Money 20/20 debates blockchain and payment systems

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At the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas this week, blockchain experts debated the technology’s potential effects on how payments are conducted.

David Schwartz, Ripple’s CTO, was on the panel alongside, Esther Pigg, FIS Payments’ Senior Vice President of Product Strategy, and the two have opposed visions of how the future will play out in the payments industry.

Ripple’s pro blockchain argument

According to Schwartz, blockchain technology will replace the world’s current payment systems He said current developers are “putting bandages on a system that dates back to the dial-up era.” In his view, blockchain based payment systems will allow for smaller and more frequent payments that do not exist in the current payments ecosystem, because it is too slow and expensive: “If you look in your email right now I’m sure 99 percent of what you see would never have been a postal mail. They’re too low value, they can’t tolerate time delay. We have payments that can’t tolerate time delay and they just don’t happen […] what will happen is the companies that can provide those high-speed low-cost payments will get the business, and those that don’t will have to adapt or die, just like in any technological revolution.”

The argument against blockchain

By contrast, Pigg asked the question: “What problem does blockchain solve that cannot be solved with existing payment platforms equally as well?” She believes that the claims that blockchain can reduce costs are exaggerated and pointed to the fact that Western Union’s pilot with Ripple did not bring WU any financial benefits. She also believes that blockchain is not as secure as it is claimed to be and finished her argument by saying that blockchain has potential that needs to be explored, but cautioned that it is “not clearly understood nor vetted,” and will “absolutely not” replace today’s payment platforms.

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