Visa CEO talks bitcoin, stablecoin service strategy in podcast appearance

Visa CEO Al Kelly dug into the credit card company’s crypto-focused strategy in a podcast appearance this week.

Kelly’s comments to Fortune’s Leadership Next covered the bulk of what Visa aims to accomplish via a multi-pronged strategy that covers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as well as fiat-backed tokens or stablecoins.

In a broader sense, according to Kelly, the goal is to place the credit card giant “in the middle of” activity around new payments methods and technologies so that if they do catch on in the mainstream, Visa is able to capture the business opportunity. Recent months have seen Visa strike partnerships with firms like crypto banking startup Anchorage and community bank First Boulevard.

Indeed, Kelly’s comments illustrate what The Block’s Ryan Todd called “Crypto-as-a-Service” in a research column earlier this month.

Speaking to Fortune, Kelly divided Visa’s view of the landscape into cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and digital currencies backed by fiat currencies like the dollar.

For the latter category, Kelly said: “we’re trying to do two things. One is enable the purchase of bitcoin on Visa credentials. And secondly, working with bitcoin wallets to allow the bitcoin to be translated into a fiat currency and therefore immediately be able to be used at any of the 70 million places around the world where Visa is accepted."

On the latter subject, “there we see a strong potential for those to become a new payment vehicle,” according to Kelly, particularly in emerging markets.

“So certainly in the digital currency world, we’re working with lots of players. There’s about 35 different players we’re working with,” he explained, saying:

“These are currencies that are fiat-backed, but we’re allowing this translation, if you will, into a fiat currency and in a wallet where there’s a Visa card and again that Visa card can be used with the translated digital currency over to the fiat currency to purchase at any one of our 70 million locations.”

Visa’s crypto strategy is in some sense aligned with fellow credit card giant Mastercard, which has made plain its intention to both capture value from interest around cryptocurrencies while exploring business opportunities in both the stablecoin sphere as well as the future of central bank digital currencies.