| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 8 USAA, a San Antonio, Texas-based
financial institution serving current and former members of the
military, is studying the underlying technology behind the
digital currency bitcoin to help make its operations more
efficient, a company executive said.
Alex Marquez, managing director of corporate development at
USAA, said in an interview this week that the company and its
banking, insurance, and investment management subsidiaries hoped
the "blockchain" technology could help decentralize its
operations such as the back office.
He said USAA had a large team researching the potential of
the blockchain, an open ledger of a digital currency's
transactions, viewed as bitcoin's main technological innovation.
It lets users make payments anonymously, instantly, and without
The blockchain ledger is accessible to all users of bitcoin,
a virtual currency created through a computer "mining" process
that uses millions of calculations. Bitcoin has no ties to a
central bank and is viewed as an alternative to paying for goods
and services with credit cards.
"We have serious interest in the blockchain and we think the
technology would have an impact on the organization," said
Marquez. "The fact that we have such a large group of people
working on this shows how serious we are about the potential of
USAA, which provides banking, insurance and other products
to 10.7 million current or former members of the military, owns
and manages assets of about $213 billion.
Marquez said USAA had no plans to dabble in the bitcoin as a
currency. Its foray into the blockchain reflects a trend among
banking institutions trying to integrate bitcoin technology into
their systems. BNY Mellon and UBS have announced initiatives to
explore the blockchain technology.
Most large banks are testing the blockchain internally, said
David Johnston, managing director at Dapps Venture Fund in San
Antonio, Texas. "All of the banks are going through that process
of trying to understand how this technology is going to evolve."
"I would say that by the end of the year, most will have
solidified a blockchain technology strategy, how the bank is
going to implement and how it will move the technology forward."
USAA is still in early stages of its research and has yet to
identify how it will implement the technology.
In January this year, USAA invested in Coinbase, the biggest
bitcoin company, which runs a host of services, including an
exchange and a wallet, which is how bitcoins are stored by users
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by David