Payment processing behemoth Visa has partnered with First Boulevard, an online bank focused on financial empowerment in the Black community, to test a new cryptocurrency offering for retail customers.
According to a Feb. 3 announcement, Visa will make First Boulevard the first bank to offer its customers access to Visa Crypto APIs, a service allowing users to purchase, custody, and trade digital assets. These assets will be held by United States-based, federally chartered crypto bank Anchorage.
During the test, Visa will attempt to determine how it can facilitate access to crypto assets and blockchain by financial institutions that lack purpose-built infrastructures.
Visa chief product officer Jack Forestell explained that the firm is betting big on crypto assets:
“We set out to make Visa the bridge between digital currencies and our global network of 70 million merchants and today we are the leading network for crypto wallets with 35 crypto platforms choosing to issue with Visa.”
Through the First Boulevard pilot program, Forestall said the company hopes “to extend the value of Visa to our neobank and financial institution clients by providing an easy bridge to crypto assets and blockchain networks.”
Visa said that it prioritized First Boulevard for this partnership because of its commitment to embedding diversity and inclusion into its partnership and go-to-market strategies. The goal of this program is to “level the playing field when it comes to access to new technologies,” it added.
“Visa’s crypto APIs pilot program is a significant step forward both for the proliferation of crypto as an asset class, and for accessibility and inclusion in payments and financial services,” said Diogo Monica, president and co-founder of Anchorage. “We are thrilled to be working alongside Visa and First Boulevard to build the infrastructure for a more secure and equitable financial future.”
First Boulevard’s president and CEO, Donald Hawkins, said the bank is “thrilled to partner with the leader in digital payments, Visa, and leverage their crypto APIs to provide another channel for the Black community to access crypto as a new asset class that can help build Black wealth.”
Even though cryptocurrency is largely perceived and expected to be a forward-looking, anti-establishment and democratizing technology, knowledge about Bitcoin and other digital assets lags among Black and Hispanic communities, surveys have found.