Tesla may have stolen the headlines with its bitcoin buy, but corporate treasurers and chief financial officers have been poking their noses over the fence into cryptocurrency’s yards for several years now. It’s a brewing interest that has been percolating in a largely wait-and-see attitude among the corporate community. Slowly but surely, however, chief financial officers are looking to wade deeper into the waters, said Ben Sebley, chief growth officer at BCB Group.
As a cryptocurrency-focused company, BCB has built its technologies for crypto-centric firms. But in recent years, explained Sebley, non-crypto corporates gradually began to inquire about the technology. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Sebley explained the trajectory of the CFO’s rising interest and participation in the cryptocurrency arena, and what finance leaders need in order to move into the next phase of corporate crypto adoption.
From Interest To Adoption
Though CFOs have historically been skeptical of bitcoin, in recent years BCB Group encountered more and more businesses outside of the crypto industry that are interested in learning more about the solution. It created what Sebley describes as the first phase of corporate involvement in crypto. “It was slow-moving, but now conversations are at the C-suite level with normal [non-crypto] companies,” he said. “It was genuine conversation. They weren’t always ready to pull the trigger; it was more very inquisitive.”
The backdrop behind that subtle trend was a strengthening crypto market that continues to fuel interest in the technology, with bitcoin hitting a nearly $50,000 valuation earlier this month.
The interest of non-crypto businesses in digital assets is a turning point for the market, Sebley noted, signaling a new era of legitimacy and validation for the tool. But it didn’t come easy: The market first had to have the infrastructure, banking support and relative regulatory certainty around cryptocurrency for corporates to not only inquire about the potential of acquiring bitcoin, but to actually buy it.
More CFOs are approaching firms like BCB Group about how to move forward with that interest — and as a result, the company recently announced the launch of its corporate treasury service, which enables businesses to procure, store and account for bitcoin. The offering essentially repackages tools that the company had already offered to its initial client base for treasury departments at more traditional businesses. Vital to the success of any such offering, noted Sebley, is for tools to be flexible and customizable to suit CFOs’ needs based on their organizations’ desired level of involvement in cryptocurrency.
Achieving Critical Mass
Interest among corporates in the crypto arena is growing, too, because of increased understanding among their finance leaders about what the technology is and how it could potentially address key pain points. While today, there is a sense that many finance leaders are interested in bitcoin simply because their peers are looking into it, more CFOs are proactively looking to assess the value proposition.
“CFOs are a type that tends to be very much in possession of the facts before they initiate conversation,” said Sebley. “They tend to be very thoughtful and methodical people.”
But cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are still most often discussed in terms of how much the asset is worth in U.S. dollars. Less so is the topic of conversation around actually using crypto as a currency, or as a tool to facilitate cross-border transactions and hedge against inflation or FX risks.
The market is still a ways away from that future, said Sebley, but it is in the forecast. In the meantime, he believes there is still value in CFOs merely buying and storing bitcoin on their balance sheets. After all, it’s only when digital currency adoption reaches critical mass that the market can truly emerge with valuable use cases for corporate finance and payments.
“We’re not there yet, I don’t think,” he said. “But the more people who adopt it and store it, the better the infrastructure becomes. Then maybe it effectively becomes a legal tender or more widely recognized asset, and then interesting business use cases can emerge.”