The news that WB21 decided to accept Bitcoin as a deposit method was met with surprise. This is the first Bank to ever accept Bitcoin and it teamed up with BitPay so it would have a reliable payment processor to handle everything.
To find out more about why WB21 decided to accept Bitcoin, and what he believes it means for the banking industry, I spoke to Michael Gastauer, Founder and CEO, WB21.
Why WB21 decided to make the jump and accept Bitcoin for the first time?
I believe that it was inevitable. We are offering instant account opening for Private and Business clients from 180 countries. The problem some of our clients face is to make deposits if we don't maintain a local account in their country. By accepting Bitcoin, our customers can instantly transfer funds to their WB21 account from any country in the world. As soon as they send Bitcoin to our address, we credit the value in the currency the customer has selected to their checking account.
So is this all about just offering a more convenient deposit method?
To an extent, but it’s actually about giving clients more freedom to send money internationally. The fact that we are offering Bitcoin as a deposit method does offer more choice. It also allows the client to be more independent of any local banking infrastructure that may restrict international payments or make those quite expensive.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that has struggled to reach its full potential because the traditional banking industry is typically against it. Most traditional Banks see Bitcoin as a competitor. For WB21 the acceptance of Bitcoin means bringing the world of banking into the 21st century. Giving customers the choice if they prefer to make deposits in physical or digital currency means a better deal for the customer, because they can decided which method is the fastest and most economic for them. Soon we will extend our Bitcoin based services, to allow customers holding a balance and assets in Bitcoin and to buy Bitcoin instantly from their checking account.
Do you think that WB21’s decision to adopt Bitcoin in banking will pay off for customers in this sense?
I believe that one of the reasons why people have not taken up Bitcoin previously is because of the delays when buying and selling Bitcoin. It wasn’t easy to get cash or fiat currency balances with Bitcoin because you usually had to use Bitcoin exchanges where it took days before funds reached your bank account. You never had the option to use a genuine bank.
In short, the lack of convenience meant people didn’t want to switch to Bitcoin. I foresee that with the help of WB21 more people will be encouraged to give it a chance.
What do you think this means for the future of digital banking in general?
The future of digital banking is a bright one for this reason. We know that we are the first to actually give Bitcoin a chance to go mainstream given it is only a $10 Billion market, we don’t expect it to become the main method for sending payments or holding assets in banking, however since enough people want it there’s a strong possibility that Bitcoin will change banking forever.