- Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon
- Ripple, the company behind cryptocurrency XRP, is setting its sights on Asia.
- Asheesh Birla, VP of product for Ripple, told Business Insider that banks on the continent are more open to innovation than US-based firms.
- The company is speeding up plans for XRapid, a product that enhances cross-border payments in emerging markets.
XRP gripped the attention of the financial media as its price soared by 1,400% in less than a month. But behind the headlines about a soaring cryptocurrency is an upstart financial technology company looking to simplify and expedite international currency flows.
“It would be helpful to think of Ripple as a corporation,” Asheesh Birla, VP of product for Ripple, told Business Insider. “We make software products and we sell them to banks, payment providers like MoneyGram, just as an example.”
XRP is just part of the equation for Ripple.
Leaning in on Asia
Birla told Business Insider he sees a big opportunity for both XRP and Ripple in Asia, where regulators are more open to innovation and banks are more willing to take a chance on nascent technology, such as distributed ledgers.
“They have a bigger risk appetite,” Birla said. “We have a big emphasis in India and Japan. In the US market it has been a little bit slow to be honest.”
Already, Siam Bank in Thailand and Axis Bank in India are using Ripple’s xCurrent product, according to Birla. Neither bank responded to messages seeking comment.
The company is also speeding up plans for XRapid, an XRP-powered product that seeks to enhance cross-border payments for emerging markets. Cuallix, a financial services firm, is one firm using XRapid.
“I am blown away with how fast these banks are digging into this,” Birla said. “Demand is off the charts.”
In some parts of Asia, regulators have provided more guidance on cryptocurrencies than those in the US. Japan, for instance, deemed bitcoin a legal tender and its top financial regulator provided a clear definition for cryptocurrencies in its amended Payment Services Act in 2017. Singapore, another popular destination for cryptocurrency companies, promotes fintech innovation via a regulatory sandbox program.
“That makes institutional money feel more secure with the space,” John Spallanzani of Miller Value Partners said.
In December, SBI Ripple Asia announced a partnership with 61 Japanese banks to run tests on how distributed ledger technology can simplify international money transfers. It could also lower costs, according to research by Deutsche Bank.
“Fees for overseas remittances could fall as low as one-tenth the current level of several hundred yen,” the bank said.
Still, some market watchers are skeptical of whether Ripple will be able to attract big bank clients. New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper said he was unable to verify many of the cooperating banks the company had previously announced. CEO Brad Garlinghouse denied those claims.