Siam Commercial Bank Working with Ripple for Cross-Border Payments Application

Thailand’s oldest bank Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is collaborating with Ripple to develop a mobile application powered by blockchain to offer real-time low-cost cross-border payments.

According to a blog post published on January 8, Ripple announced the launch of a new application – dubbed the SCB Easy – which has already been demonstrated back in December during Swell, the company’s annual customer event. The demo app displayed its ability to send cross-border payments in seconds.

At the meeting, SCB’s senior vice president of commercial banking, Arthit Sriumporn, displayed how the app runs as well as explained the advatanges of their app:

“It is so difficult to send and receive money today. People must physically go to a bank branch, fill out long and complicated forms and wait for payments to be received—with no transparency. With our service, their loved ones from abroad can transfer payment and receive money immediately.”

Sriumporn then proceeded to show the app in action by sending a payment to recipient’s bank account and within 40 seconds, the money was transferred.

As a result of this partnership, SCB will be able to fulfill its 16 million customer demands for fast and secure low cost cross-border payments as well as provide a better customer experience.

In addition to that, SCB and Ripple are working together to provide EMVCo QR payments via the app. Whilst QR payments are a popular payment method across Southeast Asia, they are typically only used in the local areas.

However, by capitalizing on this, it will allow SCB to provide micro payment services to clients along with remittances. A recent research conducted by PwC reported that a staggering 86% of Chinese citizens use mobile payment apps and in Thailand, the numbers rise as high as 67%.

In the meantime, the senior vice president took the stage to also discuss their journey and the plans for the future.

The 112-year-old SCB is Thailand’s first domestic bank as well as the largest bank in terms of assets. In 2018 the bank reported assets in value of 3,187 billion baht ($105 billion) and an operating income of 138.2 billion baht ($4.6 billion).

Following this new app development, the bank aims to improve customer experience as well as expand its reach to other countries.

This year, SCB plans to expand into Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, where less than 35% of the population have bank accounts. One of the features of SCB Easy is that it allows opening new accounts online, without actually visiting a physical location.

“One connection equals many possibilities,” Sriumporn explained on stage at Swell.

Sriumporn expressed excitement in working with Ripple’s technology and is happy to offer this unique service to its customers as well as to tourists and new customers:

“Imagine you are a tourist coming to Thailand, and you can use your home country mobile application to scan for payment and eliminate the need to exchange for local currency. You can use your mobile app, scan the QR payment and receive goods right away.” 

Chinese Giant Ant Financial Reveals the Upcoming Launch of its Blockchain Network

Chinese payment services Ant Financial – a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba and operator of Alipay – is set to launch its enterprise-focused Ant Blockchain Open Alliance platform this month.

According to local media outlets on January 8th, Guofei Jiang, vice president of Ant Financial, announced the news at the company’s annual media meeting. He further revealed that the blockchain platform had been available in beta form since last November and will be launched soon as a fully operational chain.

Jiang claims the platform will be the first open alliance chain to share platform user rights that will help small and micro enterprises to develop as well as launch their own blockchain applications at a lower cost. He further added that the platform can support 1 billion daily transactions as well as achieve 100,000 cross-chain information processing capabilities per second.

According to the company, the Ant blockchain open alliance has helped resolve trust issues across 40 sectors, including cross-border remittances and trade finance.

The platform had been announced by Jiang in September 2018, stating at that time the project came to be to help improve the technology as well as expand the company’s in-house technologies to the wider commercial sector.

Ant Blockchain Open Alliance was then beta-launched in November 2019, with key words such as low-cost, low-threshold, trusted and multi-value networks. Once the beta testing had begun, Ant Finacial senior director of technology and business innovation Jieli Li carefully used the word “open” for the blockchain platform, saying that whilst the platform’s name does include the word ‘open’, not everyone would be able to run the network’s nodes.

