minds in finance.   This session in particular inspired a lot of confidence on my part that Ripple is committed to its 'big picture' focus with regards to payments modernization.  

Survey Says…

Brad Garlinghouse introduced the first session on the second day, which was a piece titled "Survey Says."   Prior to that, however, day two started out with an interesting video that appeared to be, for lack of a better description, a commercial for Ripple.  I immediately wondered if it was something that would find its way to mainstream television audiences at some point.

I could genuinely sense Brad Garlinghouse's brimming excitement about the results from day one, as he described the intuitive feel that Ripple - and blockchain technology adoption generally - is now approaching a tipping point.   He then segued the presentation to Cory Johnson, Chief Market Strategist for Ripple, and Alenka Grealish, a Senior Analyst from Celent.

Both Cory Johnson and Alenka Grealish reviewed some of the recent findings of research that Ripple contracted to have completed by an outside firm.   They indicated that they would be publishing the work after the conference.

I won't spend too much time re-hashing the content, but here are several slides that revealed some dramatic trends:

slid about cross-border payments slide about the tipping point slide about breakthrough interest

One of the fantastic parts of this presentation was the dialogue from Cory Johnson and Alenka Grealish as they filtered through some of the findings.   Cory Johnson at one point addressed why blockchain technology's reputation was temporarily tarnished due to its connection to the rise of the cryptomarket:

"The resulting attention paid to the rising price... got people really excited before those use cases were here.  But now we see the cart really catching up to the horse, in terms of interest, throughout industry and the world of payments in particular.   We see that all over the world, with all (kinds of) different-sized companies."

His comment served as a perfect book-end for the presentation of the study findings.

Crypto Regulation Around the World

We knew that Ripple would be addressing the topic of regulation during the SWELL conference;  it's been a subject of some consternation from the team as they attempt to forge ahead with business plans in 2018.   This session was facilitated by Ripple Board Member Ben Lawsky, former Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, and included the following panel participants:

  • Richard Teng, CEO, Abu Dhabi Global Market
  • Michael S. Didiuk, Partner, Perkins Coie
  • Archari Suppiroj, Director of FinTech Department at Securities and Exchange Commission, Thailand
  • Ross Leckow, Deputy General Counsel, IMF

The discussion dove deep on several issues, but here are some bullet points of the coverage:

  • Concerns include fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, sanction evasion
  • Increasing importance of automating KYC
  • The IMF has been studying crypto-assets for years
  • Drastic shift in the last 3-6 months in regulator attention
  • Consensus among regulators that crypto-assets are 'here to stay'
  • Countries with legacy regulatory frameworks at disadvantage (US, UK...)
  • IMF continuing to research and publish studies
  • International best practices still developing
  • Early examples set by UAE and Thailand, among others
  • Shift to 'activity-based' rather than 'entity-based' regulation
  • Regulators should involve industry representatives
  • Innovation shouldn't be stifled
  • US SEC will pursue 'regulation by enforcement' on security tokens
  • US SEC advised to consider the concept of mutability over time

The very first question from the audience was:

"Do you think XRP is a security?"

The initial panel participant to address this question was Michael Didiuk, who advises the SEC:

"I don't think XRP is a security. I think XRP is a currency."

He then went on to explain how XRP fails the 'Howey' test in summary fashion.  It was a great answer, and it was followed up with an admonishment (generally) by Ross Leckow, the Deputy General Counsel of the IMF:

"I don't want to express an opinion on XRP, but I think that in determining whether particular tokens are securities, it's important to remember that it's a global issue, and one shouldn't focus on the treatment under one jurisdiction. Different countries have different definitions of securities, and you have to look at it more broadly."

While I appreciated Michael Didiuk's concise answer, I truly agree with Ross Leckow;  crypto-assets cannot be effectively regulated if every country is using separate taxonomies.

The Future of Commerce

Robert Hackett, Senior Writer for Fortune, interviewed R.J. Pittman, the former Chief Product Officer at eBay, in a session about E-commerce and its intersection with international payments:

R.J. Pittman talked about eBay, and also touched on the rise of the 'sharing economy' and its potential impacts on the global economy.  He used Uber and Airbnb as an example, and noted:

"we're at the start of something extraordinarily transformational in this industry."

