Former US President Bill Clinton, who was the event's keynote speaker, compared the emergence of blockchain with that of e-commerce in the late 90s. Photo: AFP
Former US President Bill Clinton, who was the event's keynote speaker, compared the emergence of blockchain with that of e-commerce in the late 90s. Photo: AFP

California-based blockchain firm Ripple has been wining and dining industry leaders at a top level two-day event called Swell, featuring a keynote speech by former US president Bill Clinton.

The event, held in Ripple’s home city of San Francisco, was said to be aimed at “expanding adoption of company services and products”.

The event highlight of day one was the launch of Ripple’s cross-border payments system xRapid, where CEO Brad Garlinghouse took to the stage to announce that the platform will initially go live with three financial institutions. These will be payment providers Mercury FX and Cuallix, and financial firm Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union.

The platform allows banks and financial institutions to settle transactions using Ripple’s native crypto token, XRP. It is claimed that this enables a far faster and cheaper process than traditional methods such as SWIFT, and that this is especially beneficial for micro-payments.

Ripple’s company blog added that “xRapid eliminates the need for a pre-funded nostro account when executing a cross-border payment. It sources liquidity from XRP on exchanges around the world. As a result, cross-border transactions occur in minutes and at a lower cost compared to traditional methods, which take days and incur high foreign exchange fees.”

In addition to xRapid the firm also touted RippleNet which has become a global network of financial institutions encompassing over 40 countries. Recent additions to the network include major institutions like PNC Bank and National Commercial Bank of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Other members and event attendees included Banco Santander, IMF, Alitheia Capital, InstaReM, Siam Commercial Bank, eBay, UFG Bank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, WestPac, Standard Chartered, American Express, and SBI.

Garlinghouse continued with his vision of a “Internet of Value” which will enable “value” or finances to move across the world in the same way that information currently does on the web. “We can truly enable an Internet of Value. We can enable money to move in the same way as goods and data. We can enable global commerce to accelerate, industries to grow and new segments of the population to be brought into the fold,” he added.

Also making a major keynote appearance was former US president Bill Clinton, who compared the emergence of blockchain with that of e-commerce in the late 90s, stating “the more you develop new technologies like blockchain… AI technologies, robotic technologies… the more the disparity of access is going to be felt.” He also acknowledged the dark sides of the technology such as money laundering and criminal activity but expressed caution against “killing the goose that lays the golden egg”.

Head of innovation at Banco Santander, Ed Metzger, took to the stage to praise the bank’s RippleNet partnership and tout its new payments app, One Pay FX. “We believe that financial services are moving to a world of open platforms where companies collaborate to deliver excellent customer service for their customers, and that’s at the core of what we’re doing with One Pay FX,” he added.

Former alternate executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sunil Sabharwal, offered thoughts on how blockchain can benefit the remittances industry and research findings on high costs of cross-border payments were revealed.

Ripple has been in the news a lot in the last few days thanks to its Japanese “Money Tap” joint venture with Tokyo financial services company SBI Holdings and because of its wildly-fluctuating market price.

Leading up to the Swell event Ripple’s XRP token almost doubled in price. It is currently up over 90% since mid-September but has taken a fall back today dropping 7% to trade at $0.52 at the time of writing.