 “As for the selection of node operators, we are more cautious. […] Because to form a credible value network, not only do they need to be a consensus accounting node, but they also need to provide authoritative endorsements,” Jieli said at the time.

In the meantime, vice president Jiang believes blockchain to be the most valuable technology in the current era, explaining that the technology will change people’s productivity and life and mobile payments and will ultimately become the infrastructure of the digital economy.

Ant Financial has been steadily diversifying its blockchain investments over the years. In 2018, same month that the company had announced the Ant Blockchain Open Alliance platform, the company also launched its blockchain-as-a-service platform, having trialed its first-ever blockchain remittances in the summer of 2018, using its new blockchain-based electronic wallet cross border remittance service.

In 2019, Ant Financial expanded its involvement in global blockchain development by taking part in a $10 million Series A round for an Israeli blockchain privacy solutions firm that develops zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) technology.

In addition to that, the company has also joined hands with pharmaceutical giant Bayer Crop Science, to create a blockchain solution for the food and crop industry.

Tencent Reportedly Forming a Digital Currency Research Group

Tencent – owner of communications and payment app WeChat – has announced that is planning to create a digital currency research group with the goal to further the advancement of blockchain technology research projects.

Tencent Goes for Blockchain Push

According to Chinese media outlets, the $461 billion Chinese Internet giant issued an internal statement notifying employees on December 23rd, which revealed that the company is currently looking for the new head of the research team. However, we have yet to hear an official statement from the company, as they did not respond to media outlets‘request for comments.

In the meantime, this upcoming digital currency research group will reportedly focus on Tencent’s progress of blockchain technology in the digital payment industry.

Based on the circulating internal document, Tencent’s first objective appears to be to improve and strengthen the national blockchain initiative of the Chinese government with relevant technologies and solutions.

For instance, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to use blockchain as one of its key technologies for data processing and storage. Firms like Tencent would aim to assist the government of China to efficiently implement blockchain technology.

However, following the news, analysts have wondered how WeChat, as well as its competitor, Alibaba-owned AliPay, will get along with the Central Bank of China, which is soon launching the country’s official cryptocurrency.

Chinese Blockchain Efforts Across the Board

WeChat Pay and AliPay account for nearly half of China’s enormous mobile pay business, which is used by more than 580 million people.  Previously, China’s Central Bank had already disclosed the two companies are amongst the first to be receiving the digital currency.

Meanwhile, Tencent recently announced a new partnership with the world’s largest diamond mining firm – Russia’s Alrosa –  alongside blockchain platform Everledger with the goal to launch a new diamond-focused retail mini-program targeted at WeChat’s one billion active users.

As such, the collaboration aims to improve transparency and consumer trust across the diamond supply chain, allowing social media users to purchase diamonds with full knowledge of their origin, characteristics as well as ownership history.

Tencent has also had a hand in developing an invoice system based on blockchain technology for the city of Shenzhen. In November, Shenzhen’s tax service reported that over 10 million blockchain-based invoices had been issued in the Chinese tech capital and that it will continue to actively promote blockchain-enabled electronic billing.

The blockchain based invoice service has been used by over 7,600 companies, across multiple sectors such as local finance, insurance, hotel catering and parking services, comprising a total value of close to $1 billion.

SolarisBank Launches Digital Asset Subsidiary in Germany

SolarisBank, a Berlin-based fintech firm, has announced the launch of its subsidiary Digital Assets GmbH, which will offer custody solutions for crypto assets.

According to a press release, the firm’s newly established subsidiary will provide clients with an application programming interface (API)-accessible platform that provides access to the full range of solarisBank’s digital white-label banking services.

As a subsidiary of solarisBank AG, it will comply with the German regulatory requirements of the market as well as ensure storage of crypto assets that is compliant with guidelines, so that clients do not have to apply for a license themselves. In the meantime, solaris Digital Assets intends to apply for a crypto custody business license in 2020.

