Global payments giant Visa earned the ire of the bitcoin community earlier this year when CEO Charlie Scharf stated that he didn't see bitcoin and its technology as posing a significant threat to its operations.
Now, however, new comments from the CEO suggest that the company may be re-evaluating bitcoin.
In a new interview with The Australian Financial Review (AFR), Scharf confirmed that while the company is not currently responding to developments in the bitcoin space, it could be well positioned to do so in the future, should circumstances require.
Scharf told the AFR:
“Visa is not a currency, it’s a network. We can process real or virtual currencies to the extent that it makes sense. So, [facilitating bitcoin payments] is possible but we are not thinking about it today.”
Scharf further explained that Visa has no interest in creating a Visa-branded digital currency, as has been suggested of some of its competitors who have sought to secure digital currency-related patent filings.
The interview follows the late July launch of Visa Digital Solutions, a company initiative that seeks to support new payment methods and encourage technology that protects consumers and innovation.
Emphasis on innovation
Notably, the comments come at a time when Visa is trying to increasingly align its brand with the ongoing revolution in digital and mobile payments.
Visa recently opened Visa Labs, a San Francisco-based office meant to inspire next-generation ideas for the company, and unveiled its version of an online credit card, Visa Checkout, designed to increase the speed and ease of e-commerce for web consumers.
Visa senior vice president of digital solutions Sam Shrauger likened Visa's strategy shift to those that seek to embrace the new changes being brought on by technology, telling AFR:
"We are now seeing connected thermostats and cars and everything – our view is that a lot of those things will become points of transaction."
Shrauger formerly served as vice president of global product and design for online payments powerhouse PayPal, serving the company from 2004 to 2012.
Shrauger's involvement in Visa's digital payments push suggests that there are at least some members of Visa that may be considering the possibilities posed by bitcoin and its related technologies, which in turn may be having a broader influence at the company.
PayPal has steadily increased its visible support for digital currency of late, with corporate strategist Roman Leal joining Blockchain's Peter Smith for a panel talk at The North American Bitcoin Conference on 20th July.
PayPal also notably held an 'Introduction to Bitcoin' event in San Jose, California on 31st July.
Correction: A previous version of this article attributed Scarf's quotes to Shrauger.