He indicated that eBay was one of the cutting-edge companies in that space before it was called the 'sharing economy,' by facilitating the re-sale of items that were no longer needed by their original owners.

But more telling, he talked about the payment pain points for eBay, which was where I started to lean in closer as he talked.   Keep in mind that problems that eBay has are probably the same for many other large Internet commerce companies like Amazon and Alibaba.   He bemoaned the inefficiencies of the current payment rails:

"the inefficiencies in the processing of transfer of payments - whether it's global payments, or even a credit card settlement here in the US, it's incredibly antiquated; it's cost-ridden.   There are grounds for so much innovation.

All of the incumbents shouldn't be fearing losing any of the nest eggs that they've had in the last several decades; quite the opposite - it's about shedding the legacy and opening the aperture to extraordinary growth opportunities, where the size of the pie is going to grow by 5X, 10X."

Hearing R.J. Pittman talk about the potential for growth, I was immediately drawn to its implications for all the other massive Internet commerce giants as well - eBay is massive in its own right, but nobody really knows how big the new sharing economy industry will get, either.   It's easy to see why he was picked to be a visionary leader of eBay in its early years.

The rest of the discussion included what I'd term a detailed command of industry statistics by R.J. Pittman, detailing how the entire Internet commerce industry is primed to grow by many multiples of its current size.   This is a man that studies the data!

Flashtalks

The first flashtalk - a fifteen minute presentation by a Ripple customer - was titled "How We Improved Retail Remittances."   It was given by Colin Dinn, the Chief Technology Officer & Head of Operations at Siam Commercial Bank.   He first provided background into Siam Commercial Bank's approach to technology innovation, and then connected the dots to its engagement with Ripple, as well as where it led from a technology architecture standpoint.

He touched on several key points, including some fascinating background information about how long Siam Commercial Bank has been working with Ripple (since December of 2016).  Wrapping up, Colin Dinn also talked about how Siam Commercial Bank planned to keep building out its hub capabilities within RippleNet.

The second flashtalk was titled "How Payments Improved Our Customer Experience," and it was presented by both Prajit Nanu, the Co-Founder and CEO of InstaReM, and Fernando Pavani, the Founder and CEO of BeeTech.

Fernando Pavani provided some interesting background about BeeTech, a Brazilian-based company that specializes in cross-border payments, and was followed by Prajit Nanu who then shifted gears and conducted an interactive discussion about cross-border payments.

Both of these businesses - InstaRem and Beetech, have implemented xVia, Ripple's API-driven payments solution, as well as xCurrent.   But most shocking to me was the time of 'contract signing to test transactions:'

screenshot of slide that shows time to production implementation

For those outside of the IT Industry, I'll just tell you; three months is incredible.  That is one of the fastest implementations I've ever heard of, but it makes sense for an API-driven solution between the two companies.

The third flashtalk was titled "How We’re Solving the Cross-Network Settlement Problem Globally," and featured Daumantas Dvilinskas, CEO of TransferGo, discussing real-time settlement.

The history of TransferGo was fascinating;  even before they used Ripple, TransferGo avoided the problems of correspondence banking altogether when they started, with the approach of maintaining accounts in banks in whatever country they wished to service.

Essentially, TransferGo created their own banking network from scratch.

Daumantas Dvilinskas talked about the aggressive growth goals for TransferGo, and then talked about how they are using xCurrent to go from Europe to India using a relationship with Axis bank, another RippleNet member.  He also dramatically introduced 'TransferGo Free' a new service from his company.

Futurists in Blockchain and Payments

The Futurists in Blockchain and Payments session was facilitated by Kahina Van Dyke, Ripple's SVP of Business & Corporate Development.   The panel included the following members:

  • Amy Radin, Author - The Change Maker’s Playbook, Fortune 100 Chief Innovation Officer
  • Tokunboh Ishmael, Chairwoman, African Venture Capital Association and Managing Director and Founder, Alitheia Capital
  • Ben Brabyn, Head of Level39

The session started with a question from Kahina Van Dyke about some of the current trends that are being seen from the investment side of the aisle in fintech, specifically involving cross-border payments.