According to the press release, the first product offered by the newly established subsidiary is a white-label custody solution for digital assets. The product combines maximum security with instant accessibility to meet the demands of today’s digital asset industry. At the moment, first partners are already testing the custody solution, which can be combined with digital banking services such as identification solutions or digital bank accounts to build a full digital asset ecosystem.

Following the announcement, Alexis Hamel – managing director at solaris Digital Assets – pointed out the need for establishing a crypto custody business, stating:

“The current infrastructure is simply not customer-friendly enough for mass adoption. That’s why we want to empower digital asset pioneers with our one-stop-shop platform, which provides a cutting-edge custody solution alongside licensed digital banking services, such as accounts, cards or KYC services.”

Hamel claimed that this initiative would encourage cryptocurrency adoption in the country, seeing as he believed digital currencies to be the future of the financial system.

„Our advanced APIs coupled with our regulatory expertise put us in a prime position to pursue our vision of driving digital asset adoption”, concluded Hamel.

Meanwhile, custody services seem to gain traction across the globe. Earlier this month, DXM – a financial services subsidiary of the South Korean fintech company Dunamu – revealed its intent to launch an institutional crypto asset custody service, in partnership with crypto cybersecurity firm Ledger.

The subsidiary plans to launch the custodian under the name Upbit Safe and that Ledger Vault, Ledger’s custody divison, will back the initiative with its technology.

On the other hand, there’s Fidelity Digital Asset Services, LLC (FDAS), that obtained a charter from the New York State Department of Financial Services to run a virtual currency custody and execution platform, where both retail and institutional investors can buy, sell, store and transfer Bitcoin (BTC).

Blockchain Payment Service BitPay Introduces Support for Three Stablecoins

Blockchain payment services provider BitPay has announced that it adding support for stablecoin payments for merchants and consumers.

According to a press release, Bitpay has confirmed the addition of three stablecoins to its list of supported tokens. The stablecoins include Circle’s USD coin (USDC), the Gemini dollar (GUSD) and Paxos Standard token (PAX), all pegged to the U.S. dollar.

Apart from the newest addition, BitPay also allows payments in Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Ethereum (ETH). The rollout brings the total number of available tokens up to six. Notably absent from BitPay’s list of supported tokens is Tether (USDT), the stablecoin with by far the biggest trading volumes.

Following the announcement, CEO Stephan Pair stated in the press release:

“Accepting or paying with stablecoins opens up new possibilities for global businesses that require the stability of the dollar but the security and efficiency of blockchain payments.”

The new service allows BitPay’s over 30,000 merchants, including Microsoft, to accept payments in the stablecoins. In addition to that, BitPay’s wallet users as well as its prepaid cardholders now have the opportunity to spend USDC, GUSD and PAX at all points of supporting merchants.

“Businesses can invoice international customers without the need for costly, complicated cross-border wire transfers. Customers can send and receive payments using fast, efficient, and volatility free dollar-pegged stablecoins,” added Pair.

Additionally, the wallet will provide a full stack of usual operations such as controlling, managing and storing the stablecoins’ private keys.

As for the company’s decision to support stablecoins, it claimed that three stablecoins had gained momentum in recent years. At the same time, stablecoins record their transactions on an immutable public ledger, therefore they work similarly to classic cryptocurrencies.

In the meantime, Gemini’s managing director of financial operations – Joshua Rawlins – asserted that pairing of crypto payment acceptance with a stablecoin like Gemini dollar, is powerful as it combines the creditworthiness and price stability of the U.S. dollar with blockchain technology.

Rawlins further stated that merchants benefit from faster, cheaper, and fraud-resistant payment settlement, whilst consumers benefit from the ease of using cryptocurrency without worrying about price fluctuations.

Meanwhile, since its launch in 2011, BitPay processed over $1 billion in payments last year from global merchants. The firm is backed by notable investors, having raised over $70 million in funding from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Nimble Ventures, and Virgin Group, amongst others.