Looking Into The Role Credit Unions Can Play In Bitcoin Adoption

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In a recent inter­view with Bit­coin Mag­a­zine, Chief Lend­ing Offi­cer Chase Lar­son and CEO Jed Mey­er of St. Cloud Finan­cial Cred­it Union, based in Min­neso­ta, dis­cussed their expe­ri­ences with Bit­coin and their efforts to devel­op a bit­coin cus­tody solu­tion at the cred­it union. Lar­son shared his per­son­al jour­ney with dig­i­tal assets, start­ing in 2016, and his real­iza­tion of the need for acces­si­ble resources and edu­ca­tion for indi­vid­u­als inter­est­ed in Bit­coin. He joined the cred­it union in 2021 and focused on edu­ca­tion and con­nect­ing peo­ple with resources relat­ed to cryptocurrency.

Mey­er empha­sized the impor­tance of under­stand­ing the mate­r­i­al need for Bit­coin ser­vices in their com­mu­ni­ty and out­lined a strate­gic four-step approach that pri­or­i­tizes edu­ca­tion and stor­age, then trans­ac­tion­al abil­i­ty and bank­ing prod­ucts. Mey­er high­light­ed their focus on edu­ca­tion as a way to change the nar­ra­tive around Bit­coin and address the risks and con­cerns asso­ci­at­ed with it.

Regard­ing the bit­coin cus­tody solu­tion, Lar­son stat­ed that they have been work­ing on devel­op­ing a prod­uct that is cur­rent­ly oper­a­tional but not yet ready for launch to their 25,000 mem­bers. The cred­it union has been pri­or­i­tiz­ing edu­ca­tion both inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly, ensur­ing that their employ­ees and mem­bers under­stand the intri­ca­cies and risks of cryp­tocur­ren­cies. They aim to be a reli­able part­ner for their mem­bers, offer­ing safe stor­age options and guid­ance with­out advis­ing spe­cif­ic investments.

“From an edu­ca­tion­al per­spec­tive, we said, let’s real­ly start foun­da­tion­al from the ground floor,” Lar­son explained. “We’re going to walk our mem­bers through this high lev­el of edu­ca­tion, in an effort to, one, help them become more informed, regard­less if they own it today, plan to own it or not, we want our mem­bers to be well informed. And then two for those that choose to get into the space, hope­ful­ly, they make more informed deci­sions and under­stand the risks.” 

The inter­view also touched on their col­lab­o­ra­tive approach with reg­u­la­tors to ensure respon­si­ble imple­men­ta­tion of their Bit­coin ser­vices. Lar­son and Mey­er believe that edu­ca­tion and stor­age are areas where they can make a sig­nif­i­cant impact while work­ing with­in reg­u­la­to­ry frame­works. They have engaged with reg­u­la­tors and are in ongo­ing dis­cus­sions to incor­po­rate their feed­back into the devel­op­ment of poli­cies and procedures.

Speak­ing on the future impact that Bit­coin could have on the tra­di­tion­al finance realm, Mey­er said that “If you do noth­ing, I think you’re tak­ing more risk as to where this indus­try is actu­al­ly head­ed in the future, and how it will actu­al­ly impact us to a sig­nif­i­cant degree. And if you don’t want to be on the receiv­ing end of how oth­ers have devel­oped this, you should prob­a­bly get involved now.” 

Over­all, St. Cloud Finan­cial Cred­it Union’s approach to Bit­coin reflects a com­mit­ment to edu­cat­ing their mem­bers and work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with reg­u­la­tors to nav­i­gate the evolv­ing land­scape of Bit­coin. While self-cus­tody is inher­ent­ly the most safe method of stor­ing bit­coin, in a world where edu­ca­tion on Bit­coin is lack­ing cred­it unions can serve in an edu­ca­tion­al role. In addi­tion, inno­va­tions like Fed­im­ints could help cre­ate cus­to­di­al solu­tions that help retain the prop­er­ties of Bit­coin that make it sov­er­eign mon­ey, while still ensur­ing a lev­el of dis­trib­uted respon­si­bil­i­ty that makes those involved more comfortable.

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