Visa Launches a Consulting Unit; Nextech Links to Coinbase for Acceptance – Digital Transactions

With interest in cryptocurrency increasing at the two major card networks, it was only a matter of time before one of them launched a consulting service specializing in the subject. Visa Inc. early Wednesday announced it is launching its Global Crypto Advisory Practice as part of its existing Visa Consulting & Analytics platform. “This comes at a moment when digital currencies are taking greater hold in the popular consciousness,” Visa’s news release about the matter says.

This move toward a more serious interest in crypto has developed as merchants around the world have tried out a range of payment technologies to address restrictions related to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve seen a material shift in our clients’ mindset in the last year, from a desire to explore and experiment with crypto, to actually building a strategy and product roadmap,” said Claudio Di Nella, head of Visa Consulting & Analytics, Europe, in a statement.

The new Visa service also comes as the card company’s own research indicates increasing consumer interest in using digital currencies, the card network says. Visa conducted the research in July, August, and September with polling firm LRW. In the latter two months, some 6,430 online survey responses were gathered in the United States and seven other countries. It found 94% of these consumers were aware of cryptocurrency, and, of these, almost one-third own or use it, with 62% of that cohort indicating they have increased usage over the past year.

Of interest to banks as well as companies like Visa, some 81% of crypto owners said they’re interested in cards backed by crypto, while 84% expressed interest in earning crypto rewards for card spending.

Both Visa and Mastercard Inc. over the past year have developed operations that can support crypto transactions on so-called stablecoins, or digital currencies whose value is tied to the U.S. dollar or some other sovereign currency. Visa in March, for example, announced it had completed its first transaction involving direct settlement with USD Coin, which mirrors the dollar.

Also on Wednesday, Nextech AR Solutions Corp. said it is now accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USD Coin through a connection to Coinbase Commerce, a major platform for crypto wallets and trading. Vancouver-based Nextech is a provider of technology for augmented reality and related services. The company added it may accept more cryptocurrencies “in the future.”

 “Cryptocurrency has emerged as a critical part of the evolution of finance,” said Evan Gappelberg, chief executive of Nextech AR, in a statement.