Fintech Spotlight: Bakkt CEO Talks Platform Innovation, Exposure To Assets Like NFTs
Earlier this month, Bakkt, a digital-currency fintech that specializes in concurrency, rewards and loyalty points, announced a partnership with prepaid and payments product provider Blackhawk Network, to empower users to easily purchase eGift using digital assets, supported loyalty points, and cash.
As part of the development, Benzinga chatted with Bakkt CEO Gavin Michael.
Those comments come as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic accelerated the digital disruption in finance. Fintechs, which merge traditional finance principles with technology and innovation, quickly adapted to emerging consumer trends, unlike their well-established peers, and built easy-to-use, fast, and smart banking solutions.
A First-Mover: One fintech that’s leading the disruption is Intercontinental Exchange-owned Bakkt, a trusted digital asset marketplace that enables institutions and consumers the ability to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets, seamlessly.
The company turned proof of concept into a reliable digital asset ecosystem that unlocks over $1.2 trillion of digital assets held in cryptocurrencies, rewards and loyalty points, gaming assets, and merchant stored value.
The company’s vision — to bring trust and transparency to digital assets — hasn’t changed much since its founding in 2018, according to Michael, who, prior to joining Bakkt, worked in finance and technology roles at institutions like Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C), JPMorgan, Accenture Plc (NYSE:ACN), and Lloyds Banking Group PLC (NYSE:LYG).
“We’ve continued on that journey,” he said.
In the past few years, Bakkt has increasingly been viewed as a leader. The firm provides true price transparency through products like the Bakkt Warehouse, as well as Bakkt Bitcoin Futures and Options contracts. Additionally, Bakkt aggregates digital assets to enable instant liquidity to trade, transfer, and make payments with ease and low cost.
Product Innovation: The Bakkt App enables users to further unlock the value of digital assets, supported loyalty points, and gift cards, while enabling merchants and loyalty program sponsors increased customer engagement and a lower cost of payment acceptance.
“Recently, we launched the Bakkt App, which is really a game-changing digital wallet experience. It really brings all of your digital assets into one amazing, easy-to-use app, frequent flier miles, gift cards, bitcoin, and more,” the CEO noted. “We’re really giving consumers the power to use their digital assets in the way in which they prefer.”
Graphic: Bakkt’s core consumer product, the Bakkt App.
With the app, Bakkt eliminates fees and brings together sources of value not captured in traditional wallets before.
“We had a phenomenally successful early access program where we were able to test and understand how consumers would react to expanded access to this growing digital assets economy.”
The platform, available on the App Store and Google Play, launched in late March, allowing nearly 500,000 early adopters to interact with industry and brand leaders including Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX), GolfNow, Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY), Choice Hotels International Inc (NYSE:CHH), and Fiserv Inc (NASDAQ:FISV).
“From crypto to cash to rewards to gift cards, and really providing [consumers] with those additional liquidity moments. We have direct integration into the Starbucks app, and we have incredible offers with BestBuy,” Michael explained.
“We’re helping consumers and merchants embrace the digital assets ecosystem, to help drive engagement and revenue growth, and really impact how we approach the value of unlocking wealth that’s hidden in digital assets.”
Recent News: In a move to expand the depth of its consumer product portfolio, Bakkt teamed up with Blackhawk Network to enhance the functionality of the Bakkt App. Now, Bakkt users can convert their digital assets and tap into Blackhawk’s industry-leading portfolio of eGift brands to buy, gift, and store gift cards.
“I think our approach has always been to drive a new platform, to bring consumers, small businesses, and large loyalty programs together in a new way," Michael said. “Were also giving merchants and loyalty program partners new opportunities to deepen customer engagement and lower payment costs.”
Outlook: Benzinga asked Michael about his view regarding NFTs and other digital asset trends.
“I think they’re absolutely sustainable. We’re seeing people look for and look to these different assets to provide them with additional value,” he noted in a reference to Bakkt’s commitment to helping the crypto-curious find better ways to engage with new trends. “I think we’re really riding many of these trends and helping introduce them to customers, in new ways.”
Going forward, Bakkt will build out its consumer and institutional offer, as well as invest and partner with forward-thinking brands.
“We see non-fungible tokens as part of the asset classes that, over time, we would introduce to the platform. We also see the ability for us, given our institutional background, to really contribute and participate in the central bank digital currency space, as well.”
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