Rabobank, a major Dutch multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in Utrecht, the Netherlands, is considering the possibility of integrating a cryptocurrency wallet within its online banking system.
Considered to be a global leader in food and agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking, Rabobank is among the 25 largest financial institutions in the world in terms of Tier 1 capital. The bank serves more than 7 million Dutch individual and corporate clients, offering a full range of financial services. Globally, the Rabobank group operates in 44 countries.
Rabobit, a Rabobank project currently in its conceptual development and market research phase, would allow the bank’s customers to store cryptocurrencies in a wallet hosted by Rabobank, within the bank’s secure online banking environment. Users would be able to store fiat and cryptocurrencies in one place and access all their funds through one bank account, which can send and receive both fiat and cryptocurrencies. The Rabobit wallet would be integrated with the Rabobank apps.
A Rabobank news release (in Dutch) reveals that Rabobit is part of Rabobank's internal Moonshot acceleration program. In this program, employees of the bank propose innovative ideas, and the best ideas are tested for interest among customers. A shortlist of Moonshot ideas will be compiled in early March 2018. In mid-June, some Moonshot ideas will be selected to be developed into products or services.
Rabobit is one of 22 ideas considered for further development. The idea is currently in a preliminary customer survey phase: Rabobank employees are evaluating public interest in Rabobit with client interviews, both in person (street research) and online, and investigating the risks associated with the use of cryptocurrencies. The Rabobank news release emphasizes that there is not yet an official decision to implement Rabobit.
Regardless of the eventual outcome of Rabobank’s selection project, the very fact that the bank is considering issuing a cryptocurrency wallet is significant. It’s also worth noting that Rabobank has previously expressed a negative position on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. “Ownership and value transfer are completely anonymous and evade supervision by third parties, such as a government,” said a Rabobank representative just last month. “Which means that cryptocurrency does not meet the highest standards of compliance set by Rabobank."
An official Rabobank page titled “Cryptocurrency, or the future of payments” is more open to cryptocurrencies. “We are seeing only the beginning of a new phenomenon that, according to the experts and investors, can be compared to the mid-1990s when the internet took off,” noted Roel Steenbergen, who works in Rabobank IT's innovation arm. “We see this as more of an opportunity than a threat.” Steenbergen added that the old and the new world will have to find each other, and cryptocurrency will exist alongside the other forms of money we are familiar with.
It isn’t surprising that different opinions co-exist in large institutions like Rabobank, where emerging technologies always have both champions and detractors. However, should Rabobank eventually give an official green light to the Rabobit project and implement the cryptocurrency wallet, and should Rabobit become popular among the bank’s customers, it’s possible that other major banks could consider implementing similar cryptocurrency options of their own.
Rabobank image by Donald Trung - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0