Expect More Bitcoin On Balance Sheets, As PayPal, MicroStrategy Fidelity And Walmart Sound Off On Blockchain


Chairman & CEO of MicroStrategy Michael Saylor speaking at a Blockchain 50 Symposium panel


Building on its relatively new service letting PayPal’s 375 million customers buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency directly from their accounts, Dan Schulman, PayPal CEO, said on Tuesday that the company’s recently launched “Checkout With Crypto” service, which encourages purchases with bitcoin, ether, and other cryptocurrencies, will easily reach $200 million transaction volume within months. Schulman’s comments were delivered at Forbes’ third annual Blockchain 50 Symposium celebrating large companies using the technology behind bitcoin to improve their businesses. It took soon-to-go-public Coinbase, the United States’ largest crypto exchange, two years to reach the same volume on its similar merchant service. In the third quarter of 2020, PayPal had payment volume of $247 billion.

Schulman was one of a dozen executives from Visa, Onyx JPMorgan, Fidelity, and LVMH, among others, at the event, which serves the purpose of reflecting the growing cryptocurrency and other blockchain ambitions of Forbes Blockchain 50 list members.

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Of more than 2,000 registrants and 1000 attendees, approximately 500 took part in a poll, that showed 26% of respondents expect their companies to buy bitcoin this year. Another event headliner, MicroStrategy MSTR CEO Michael Saylor, pointed out that the result is mic-drop-worthy: “We went from zero adoption in the world to 26% enthusiasm in less than 12 months,” he says. But despite the galloping interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from both institutional and retail investors, Schulman said PayPal, is one large company that is unlikely to put bitcoin on its balance sheet this year, citing volatility concerns from investors.

On the flipside, Saylor noted on a separate panel that “everybody talks about the volatility of bitcoin, but volatility measures the rate at which it’s going up in price.” “It’s the same as buying the volatility of Tom Brady. He’s got the highest volatility in the Football League, LeBron James has high volatility in the basketball league. The winner of every single sport and the winning team of everything on Earth is always the most volatile by definition because it’s the one that’s winning most often,” added Saylor. 

Since August 11, 2020, when MicroStrategy revealed its first bitcoin purchase worth $250 million, the software company has bought $2.2 billion in bitcoin, more than any other publicly traded company in the world. Its stock has soared 534.3% over the past 12 months, while bitcoin has gained 817.5% and the S&P 500 has added 49.6% over the same period.

Most of the event discussions centered around bitcoin and the ever-rising wave of institutional bitcoin mania, with comments from Fidelity, Northern Trust NTRS , and CME Group CME . Yet alternative cryptocurrencies and blockchains were also mentioned. Visa’s head of crypto Cuy Sheffield said the credit card giant ultimately wants to support new types of cryptocurrencies and protocols and find ways to integrate them into Visa’s core network. Last month, the company started accepting settlement payments from its global cryptocurrency wallet partner Crypto.com in stablecoin USDC on the ethereum blockchain.

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Beyond cryptocurrencies, executives from Walmart Global Tech, luxury powerhouse LVMH, South Africa-based pulp producer Sappi and partner of Russia’s leading mining and smelting producer Nornickel, Atomyze, discussed applications of distributed ledger technology in supply chain tracking and fraud prevention. 

The two-hour event concluded with a panel discussion with DTCC and Vanguard’s blockchain bosses showing how the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the process of merging the two worlds of enterprise blockchain, which traditionally doesn’t use cryptocurrency, with the growing digital asset space. John Evans, head of blockchain strategy at Vanguard, said: “With the net effect of everything that occurred in markets between the beginning of the lockdown and maybe the fourth quarter, I think that all of the mindset that needed to shift definitely at all levels of these large financial services organizations finally coalesced.”

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Author: Nina Bambysheva, Forbes Staff

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