02-14-2018: Western Union Tests Ripple For Cross Border Transactions

Bitcoin’s price is back above $10,000 for the first time since December of last year, shortly after when it’s record highs neared $20,000. Since the it’s low at around $6,000, it lost about 69.5 percent of its value from the all-time high – bitcoin has slowly gained and maintained the 10,000 mark late this week (coindesk).

In an interview with Bloomberg, Western Union Chief Financial Officer Raj Agrawal said Western Union (WU) is testing transactions with the use of Ripple’s (XRP) Blockchain-based settlement system. Western Union confirmed that it is testing Ripple following more than a month of rumor-fuelled speculation that began in early January. The announcement comes after Western Union reported its 2017 results, claiming a revenue of $1.4 bln – a 5 percent increase over the previous year. Western Union has decided to look into Ripple in order to facilitate money transfers, particularly cross-border ones. Ripple’s CEO claimed Western Union’s choice in Ripple is because Ripple allows for transactions that are “a thousand times faster and a thousand times cheaper than Bitcoin” (cointelegraph).

Saudi Arabia’s central bank has partnered with Ripple, which aims to help banks in the oil-rich kingdom settle instantaneous cross-border payments using blockchain software. Specifically, Saudi Arabia will utilize xCurrent, Ripple’s enterprise software solution facilitating such payments with end-to-end tracking. Saudi Arabia’s deal with Ripple is the first such blockchain-utilizing pilot program launched by a central bank. Dilip Rao, Ripple’s global head of infrastructure innovation, stated “Central banks around the world are leaning into blockchain technology in recognition of how it can transform cross-border payments, resulting in lower barriers to trade and commerce for both corporates and consumers” (bitcoinist).

A stock exchange in Canada has announced its intention to host an Ethereum blockchain platform on which companies can hold ICO-like fundraising events through which approved companies can conduct “security token offerings”, or “STOs.” According to the exchange, these STOs differ from ICOs in that “an issuer seeking to raise capital with an STO must meet the requirements of both provincial regulators as well as the CSE,” and will face ongoing oversight by the exchange and regulators. However, an exact launch date has not been set, as the CSE has not yet completed the “regulatory process for the establishment” of the platform (ethnews).

The recently created FinTech Programme at the South African Reserve Bank is testing the waters for an Ethereum-based blockchain integration. First, the program will seek “to review the SARB’s position on private cryptocurrencies to inform an appropriate policy framework and regulatory regime.” A secondary objective is to test the viability of regulatory sandboxes. The third will be to launch Project Khokha, an Ethereum blockchain-based pilot built through a partnership with ConsenSys. It is expected that a public report detailing the findings of the FinTech Programme will be released in the second half of 2018 (ethnews).

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