The notion that blockchain would eventually replace banks is a wrong idea which should not be promoted at all, according to Maria Gaitanidou, compliance officer of Coins.ph, also known as Betur, a provider of blockchain payment apps and the largest cryptocurrency wallet service in the Philippines.
In an interview with Cryptovest, Gaitanidou said that blockchain-enabled projects facilitate transactions and bring technology closer to a lot of traditional financial institutions.
“Everyone is experimenting, and it’s great, and that’s the way it should be. It’s not a disruption. A lot of people call blockchain as “disruptive.” But it’s not an accurate word. It actually collaborates and brings the technology to those who are not served.” she said.
She also dismissed fears that blockchain would replace banks that is why they are against blockchain and cryptocurrencies on fear the technology poses a big threat to the monetary system.
She added, “No, I think we always will need a bank,” as she also rejected suggestions cryptocurrency exchanges will take over some of the bank functions, particularly in the movement of money or cross-border payments.
Collaboration not disruption
Gaitanidou stressed the future of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges is through collaboration.
“Generally, for financial institutions and not about just [digital currency] exchanges, it is about how fintech and exchanges are becoming. A lot of the banks are more cautious because in the past, there was no license (for cryptocurrency exchange operators) so it was natural that they would be a lot more careful and that was fine.”
“But as more exchanges opened shop up and a lot more fintechs are opening up, we need money and digital payments and new ways of moving money around and providing these kinds of banking services. I think for them, it becomes interesting to observe the market and be a part of it. The banks must also work to understand the different innovations and how they can innovate in the [changing environment].”
She explained the number one vision of cryptocurrency exchanges is to provide financial freedom especially for the unbanked. This is in line with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) goal to achieve financial inclusion.
She said cryptocurrency exchanges allow the unbanked sector to receive financial services without having a bank account because they can benefit from these services without opening a bank account.
Тhe latest BSP 2017 Financial Inclusion Survey (FIS) showed that a significant number of Filipinos remain unbanked highlighting the challenges to financial institutions to promote financial inclusion in the country.
The survey has found that nearly 75% of the country’s adult population does not have a bank account, while 15.8 million or 25%, own a bank account.
“For the 52.8 million adults who do not have an account, 60 percent reported not having enough money as the main reason, followed by the perceived lack of need (21 percent) and absence of documentary requirements (18 percent). Other reasons cited are high cost (10 percent), lack of knowledge in account opening (9 percent), lack of work (8 percent), and lack of awareness (8 percent),” the survey said.
By providing an alternative financial service, Gaitanidou said crypto exchanges do not compete with banks or try to replace them, but instead reach out to a broader customer base who has no access to bank services.
“Financial freedom comes from the fact that you can control your finances from an app where you can decide how you spend it and when to do it without being tied to cash or banking hours or whether it’s a holiday or not,” she said.
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