Standard Bank says that it won’t be launching Bitcoin trading services for its customers, although it did engage on a small scale trial of the technology last year.
Pictures of an interface used in the trial were demonstrated at an international conference on Tuesday by the founders of Switchless, a firm which specialises in providing Bitcoin software for financial institutions. Switchless is based in Stellenbosch, and owns South Africa’s first Bitcoin exchange, BitX*.
A spokesperson for Standard Bank contacted us this morning to confirm that the trial did take place, but that it was limited to just eight internal employees and completed some months ago. The bank has no plans to launch a service based on the trial.
“The pilot formed part of Standard Bank’s research into activities around internet-based financial services and solutions offerings with the objective to assess Bitcoin, its systems, offerings, challenges and risks,” says the bank, “It was instituted exclusively within the bank and participation was limited to 8 selected members of staff. No customers participated in the pilot.
“Standard Bank runs such pilots to constantly improve the way it does banking in order to remain relevant to its customers and cater for their ever changing needs.”
Of course, that doesn’t rule out launching Bitcoin-based services in the future – but it would be a foolish bank to say “never” right now.
In many ways, it would have been almost more surprising to find a bank that hasn’t been playing around with Bitcoins over the last year, given the number of column inches the cryptocurrency has generated. Especially here in South Africa where banks have a long history of being at the cutting edge of tech through mobile banking and online sales. If there’s any other projects banks are working on – don’t keep them secret. We’d love to find out more.
* Originally I said BitX is the only ZA exchange – and was rapidly corrected that Ice3X.com launched last year. Apologies.