Mobile Commerce

Abra Thinks Blockchain, Not Big Banks, Is Payments’ Future

The PYMNTS team caught up with experts in the payments field to ask them their views on industry trends, predictions for the coming year and what their ideal payments system looks like.

Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra, shared his thoughts about how individuals might treat peer-to-peer cash transfers in the future, and how this might change their relationships with retailers for better or worse.

PYMNTS: In 2015, what have the biggest trends, challenges and opportunities been for Abra?

BB: We’ve sort of become the poster boy for blockchain technology, and all eyes have been on that lately. It’s been a little overwhelming to see the sea change in interest in the technology more or less within a few weeks earlier in the year and it hasn’t stopped. That’s been the biggest surprise over the last year, but it’s been great for Abra since that’s our business: enabling digital cash for consumers.

PYMNTS: Can you talk about some of the use cases for this technology in 2016 and beyond?

BB: Blockchain was created for one purpose: to avoid the double spending of bitcoin. People think it was created for other reasons, but they’ve figured out that it can be used in other ways, too. People are still trying to come up with those methods, but the momentum is heading toward global cross-border money transfer. That’s what we’ve built. You can immediately send money to any phone number in the world in the same way that you send text messages. I think business payments is also an interesting use case.

PYMNTS: In a perfect world, how would payments and the people who use them operate?

BB: The idea that every country in the world has its own ideas for stored value transaction processing is insane. There are 240 countries and potentially 240 ways to do it. In an ideal sense, businesses and consumers would be able to hold their own cash. This is going to happen. I predict that the way Uber disintermediates transportation and AirBnB disintermediates hotel chains will have a similar disintermediation effect on cash. The right way to do banking and transfer on a global scale is peer-to-peer and not monolithic regulated entities.


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