Relations between Barclays, one of the most influential UK-based banks, and bitcoin, one of the most debated currencies, have been developing quite ambiguously so far.
In April we published a story of Charles Bartlett, a 17-year old student, who was one day unlucky to find his account closed by Barclays. He didn’t get a reasonable explanation while all his funds turned out to be frozen. The student explained that the only difference in how he had been using my current account was that he had bought and sold Bitcoin online to make some money. He managed to earn £40 which was later called “fraudulent payment” by Barclays.
Nevertheless in approximately two months Barclays has signed a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) agreement with Swedish bitcoin exchange Safello to develop a new bitcoin payment system. The bank must have appreciated the potential of bitcoin and blockchain by this time. Barclays was going to investigate how the digital currency technology can change the sector of financial services.
Now we see the first serious decision has been made – Barclays starts working with bitcoin. The step taken is accepting charity donations in bitcoin.
Barclays announced to be cooperating with two bitcoin ‘labs’ in London and numerous start-ups to fully understand and use the possibilities of the cryptocurrency. The bank put its warehouse in Whitechapel, east London, at the disposal of bitcoin enthusiasts who can now arrange meetings there. 75 bank employees study the currency and its underlying technology at the offices in Notting Hill and Old Street. As we see Barclays puts its best foot forward in this race for exploring bitcoin potential.
Derek White, Barclays’s chief design and digital officer, admits that their policy aims now at “inviting start-ups, academics, government and working at the space to connect with others that are interested in the bitcoin and blockchain community”.
The experiment is planned for the end of 2015. Barclays still withholds details although suppositions have already appeared. It’s possible that Barclays’s partner, a bitcoin exchange, will accept payments in bitcoin and then convert them in fiat currency for payment into a Barclays account.
Barclays is not the only bank that starts examining bitcoin. Max Neukirchen, the head of corporate strategy at JPMorgan Chase, explains overall interest: “A year ago it was more of an idea. Now it’s a real opportunity. You test it and realise that this can play a big role in our thinking about how our own infrastructure will evolve”.