Tokunboh Ishmael talked about the very real problem of the unbanked population in Nigeria, pointing out that when she first studied the problem, 70% of the Nigerian population did not use traditional banking services.   She pointed out that the current trend is that the fintechs have leap-frogged the traditional banks, and then applied pressure to the larger banks to expand their services to the retail market.

Ben Brabyn, who runs one of the largest incubator funds known as "Level39," commented on the potential for some of the smaller players such as Revolut to challenge the larger players in the market.

"Revolut is a fantastic example of a company that's certainly set itself as a rival that's presenting fresh ideas;   new ways of doing things;  very, very customer-centered.

And if you look at the rate at which they're deploying technology, it's eye-watering."

Amy Radin discussed some of the problems that the traditional payments players are having, especially when confronted with some of the current trends based on generational differences, as well as technology innovations;  and the group also discussed why some large companies find it difficult to 'innovate from within' even when they have the advantage of a large existing customer base.

The session was a revealing introduction to many of the trends that will continue to disrupt businesses in the near future, and it's one of those videos I recommend listening to if you're in an imaginative frame of mind.

The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room - Digital Asset Adoption

The one session that I was anticipating the most was the very last session on the second day of the conference.   In this session, Kanchan Kumar, the CEO of Remitr, an xCurrent customer, facilitated the panel discussion and methodically prompted thoughtful remarks from its participants:

  • Kwon Park, Head of Business Development, Bittrex Inc.
  • Alfredo O’Hagan, SVP Payment Services, IDT
  • Nicolas Palacios, CFO, Cuallix
  • Brad Ganey, SVP and COO, Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union

I was chuckling to myself while watching this session:  While the content of the conversation was groundbreaking, the tone was, I believe, purposefully understated by the participants.  What do I mean by 'groundbreaking?'  The panel contained participants of xRapid's pilots (IDT) and also those that are moving into production implementation (Bittrex, Cuallix, and Catalyst).  And these participants:

  • Verified the Cost Savings of xRapid
  • Verified the Real-Time Settlement Speed (End-to-end) of xRapid
  • Indicated the Importance of Being a First Adopter

I was very impressed by one of the answers provided by Kwon Park, when asked about regulatory compliance.   After all, Bittrex is a US-based exchange that does roughly $100 million in trading each day, and has committed to being one of the first xRapid exchanges that will support APIs for banks and remittance processors to transition currency from one national fiat to another using XRP.

After highlighting some of Bittrex's impressive hires from within the US Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, he offered this comment:

"We're very committed to compliance, and ... that has taken us a long way;  to get mainstream adoption, I think it's very important that everyone trusts the trading platform on the security and compliance side."

Continuing on the topic of compliance, Brad Ganey from Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union indicated that he and his bank conducted an in-depth due diligence process on the usage of xRapid:

"We actually have developed this and mapped this out internally with our compliance department:  They actually did all of our flowcharts for us...

... to have them alongside you and do it with you;  you're effectively killing two birds with one stone.   They have an eye towards it that, from a business unit perspective, that you might miss something...

... in a lot of this, you're mapping out your flows today, and then you're adding the nuances that come along with this (xRapid).   I definitely have not seen that as a big hurdle."

Hearing Brad Ganey, the representative of the first bank to implement xRapid flows for some of their cross-border payments, talk opening and honestly about the ease with which xRapid flows integrate with his bank's existing processes, I couldn't help but feel my excitement grow for xRapid adoption.

One of the questions posed to Nicolas Palacios had to do with why financial institutions should adopt the use of crypto-assets for settlement.   His response:

"... Once you have that (a solution such as xRapid), you can go outside and disrupt the way you do traditional business ahead of the curve, which will help you grow your client base."

The same question "what is your message to financial institutions?" was also posed to Alfredo O’Hagan, who responded with:

"... If you look at xRapid as a hub, you need the spokes.   You need the end-points.   You need the entities that will enable that last mile.   So, the more companies, the more entities that join in, the better we all are;  and the better services we will be able to provide to the consumer.  Those are the ones that we need to benefit.

Yes, we are a for-profit corporation, so we need to create shareholder value and all of that;  but, I think you will be better served if you can provide a high-quality, lower-cost product to the consumer."

xRapid Goes Live

The announcement that most of us were waiting for was communicated formally by Ripple with an article on their Insights page.  

