PayPal (PYPL) CEO and President Dan Schulman took to the stage on the first day of the major Web Summit event on Wednesday, telling the estimated 100,000 attendees that for cryptocurrency "the time is now."
Interviewed by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross-Sorkin for the online 2020 tech conference, Schulman anticipated digital currencies soon entering the mainstream and becoming an everyday payments tool. The global coronavirus pandemic has accelerated various trends, such as consumers "abandoning cash," he said.
The coronavirus pandemic "has pulled these trends forward anywhere between three to five years [and] five to six months," according to Schulman.
PayPal announced in October it will begin allowing users to transact with cryptocurrency as a funding instrument across 28 million merchants early next year. The company is already allowing customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies inside the PayPal wallet, starting in the U.S. Schulman said the company conducted market research in advance that showed 54% of PayPal’s base wanted the crypto offerings.
"As we thought about it, digital wallets are a natural complement to digital currencies. We've got over 360 million digital wallets and we need to embrace cryptocurrencies," said the PayPal CEO.
Bitcoin's volatility had previously been Schulman's primary concern, prompting him to consider it a "poor form of currency" with the potential to wipe out small merchants' profits. In order to tackle this issue, PayPal will allow consumers to know the exact exchange rate of crypto at the moment of a purchase, removing the volatility risk.
"It bolsters the utility of that underlying cryptocurrency, and you can do more with it than just ride the ups and downs of it," he said. "In effect, you're taking that as an instrument that can conduct commerce at our 28 million merchants."
Schulman was joined in the session by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
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