The launch of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project has really shaken up the world of finance. Techies have gone gaga over Libra and the potential instant global reach of the new cryptocurrency, backed by Facebook and its billions of users worldwide. And while governments have taken a critical and skeptical stance towards Libra, Facebook isn’t the only company looking to develop its own cryptocurrency. Walmart recently filed for a patent to create its own blockchain-backed cryptocurrency. Will we see a rash of corporate cryptocurrencies issued in the future?
Given Walmart’s footprint both within the US and abroad, it only makes sense for it to think about issuing its own cryptocurrency. With thousands of existing stores, a push into e-commerce to challenge Amazon, and growing international business, a cryptocurrency could really help bring people into the Walmart ecosystem.
Walmart envisions its cryptocurrency as an asset that people could hold as a store of wealth, and might even pay interest on people’s holdings. That would essentially turn Walmart into an enormous bank. That isn’t too far from where Walmart is right now, since the company’s layaway program already makes it an enormous provider of financial services. In fact, Walmart at one point thought about buying its own bank holding corporation, until political pressure forced it to abandon those plans.
With Facebook now taking the flak from politicos, now is the perfect time for Walmart to slip in unnoticed and launch its own plans. Of course, its rivals such as Amazon are also thinking about issuing their own cryptocurrencies, so there’s a real rush to be the first to market. And obviously any cryptocurrency created as a result of these projects would have to be able to be used not just at Walmart or Amazon but at other retailers too, otherwise no one would have any interest in holding onto them.
These are exciting times for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, as Bitcoin has demonstrated that the cryptocurrency concept is sound and viable. But with Bitcoin’s first mover advantage and decentralized nature, it still has benefits that any corporate cryptocurrency won’t be able to offer. No matter how large the corporation behind new cryptocurrencies, no cryptocurrency will be able to match Bitcoin as an investment asset or store of wealth.