The formal announcement included a list of financial institutions that were going live with production use, including MercuryFX, Cuallix and Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union.   The first two names were familiar to most of us that have been tracking the publicly-announced pilots of xRapid, but the last name was a surprise - and it was a credit union.  

Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union is a bank headquartered in Plano, Texas, with three other branch offices in California, Georgia, and Hawaii. 6 But the key to understanding just how profound this commercial implementation is doesn't rest with the fact that it is a US-based credit union;  instead, you have to look to its customer services, which include other credit unions:  7

"Catalyst Corporate is a gateway for credit unions looking for numerous services to help their operations run more efficiently and effectively."

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Catalyst, Brad Ganey, said it this way:  8

“The traditional international wire experience fails to meet today’s expectations from a price, speed and ease-of-use perspective.  Blockchain technology, and specifically Ripple’s xRapid product, resolves all three of these challenges simultaneously.  Catalyst Corporate, through our subsidiary companies’ technology platforms, will leverage the XRP digital asset to transfer money across borders instantly on behalf of our 1400+ member credit unions.  We have signed a production contract and are currently building out our plan.”

This is very big news indeed for Ripple - and for xRapid.   The scale of this production implementation will be felt throughout Western banking, as Catalyst's member institutions start to benefit from domestic and cross-border payments that settle in real-time at a fraction of their previous cost.  

SmartStream

SmartStream is a UK-based company founded in 1988 that has evolved to specialize in a variety of software-related solutions such as shared service utilities, software-as-a-service, managed services, and 'Transaction Lifecycle Management' (TLM) systems.  9 According to their own website, they count more than 70 of the top 100 banks as customers - a very impressive statistic. 10 They have deep experience working with various institutions on correspondence banking.   11

On September 26th, the Fintech Finance YouTube channel published a video of an interview with SmartStream's Andreas Burner, and asked him specifically about 'what is SmartStream actually working on in the blockchain space?'   Andreas Burner's answer can be found at approximately the nine minute mark:

The proof-of-concept that Andreas Burner mentions was one that was done with Ripple, and when they say 'messaging', keep in mind that SmartStream works to improve, among many other things, the reconciliation of payments in the correspondence banking system.  

I looked deeper, and found more information in another document published by SmartStream in July of this year.  12 It provided a bit more information about their proof of concept with Ripple:

"SmartStream’s Transaction Lifecycle Management architecture and single-message bus was recently tested in a proof of concept, taking cash payment positional data from a Ripple block and successfully uploading it within the cash and liquidity management solution as a replacement for a Swift message."

It's a proof-of-concept, but SmartStream is one of the biggest players in the market for improving the payments experience for banks in the UK and worldwide.   It's an encouraging sign that they are closely looking at Ripple's solutions for replacing SWIFT messaging.  

XRP News

Every once in a while, an XRP Community member sponsors an effort that seems to capture the imagination of the community in a way that is unexpected and remarkable.   This has included promotional efforts on XRPChat, as well as social media campaigns for crypto exchanges to list XRP as a base asset on their platform(s).  

The latest one that I've observed starting to gain strength is a petition13 - one in which the XRP Community is asking the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, to make XRP the official cryptocurrency of the 2020 Olympic Games.  

Sometimes these petitions will capture the attention of those they intend to influence;  I do not know the person who started the effort, but perhaps he will follow-through and present the results of the drive to somebody that can pass it along to the IOC.   Even though I'm sure it will have an impact, usually the IOC will consider the Olympics branding a potential revenue source, and award that right to those that pay for it.   In any case, this effort is a good start to garner attention for the idea.  

Bitrue

Bitrue is an exchange based in Singapore that recently went live in July of 2018.   It was remarkable in several respects, one being that it was an exchange based in Singapore and secondly, that they wisely decided to utilize XRP as one of their base currency pairings.   The exchange has shown its commitment to compete with the larger players via its low fee structures:  14

  • .098% across the board
  • Withdrawal fee for XRP to .25 (of one XRP)

The big news was released on September 30th via Twitter:

Bitrue Mobile Application Announcement Tweet

Bitrue is now stepping into the 'app' space with their Android application.   They now support a mobile version of their trade platform, which they indicated will also be released on IOS (Apple) in the coming weeks.   Bitrue is focused on expanding its customer base via low fees, well-publicized promotions, and now a mobile trade platform.  

