Citigroup Is Testing Its Own Bitcoin: 'Citicoin' Taking a page out of Bitcoin's playbook, the banking giant is exploring innovative ways to transact across borders without a bank account.

By Kim Lachance Shandrow

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The day has come: Banks can't ignore Bitcoin anymore. Not even the biggest of the big.

First up is Citigroup, the New York City-based global banking giant recently revealed to the International Business Times that it is developing its own version of Bitcoin. Predictably branded "Citicoin,' the virtual currency was coded by Citigroup's research and design arm, Citi Innovation. Still in the early testing phase, a patent has not been filed for the mainly open-source cryptocurrency, which is based off of Bitcoin and its core blockchain ledger technology, a chronological public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever taken place. This approach will allow for less complicated and less costly cross-border payments and other transactions.

Related: Why Billionaire Investor Reid Hoffman Is Betting Big on Bitcoin

Citigroup, which has eyed distributed ledger tech over "the last few years," also admitted to the Times that it has developed three internal blockchains to test its fledgling digital coins on.

While the company's inaugural foray into virtual currency is promising -- and certainly a pioneering move within the traditional financial services industry -- it's still a ways away from being the real deal.

"They [Citigroup's blockchains] are all within the labs just now, so there is no real money passing through these systems yet," Ken Moore, head of Citi Innovation Labs, told the Times. "They are at a pre-production level, to be clear."

Related: Is Bitcoin Speculative Foolery or a Financial Services Breakthrough?

So far, the focus of Citigroup's digital currency system has been on cross-border payments, with trade likely up next, Moore said.

He described Citicoin, as "an equivalent to Bitcoin," and said it's "up and running" within company labs in an effort to give Citigroup a head start. "It's in the labs, but it's to make sure we are at the leading edge of this technology and that we can exploit the opportunities within it."

Citigroup has thrown down the virtual gauntlet. Which big bank is up next?

Related: 'Days Felt Like Years': What Morgan Spurlock Found When He Tried to Survive on Bitcoin for a Week

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

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