Monday, February 24, 2014

CEOs of Top Payments Firms on Bitcoin as a Competitor

Via Bloomberg:
“I’m a bit skeptical,” said Discover Financial Services (DFS) Chief Executive Officer David Nelms, who runs the fourth-biggest U.S. network after Visa, MasterCard and American Express Co. (AXP) Other things pose “a lot more potential threats or opportunities than Bitcoin,” he said[...]
“Protection and trust are crucial to us and our card members and merchants,” Dan Schulman, president for enterprise growth at American Express and former CEO of Inc., said in an interview at the lender’s New York headquarters. “We don’t believe that is offered by crypto-currencies today.”[...]

It’s too early to understand all the implications, Visa CEO Charlie Scharf told analysts on a Jan. 30 conference call, in which he called Bitcoin “far more complex” than it’s often portrayed.

“People talk about things like frictionless and things like that, and when you actually dig through it, it’s really not the case,” said Scharf, 48. “We feel very comfortable with the business that we have here.”[...]

There’s nothing “holding PayPal back from pursuing digital payments,” EBay CEO John Donahoe, 53, said in a Feb. 18 interview with Bloomberg Television.[...]

“You can already see there are some issues about it -- just on some very basic things,” said Martina Hund-Mejean, chief financial officer of Purchase, New York-based MasterCard, in a phone interview Jan. 31. “When you talk about virtual currencies you especially compare it to what we do in our network, and the safety and the security around it is paramount.”[...]

“It’s a volatile currency, and that makes it very difficult for consumers and merchants to know the value of what they have when using Bitcoin to purchase or receive goods or services,” said AmEx’s Schulman[...]Alex Hoffmann, executive vice president of global product management and emerging channels at MoneyGram International Inc. (MGI), said he doesn’t see widespread demand to send digital currencies. He isn’t convinced that Bitcoin has developed into a disruptive technology for the payments industry.

“Today, people speculate on the potential,” Hoffmann said in an interview. “But today you do not have it.”

Ken Murphy, a payments analyst at Standard Life Investments Ltd. in Boston, said Bitcoin probably won’t work out in the long run.

“It’s a little bit of hype,” Murphy, who oversees about $300 billion in assets including shares of Foster City, California-based Visa, said in an interview. 

These are fascinating comments. I believe the execs are downplaying the threat of Bitcoin, but notice the emphasis on "safety and security." That's obviously a key talking point that these execs will use that will result in suffocating regulations on Bitcoin. I think PayPal is much more of a real threat.


  1. Don't forget Western Union, a leader in global payment services. They have a former homeland security advisor and cyber-security expert on their board of directors.

    To what extent would Western Union go to protect its space?

  2. You realize that PayPal has existed since the '90s, right?