The Swell Conference — a global payment industry meetup of policy, technology, and payment experts — is currently ongoing and is hosted by Ripple in San Francisco. The second conference after the inaugural Swell Conference in Toronto last year, Swell has seen numerous high-profile announcements and speakers so far.
Notably, the Swell Conference’s first day corresponded with the official launch of xRapid, Ripple’s liquidity sourcing product for cross-border payments utilizing global cryptocurrency exchanges.
Headlines and Speakers
Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker of the event who spoke yesterday on a range of topics including regulation and acknowledging potential downsides of emerging technologies, stating:
“..there needs to be an intelligent effort to identify the downsides” and citing:
“..you can’t apply an old regulatory regime to a new technology.”
Clinton’s remarks come at a time where the broader industry is grappling with an uncertain regulatory environment in the U.S. Ripple, the Swell host has been dealing with problems of their own in regards to the possible classification of their XRP digital asset as a security.
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse officially recognized the launch of the xRapid product at the conference. The xRapid product has already gone through trial periods with notable major companies Western Union, MoneyGram, and IDT. However, the launch of xRapid will not feature these companies fully integrated with the product and instead will see MercuryFX, Cuallix, and Catalyst Corporate Credit Union put the product to commercial use.
xRapid will allow these companies to source liquidity from exchanges throughout the world that offer the XRP digital asset. XRP functions as the intermediary asset in cross-border payments with market makers actually holding the XRP. Three exchange partnerships were announced with the product launch, including Bittrex, Bitso, and Coins.ph.
Ripple is reportedly not receiving revenue directly from the participating entities in the xRapid product, but rather offering the service as pro bono at the moment. Ripple receives revenue from selling XRP through a subsidiary company, purportedly worth $72 million in Q2, and through some of its other products including xCurrent.
The Swell Conference is largely Ripple-focused with a slew of banking and financial executives as the speakers covering topics from regulation to the potential of digital assets in redefining the financial ecosystem. High-profile speakers include Ed Metzer, Head of Innovation at Banco Santander, and Sunil Sabharwal, Alternative Executive Director of the IMF.
The Regulatory Environment
A popular topic of the conference focuses on the current regulatory environment. Following a severe lack of clarity on digital assets from both the IRS and SEC, questions are beginning to emerge about how regulations will eventually play out in the coming months.
The recent report from the Office of the New York Attorney General has further muddled regulatory waters as the report highlighted manipulation risks of may U.S. exchanges and received a strong response from the exchange Kraken. Kraken has been at odds with the state of New York for quite some time now, stemming from New York’s controversial BitLicense and the ensuing problems it has created.
Ironically, Ben Lawsky, the former Superintendent for Financial Services in New York and creator of the BitLicense, was a speaker earlier today at the Swell Conference as part of the Crypto Regulation Around the World segment. His presence most likely drew the ire of many companies, developers, and crypto community members who see the NY regulatory environment as representative of the type of over-regulation that threatens to push innovation and investment outside of the U.S.
Ripple’s Swell Conference provides an intriguing look into the integration of legacy financial institutions, regulators, and blockchain technology. It is an excellent event for Ripple to gain exposure to traditional finance but leaves out a much broader component of the cryptocurrency community that is focused on bypassing banks altogether with public blockchain networks like Bitcoin.