• UMB Financial Corporation approached the company to learn about the use cases of crypto and stablecoins for its customer base
  • New Visa survey found that 18% of survey participants say they would be likely or very likely to switch their primary bank to one that offers crypto-related products in the next 12 months

Visa is launching a crypto advisory practice as a way to help its clients and partners evaluate and pursue potential opportunities in the space.

The payments company on Wednesday announced the launch of the Visa Global Crypto Advisory Practice, an offering within its consulting and analytics unit.

The department was created for financial institutions who may be looking to attract or retain customers with crypto products, retailers looking to delve into NFTs or central banks exploring digital currencies, according to the firm. 

Visa’s consultants intend to evaluate opportunities in the crypto space and develop plans for them to launch offerings such as crypto rewards programs and consumer wallets integrated with central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

Hundreds of clients and partners — such as banks on the issuing and acquiring side, merchants, credit unions, fintechs and neo banks — have reached out to Visa to talk about crypto over the past year, according to the company. 

About half of consumers who own cryptocurrency acquire it from crypto exchanges, a Visa spokesperson noted.

“But those crypto platforms are not just offering crypto services; they’re offering payment credentials that allow their customers to spend converted fiat, and in some cases savings or lending products as well,” the representative told Blockworks.

“It’s important for [financial institutions] to think beyond their own ecosystem and how they can add value, or help their customers better navigate the world of crypto.”

Visa works with hundreds of companies on crypto-related efforts, the spokesperson added. This includes crypto-native companies, such as Coinbase, FTX, BlockFi, Fold and Crypto.com; infrastructure companies such as Anchorage, Circle and ConsenSys; and now banks, processors and merchants.

Visa’s crypto advisors are collaborating with clients across all regions, including UMB Financial Corporation in the US. 

“We came to Visa to learn more about crypto and stablecoins and the uses cases that are most relevant for our retail and commercial business lines as we serve our customers in the years ahead,” Uma Wilson, executive vice president, chief information and product officer at UMB Bank said in a statement. “[Visa Global Crypto Advisory Practice] helped us build a comprehensive and executable strategy — from product and partner selection to cross-functional considerations such as technology, finance, risk and compliance.” 

A spokesperson declined to reveal other firms it is working with, or how many.

Growing crypto awareness

The advisory services launch comes as crypto continues to become more mainstream. About 94% of people with discretion over their household finances are aware of crypto, according to a new survey conducted by Visa.

Of those, 21% described themselves as active owners, while an additional 11% are passive owners. Sixty-two percent of the group that already owns or uses cryptocurrency say their use has increased in the past year. 

“Crypto is moving from a niche asset class for a small community of investors to a broader market increasingly accessible for mainstream and new adopters,” the report states. 

Globally, 18% of survey participants say they would be likely or very likely to switch their primary bank to one that offers crypto-related products in the next 12 months. This number was nearly 40% among crypto owners.

Visa’s new crypto advisory practice and survey follow a range of recent crypto efforts. 

The company announced in July that it was partnering with 50 crypto platforms on card programs after it reported that consumers spent more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency on goods and services through Visa’s crypto-linked cards in the first half of 2021.

Visa also bought its first NFT in August and in September proposed a theoretical system that would connect different blockchain networks to allow central banks, businesses and consumers to transfer digital currencies.

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  • Ben Strack is a Denver-based reporter covering macro and crypto-native funds, financial advisors, structured products, and the integration of digital assets and decentralized finance (DeFi) into traditional finance. Prior to joining Blockworks, he covered the asset management industry for Fund Intelligence and was a reporter and editor for various local newspapers on Long Island. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism. Contact Ben via email at [email protected]