In the future, when something just a little bit boring becomes a wild success, it may be described as “pulling a Ripple.” The third-largest cryptocurrency, by market cap, has a focus on the established financial order – and that is a giant turn-off to many of the younger crypto investors who seek out more “exciting” coins for their portfolios.
Yet the Ripple network has exploded in the past year, with the XRP token soaring eightyfold and the Ripple net extending to over a hundred banks.
For Bitcoin defectors, Ripple has many the answers that crypto is looking for: it can handle thousands of transactions per second, with the tantalizing promise of scaling upwards to Visa-like levels but for much lower fees.
Recent pilots of the xRapid program, which uses the XRP token, have proven wildly successful. “An average xRapid payment took just over two minutes, compared to today’s average of 2-3 days when sending cross-border payments,” Ripple announced in a statement on May 10th, with “fees reduced by 40 to 70 percent”.
Still, Ripple is decidedly the most unpopular guest at the cryptocurrency ball. In a room full of tie-dye billionaires and barefoot tycoons, Ripple is the only one in the party wearing a suit.
This decidedly un-sexy decorum may be playing to Ripple’s advantage, allowing it to form partnerships and collaborations with with the sorts of people who still think crypto is for drugs. While other coins struggle to team up with porn companies and weed dispensaries, Ripple is probably the most well-connected player in the world of blockchains.
It’s taking aim at a trillion-dollar market: the international payments industry. And so far, the strategy seems to be working.
Here are some of their significant partners:
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in the nineteenth century, just try wiring money. International remittances haven’t changed much since the telegraph, and there are so many middlemen taking their cuts that the fees become enormous.
Moneygram is finally starting to move out of the digital Stone Age. In an announcement earlier this year, the company announced that it will start to pilot XRP tokens in their payment flows and explore integration with Ripple’s xVia. If successful, the agreement will shift transfer times from days to seconds.
In their first quarter earnings report, Moneygram said, “We are increasing our investments in digital assets as we accelerate our transition to a digitally enabled customer-first organization.” Which, in translation, means something like: we are using Ripple so that customers don’t have to wait two days to pay ten percent in fees.
If Moneygram is the Pepsi of International Remittances, Western Union is the Coca Cola—and they’re also trying the new recipe. Shortly after the Moneygram partnership was announced, WU also announced experimentation with the Ripple Network. No direct partnership yet.
Like Moneygram, Mercury is a currency exchange provider in an industry that’s slowly wandering through the twentieth century. Now it’s the latest rat in the Ripple laboratory–and the results are spectacular.
“The exchange rates were very competitive, and the transaction times were unbelievable,” CEO Alistair Constance told Forbes, after Mercury FX participated in the xRapid pilot. “It was lightning fast compared to using the correspondent banking network SWIFT.”
AmEx’s first big hit was travelers’ checks, which were a big deal in those pre-credit card days. You could safely stuff a few thousand dollars’ worth in your backpack, without having to worry about them being lost or stolen. The famous slogan, “Don’t leave home without it,” would later also be applied to the Amex card.
Now you can leave home without it, at least if you have a bank account. Amex has integrated Ripple tech to its FX International Payments platform, allowing instant, traceable cross-border payments between bank accounts in the US and UK—and you don’t even need an AmEx card.
If you’ve never heard of Yesbank, it’s probably because you don’t live in India—where Yesbank is the fourth largest private bank.
India is an enormous market for cryptocurrencies (despite moves toward a central cryptocurrency), with millions of unbanked or migrant workers. Every year workers send home $62.7 billion in remittances, according to the IBTimes, and the money typically takes two days to arrive. By integrating to the Ripple network, Yes Bank can now offer instant transfers, even for customers of other banks. “We will instantly credit money to the benefiting account for almost any account in India.” Yes Bank CIO Anup Purohit told IBT.
Santander, one of the world’s top five financial brands, became the latest Ripple surfer last month, Cryptoslate reports. “This spring, if no one beats us to it,” UK CEO Nathan Bostock told the International Fintech conference,“we will be the first large retail bank to carry out cross-border payments at scale with blockchain technology.”
Santander’s internal trials found that the Ripple network could safely move funds internationally in under twenty-four hours—which might seem slow to crypto-users, but it’s light-speed in banking time. The banks’ payment app is now available to users in Spain, Poland, Brazil and the UK, with expansions planned for future countries.
The next domino to fall was UAE Exchange, one of the leading money transfer providers in the Middle East. Migrant workers make up more than eighty percent of the emirates’ population, according to Reuters, and each year they send home around $44 billion dollars.
UAE Exchanges will allow those expat to keep a little more of their money, as they save on transfer fees. ““The early adoption of this game-changing technology allows us to offer a competitive service, as it will have an impact on the speed and cost of cross-border transactions,” the CEO said in a statement. The Exchange has 800 branches in 30 countries.