UNICEF Starts Initiative to Accept Cryptocurrency Donations

UNICEF announced a Cryptocurrency Fund that will receive contributions in cryptocurrency and grant out in the same digital currency, this being a first for United Nations organizations.

Unicef’s new Cryptocurrency Fund is the most recent effort by aid organisations to try to incorporate digital currencies into their operating model. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform charitable giving and increase financial transparency.

This new type of decentralized value transfers offers non-profit organisations the advantage of avoiding extra transaction costs and middlemen that are usually required to move large amounts of money overseas quickly. While these features are useful in a wide array of industries, it would appear that UNICEF is willing to apply the new technology.

Christopher Fabian, principal advisor at UNICEF Innovation, stated the initiative would prepare the organization for the future while also maintaining existing donor systems.

“We see this as a piece of learning that we need to go through to prepare for the next decade,” he said.

The UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund is a new pilot developed to allow the agency to accept cryptocurrencies, which initially includes Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). For aid and charity organizations, cryptocurrencies make tracking donations easier, and have the potential to allow donors to see how their money is used.

The organization already started receiving cryptocurrency donations following the launch of the fund, with the first one coming from the Ethereum Foundation itself. The Foundation donated 1 BTC and 10,000 ETH.

“The Ethereum Foundation is excited to demonstrate the power of what Ethereum and blockchain technology can do for communities around the world. Together with UNICEF, we’re taking action with the Cryptofund to improve access to basic needs, rights, and resources,” said Aya Miyaguchi, Executive Director of the Ethereum Foundation.

Furthermore, the new initiative is already discussed with agencies from four nations, including UNICEF USA, UNICEF Australia, UNICEF New Zealand, and UNICEF France.

The importance of aid organizations like UN around the world is growing for an array of countries. As a dispenser of aid, the acceptance of cryptocurrency will certainly be helpful in becoming more transparent and attract more contributions.

Alongside UNICEF’s work with blockchain technology, the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, also published a strategic plan which shows how the UN might become a leader in solving world problems through the use of new technologies. Part of the plan includes the creation of affordable access to financial infrastructure and digital networks for every adult in the world by 2030.

Finablr Partners with Samsung Pay for Cross-Border Payment System

UK-based payments platform Finablr and Samsung Pay, the mobile payments service of South Korean tech giant Samsung, have joined hands to pool resources to build a cross-border payment system named “Money Transfer” for its users.

The partnership was announced on October 3rd by Finablr, explaining that the newly added feature will offer seamless and secure cross-border payments to 47 countries by using a variety of payment methods available on the app. Furthermore, United States-based Samsung Pay’s clients reportedly can use their debit or credit cards to send money via the Samsung Pay app.

Currently, there are over 25 million people using Finablr’s services across the globe, and the company has established a presence in 170 countries across the world.

According to the announcement, all the fees and exchange rates are included upfront, allowing users to know in advance what they will be paying. The system’s security also employs tokenized credentials backed by Samsung Knox.

Sang Ahn, the vice president and head of content and services division at Samsung Electronics America, further added that partnership with Finablr is part of a larger plan to expand the reach of Samsung Pay.

“Money Transfer is a first step in our vision to evolve Samsung Pay into a platform that makes users’ financial lives more convenient. The range of services in Samsung Pay, developed in close collaboration with industry leaders such as Finablr, positions us to positively impact consumers’ everyday financial experiences.”

Whilst the Money Transfer feature is now rolled out to the United States userbase, the new service will be expanded to more markets next year, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, last year in December Finablr joined Ripple’s network of banks and payment providers. In addition to that, Finablr’s UAE Exchange is using Ripple’s cross-border payments technology to power remittances to Asia. Some RippleNet members are already using XRP for the base currency for cross-border payments.

The new partnership between Samsung Electronics America and Finablr could potentially benefit XRP, especially if the payment system they’re working on integrates XRP. However, neither Samsung nor Finablr have disclosed whether they are considering the use of blockchain technology or the digital asset XRP.

Samsung is an early supporter of blockchain and crypto assets. The company’s Blockchain Keystore app is available on the company’s new line of Galaxy S10 smartphones, allowing people to store their private keys for Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ethereum-based tokens.

Apple’s Tim Cook Dismisses Cryptocurrency Plans

In most recent news, giant technology company Apple has announced that it has no intention to follow social media platform Facebook in creating its own cryptocurrency, according to the company’s CEO Tim Cook.

Speaking in an interview with French media magazine Les Echos on October 4th, Tim Cook has straight out denied rumors that Apple could release its own currency tokens.

He further argued that private companies shouldn’t be competing with states on monetary control, explaining:

“No. I deeply believe that money must remain in the hands of states. I am not comfortable with the idea that a private group creates a competing currency. A private company does not have to seek to gain power in this way.”

His comments take a notable dig to both Facebook, which is currently developing its Libra digital currency, as well as other competitors.

Facebook’s Libra initiative has been under scrutiny from regulators across the globe over its potential risk to financial stability and national monetary policies. Libra has faced this narrative a number of times already, from the U.S. Senate, France and Germany, and a group of other central bankers, amongst others.

Last month, Apple Pay vice president Jennifer Bailey mentioned that the company is “watching cryptocurrency,” thinking it is “interesting” and that it has “long-term potential.” But Cook seems to have put that notion to rest.

