Banking App Current Picks Polkadot for Its DeFi Debut

The banking app with 3 million users will serve as a Polkadot validator as it plans deeper crypto moves.

AccessTimeIconMay 18, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 3:19 a.m. UTC
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Fintech Current is gearing up for a "crypto crossover" on Polkadot.

The financial services app said Tuesday it will integrate Acala, a Polkadot-based decentralized finance (DeFi) platform, into its core banking product. 

It’s a first step toward introducing in-app DeFi tools for Current’s 3 million users, Chief Technology Officer Trevor Marshall said in an interview.

Wonky crypto-finance tools like multichain stablecoin transfers and yield farming, perhaps, won’t be showing up next to Current’s deposit, cash-back and checking account features until later this year, Marshall said. In the meantime, Current will join Polkadot’s validator set.

Current, which last grabbed Web 3 headlines for its copyright lawsuit against a Facebook-backed stablecoin project (whose name and logo have both since changed), said the Acala integration marks its crypto debut after six years of carefully plotting its entrance. 

“In some ways, this partnership is really just the beginning of the actual rollout of what we've been building toward this whole time,” Marshall, a self-identified multicoiner, said.

Current’s crypto journey

In 2015, Marshall staged a Ripple payments prototype for Current only to find the chain lacking in utility. There was one notable feature: “Now anyone could see your balance,” he said. That was obvioulsy not a good feature, and Current abandoned the crossover.

Marshall followed up three years later with an Ethereum-based process, but the economics just didn’t work; gas prices, high then, are even higher now. Current nixed the crossover.

Current chased both prototypes because it believed that decentralization could help it bring users extra value. “We've been every year kind of checking back in” to see if crypto had a workable crossover, Marshall said.

This year’s checkup yielded Polkadot DeFi and the possibility of generating “real returns" and “real yield” from the decentralized world.

“It’s only over the last year where we start to see ecosystems like Polkadot starting to gain traction, where it is economically viable to have something where the core mechanic can be truly decentralized,” Marshall said.

Other base layers are looking to rival Ethereum’s first-mover advantage in DeFi by finding creative ways to partner with mainstream user bases. In January, Sam Bankman-Fried’s Alameda Research led a $50 million round in Maps.me to bring Solana DeFi to travelers.

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