Bitcoin has been in the news for a number of reasons. Whether it's in a positive light or a negative light, Bitcoin never fails to facilitate debate. But what lies ahead for this controversial currency? I spoke to Michael Gastauer from the digital banking platform WB21 to find out what he thinks the ultimate fate of Bitcoin is, and what he thinks will happen to the world of online transactions in the future.
AJ: Thank you for joining me. You run the digital banking platform WB21. Could you tell me about what Bitcoin means for you as an operator of a banking and cross border payments platform?
Gastauer: WB21 is a platform that operates in 18 different currencies across countries all over the world. We pride ourselves on making banking cheaper and more convenient. Our goals align with Bitcoin, in many ways. It's why I'm confident that should Bitcoin continue to make ground we will embrace the digital currency revolution.
It's certainly no threat to us and our common goals will see us working with each other, rather than against each other. People buying Bitcoin need bank accounts to convert their local currency into Bitcoin. When they sell Bitcoin they need a bank account to receive hard currency. This is where WB21 offers a great solution. Private Individuals and Businesses from 180 countries can open checking accounts online, in real time at wb21.com. They can use their checking accounts to send and receive payments in real time to their preferred Bitcoin exchange. Many Bitcoin exchanges have opened accounts with us already. If a user wants to transfer money to their account, it is free of charge.
AJ: How likely do you think that Bitcoin is likely to take off in a mainstream capacity?
Gastauer: I believe that the X-factor of Bitcoin has surprised many people because it's already lasted so long. But it still has the challenge of breaking into the mainstream. I think that the last region of the world to adopt Bitcoin will be the west simply because the banks are so established and the economies are relatively stable.
High inflation rates and huge levies placed on international transactions in areas of the world like South America will encourage more and more people to use our platform. They have a real need to do so, and by switching from traditional Banks to WB21 it could save both individuals and companies a lot of money.
From operating WB21, I know that customers really examine how much they are expected to pay for making international transactions. Setting up checking accounts with us is free of charge. The only fee a customer pays is a 1% fee on international payments. I have no doubt that regional economic troubles will benefit us and Bitcoin.
AJ: So you do think that Bitcoin is guaranteed to succeed?
Gastauer: You can never be sure about anything in finance, but I'm quite confident that Bitcoin will have a future. The main barriers to adoption are making people aware that it actually exists and the security of it. This isn't helped by the fact that many banks are actively working against Bitcoin, and the fact that studies show people don't understand Bitcoin.
If Bitcoin became the main currency in use, traditional banks would likely go out of business. It's also why you can't just buy Bitcoin using your regular bank accounts. Although I'm a supporter of Bitcoin, I have to acknowledge that the current arrangements to buy and sell Bitcoin are not as secure as they should be.
Until that's addressed, I think it will be difficult to encourage people to take up Bitcoin. People are still going to have concerns over security.
AJ: How do you think governments will react to Bitcoin?
Gastauer: Due to how young Bitcoin is as a currency, governments haven't really reacted to it all. The legal status of bitcoin varies substantially from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them. While some countries have explicitly allowed its use and trade, others have banned or restricted it.
One of the nuances of this currency is it isn't centralized, making it impossible to control. If a government outlawed Bitcoin for whatever reason, they would have no way of actually enforcing a ban because they would have to practically shut down the whole Internet in order to do it. And that's why many governments secretly fear Bitcoin.
I think that governments are wary about Bitcoin for now, but they will gradually start to see the potential in it. And if they don't they will likely start to change their opinions when they realize that they have no real possibility of stopping people from using it.
AJ: Finally, how will banking platforms like WB21 react to Bitcoin going forward?
Gastauer: WB21 and, I think, the various other platforms will embrace Bitcoin. As I already mentioned, our goals align and we are determined to make moving money around the world as convenient as humanly possible. Bitcoin is a tool to do that. As soon as the kinks in the buying and selling of Bitcoin are addressed, Bitcoin is certain to have a bright future ahead.
Yes, there will be challenges, but I am confident that Bitcoin will endure.
AJ: Thank you for talking to me today about the future of Bitcoin.