If you're following XRP, I'd keep an eye out for Bitrue trade statistics as some of the larger consolidator websites like CoinMarketCap start to list their XRP volumes in the coming weeks.  

Coinswitch

Coinswitch is a coin transformation website that doesn't require KYC.   The concept is simple, and relies on the user to trust the exchange to accept, transform, and then send the resulting crypto to a location that they specify:

Coinswitch XRP Page Screenshot

They've customized their site to include a page specifically for those interested in XRP to transform any other cryptocurrency, and then have the resulting XRP sent to the wallet indicated by the user.   It's a simple way for those interested to quickly transform their other crypto holdings without having to wait for an exchange verification.  

The exchange rates are dependent on the exchange selected by the user in the second step of the process, and Coinswitch also assigns a fee of:  15 16

"0% to 0.75% depending on the exchange you select for your transaction ...  This fees does not include any amount charged by the exchange itself and the network fee."

Coinswitch offers an interesting alternative for investors to quickly access XRP without waiting, specifically if they are already holding some other type of cryptocurrency supported by its service.  

Masters of Communication...  and of Class

Yes, the Ripple team are masters of communication.   But they are also very cognizant of the large crypto community that follows their efforts and cheers on their victories.

One of the XRP Community members to attend in person was Apollo (Twitter handle), a long-time XRP supporter.   One of his update tweets from SWELL spoke volumes about the team at Ripple: 17

"The people at Ripple continue to impress me.  I talked to @JoelKatz @warpaul, @chrislarsensf, @miguelvias @bgarlinghouse and more.  They were all engaging and generous with their time despite having to talk to what seemed like everyone in payments in just two days."

For me, this remark confirmed my intuitive sense that Ripple has not forgotten its humble roots when it was a small team starting out in 2012.   It's this start-up mentality that is propelling Ripple to consistently improve on its product offerings and continue to innovate.   Banks, remittance processors, payment providers, software services, and large corporates are all adopting its solutions at pace in 2018, and this trend seems to be gaining momentum.  

Am I correct in this assessment?

Check your own 'gut feeling' about the second SWELL conference - especially in comparison to the first one in Toronto last year - and see if you agree with my viewpoint that this year's conference set a strong tone of quiet confidence, while humbly acknowledging Ripple's rise as the provider of the new global payments infrastructure.  
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Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Deva Darshan

  1. https://delta-summit.com/about-us/
  2. https://delta-summit.com/agenda/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_banks
  4. https://www.santander.com/csgs/Satellite/CFWCSancomQP01/en_GB/Corporate/Press-room/Santander-News/2018/04/12/Santander-launches-the-first-blockchain-based-international-money-transfer-service-across-four-countries-.html
  5. https://swell.ripple.com/agenda/
  6. http://www.catalystcorp.org/contact-us/general-contact-information?pid=6&selfid=46&tid=2
  7. http://www.catalystcorp.org/services/payments-correspondent-services?pid3=7&selfid=140&tid=3
  8. https://ripple.com/insights/ripple-highlights-record-year-xrapid-now-commercially-available/
  9. https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapid=162105
  10. https://www.smartstream-stp.com/Company/About
  11. https://smartstream-stp.com/Solutions/What_Do_You_Need/Reconciliations/SWIFTNet_E_and_I
  12. https://www.smartstream-stp.com/~/media/Files/www/NewsEvents/InThePress/2018/2018-08-10_Waters_Blockchain.pdf
  13. https://www.change.org/p/international-olympic-committee-make-xrp-the-official-cryptocurrency-of-the-tokyo-olympics-2020
  14. https://www.bitrue.com/exchange-web/footer/fees.html
  15. https://blog.coinswitch.co/coinswitch-exchange-tutorial-274acaca10a9
  16. https://coinswitch.co/#!What-is-CoinSwitch-transaction-fees
  17. https://twitter.com/ApollotheHills/status/1047332948033163265

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Hodor

Hodor

I blog about Ripple & XRP. FULL DISCLOSURE: All views are my own. I do not work for Ripple; I am not a professional financial analyst, and the majority of my crypto holdings are XRP.

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