Bill Barhydt, CEO of crypto wallet provider and payment startup Abra, believes that consumer cross-border payments and remittance services at scale continue to be a struggle for many crypto firms. Barhydt made his remarks during an interview with blockchain news source Breaker Mag on Jan. 30.
As Barhydt outlined, Abra — which counts around 500,000 users in over 100 countries, and supports 30 crypto assets and 50 fiat currencies — was founded with the aspiration to create a crypto-based global bank, which would enable worldwide, frictionless money transfers and credit services.
Yet even as the service gains traction as an investment platform, the CEO argued that expansion in the money-transfer space poses a greater challenge — particularly in the field of remittances.
Barhydt recalled an Abra initiative to establish a network of on-the-ground agents to provide cash to recipients of crypto money transfers, explaining that the cost of deploying their running network in the Philippines would have cost $1 billion and not made financial sense:
“The cost of customer acquisition in the remittance space is incredibly high. The likes of Western Union, Xoom [and] Remitly spend anywhere from $75 to $125 to acquire a customer in that space.”
The CEO outlined that overcoming the up-front costs of providing crypto remittances at scale is more likely to be achievable if a service can first establish a million-user network for other services, and then move on to providing crypto-enabled remittances or low-cost microloans.
With these latter both often cited as being keys to greater global financial inclusion, Barhydt responded that crypto’s route to banking the unbanked will be complex behind the scenes, but will ultimately tackle immediate and concrete concerns, such as:
“Can I get credit in a pinch? Can I send or receive money at reasonably low cost? And can I invest? If I’m saving my family’s money, even if it’s only $50 a month, can I invest that money, or do I have to leave it under the mattress? And can I invest it in something other than my country’s failing currency?”
The CEO suggested this complexity may come in the form of crypto-collateralized assets — enabling people to manage their cash, stocks and commodities without recourse to a third-party:
“You’ve got a combination of hard money and regulatory arbitrage to solve real consumer problems. That’s what I think it’s going to take to break into developing markets […] if [people] can have the keys to [their] funds on a smartphone […] they don’t have to trust the government, they can be in control, they can get access to [major overseas] markets for investing.”
As reported, Monero (XMR)’s Riccardo “Fluffypony’” Spagni has recently commented on the phenomenon of regulatory arbitrage not from a prospective consumer perspective — but from that of emerging cryptocurrency firms.
Spagni said that while decentralized finance may not immediately wrest military and political might from the world powers’ hands, regulatory arbitrage could lead to an interesting brain drain and global redistribution of talent and innovation.