In a way, crypto companies are becoming the labradoodles of the financial sector.
Everyone’s got to have one, the new status symbols of the digital age, a fashion accessory that complements traditional banking, done at the ATM or on the debit card.
We’re joking, of course — but only a little.
NCR said this week that it is buying LibertyX, which provides cryptocurrency software. LibertyX, in turn, owns ATMs and kiosks, and partners with Cardtronics.
NCR, of course, bought Cardtronics in a $2.5 billion deal that closed earlier this year.
And by buying LibertyX (where the terms of the deal remain undisclosed, per the Monday announcement), the deal would give NCR, through the LibertyX app, fleet of 20,000 retail stores and 9,500 bitcoin dispensing locations including cashiers and ATMs — let’s call them brick-and-mortar channels. In terms of mechanics, the company says on its site that at ATMs, users can buy up to $3,000 daily in bitcoin using debit cards. At retailers, including CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid, the limit is $500 per day; at the cash kiosks that cash-only option tops out at $3,000.
Folding the crypto functionality into its own network — through acquisition — means that NCR jumps more fully onto the crypto bandwagon, using the most visible digital offering. And NCR does so without having to build that functionality.
The retail settings give a nod to findings of recent PYMNTS/BitPay research, which note that a significant percentage of consumers are interested in holding, and transacting with, cryptocurrencies. Roughly 12 percent of the population currently own at least one crypto; 18 percent of the adult population is likely to make a purchase using crypto. That shakes out to about 46 million consumers. And considering that half of purchases would be under the $100 mark, using bitcoin at the (literal) point of retail might be an eventuality (and that’s where software comes in).
Bitcoin, Now In Person
But for now, the kiosks and the in-person transacting in bitcoin seems largely confined to the trading, the storing, the growing of the crypto holdings themselves.
For NCR in particular, we’ll see this as a continuation of a digital strategy. Doug Brown, senior vice president and general manager of digital banking at NCR, told Karen Webster in a recent interview that it’s important to bring the curbside model to banks.
Crypto ATMs, then, have the potential to broaden the banks’ offerings to consumers.
But beyond the NCR-for-LegacyX deal, the announcement is only the latest in a trend. Traditional financial services firms are partnering with crypto companies in a way that would marry entrenched infrastructure, payments and digital currencies.
In one example, JPMorgan is enabling advisers execute crypto trades for clients. And as noted in this space, Visa has said that crypto spending has topped $1 billion. Visa has struck pacts with 50 crypto platforms to enable consumers to spend digital currencies at 70 million merchants globally on crypto linked cards.
These are just a few examples of a continuing parade. The points of access — the ATMs and the cards — are familiar, which in turn may render the exotic (the cryptos) less exotic in the collective push to bring bitcoin and its alternatives more mainstream.