 “Money, like defense, must remain in the hands of States, it is at the heart of their mission. We elect our representatives to assume government responsibilities. Companies are not elected, they do not have to go on this ground,” the Apple CEO further added.

Meanwhile, Apple has been exploring blockchain technology and putting its efforts into building its fiat-currency payments initiatives with both Apple Pay and Apple Card aimed to make payments work smoothly across its devices.

At the moment, Apple is aiming at market share with players such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal via Apple Pay.

In February, the Cupertino – California-based firm – submitted a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that mentioned Apple’s involvement in the drafting of “Blockchain Guidelines” for the Responsible Business Alliance’s Responsible Minerals Initiative. The group seeks to use blockchain in mineral supply chain due diligence.

Morningstar to Build Evaluation System Underpinned by Blockchain Technology

Financial services Morningstar Credit Ratings has announced plans to implement an evaluation system for debt securities issued as tokens on a blockchain, aiming to make the emerging asset class more credible for investors.

According to the report, the new rating system for rating bonds will be implemented directly on the Ethereum blockchain and eventually on other blockchains as well by using a technology called an oracle. Oracles move trusted data, like a Morningstar rating for instance, onto a blockchain in a secure way that ensures the rating isn’t doctored, allowing it to be used as a term in a smart contract.

The oracle relies on third-party providers to convert business debt into tokens similar to Bitcoin. The securitized tokens are then dispersed to investors via a smart contract, with the terms of the investment, the public addresses of the investors and the Morningstar rating all operating on the blockchain.

The new evaluation system is set to give publicly available ratings of one to five stars to crypto assets, whilst the company’s premium custom service will utilize its internal modeling to help clients evaluate and assess given investments. The company further added that the public ratings could be launched later this year. Their premium service, on the other hand, will be made available by the end of 2020.

Chief Operating Officer at Morningstar Credit Ratings, Michael Brawer, has stated in an interview that this evaluation system could allow and facilitate the shift of the $117 trillion debt securities industry to a decentralized financial network.

Seeing as the industry is overseen and governed by custodians and trustees, the availability of an evaluation system that allows customers to assess investments and make decisions based on that, could enable billions of dollars investment to enter the crypto space as the new rating services can make the new asset class more credible.

Brawer further stated:

“We’re looking to see how we can also provide credit opinions, whether it’s a credit rating or different types of credit data and credit analytics that accompany those debt instruments, and we’re also looking to provide our services on a blockchain.”

Brawer explained that the company had seen the demand for rating services within the crypto space when it was approached by a range of investors who issue and securitize debt securities, including small business loans and home equities on blockchain.

“The objective would ultimately be to allow investors in a digital debt security to be able to run an independent, third-party model and see the results of that model on the blockchain,” says Brawer.

According to the report, Morningstar’s rating services covers both government and corporate bonds,whilst its blockchain products are still limited to structured debt instruments.

The company offers both security and convenience through their services, and investors can directly connect lenders and borrowers, as well as eliminate custodians and trustees in a transaction and saving as much as 500 basis points in fees.

At the moment, due to the stringent regulatory framework imposed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company could end up having to change their blockchain methodology.

Meanwhile, there are a few potential candidates who would partner with Morningstar to launch the product, which includes fintech startup Figure, alternative investment company Cadence and DeFi platform Polymath.

Bittrex Deploys Chainalysis Software for Transaction Flagging

Bittrex, the U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, has partnered with compliance firm Chainalysis to deploy its real-time monitoring software for transactions to flag suspicious activity across blockchains.

Chainalysis’ software titled KYT (Know Your Transaction) covers blockchains of the biggest coins – Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, DAI, among other cryptocurrencies traded on Bittrex.

Chainalysis KYT allows the exchange to monitor large volumes of cryptocurrency activity and identify high risk transactions on a continuous basis. Using real-time data with alerts and filters for level of risk exposure, Bittrex can identify transactions that require the most immediate attention.

Even though Bittrex is already compliant with U.S. regulations, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer John Roth explains that Chainalysis’ software provides a different but necessary insight by leveraging their existing knowledge and expertise.

“Having real-time information coming in from which we can make risk decisions is really an amazing step forward, and frankly one that’s not available to traditional financial institutions,” Roth said.

Bittrex’s adoption of Chainalysis KYT comes after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June advised its 37 member countries to begin tracking complete customer details on every transaction handled within 12 months.

Chainalysis KYT automates the assessment of money laundering risk, helping exchanges like Bittrex meet regulatory demands. The software currently covers 25 cryptocurrencies, which representing represents the majority of trading volume, while the company will continue to onboard additional cryptocurrencies in the near future.

The key feature is the automation of the process that helps high-volume exchanges stay compliant in an efficient way. Jonathan Levin, Chainalysis’ chief security officer, said KYT automates much of Bittrex’s review process.

“The key to supporting a large exchange like Bittrex is building features that enable them to automate their compliance process, prioritize their workflow, and customize their alerts to speed up how fast they can do due diligence,” Levin said.

While the software flags transactions with the highest risk, a Bittrex compliance analyst still needs to determine if the threat is valid and file a suspicious activity report with regulators. Bittrex’s compliance team also participated in rigorous training by Chainalysis, which provided advanced techniques in risk management workflow.