Santander on Thursday launched a blockchain-based cross-border payments service for retail customers, making the first such move by a bank amid competition from fintech rivals.
The Spanish-based bank said its Santander One Pay FX app allows customers to complete international transfers on the same day in many cases or by the next day. It is powered by the blockchain technology of California-based Ripple and will initially become available on Friday for Santander’s customers in Spain, the U.K., Brazil and Poland.
Santander executive chairman Ana Botín told The Financial Times that the bank aims to eventually make One Pay available to be used by customers at other banks.
“Our goal is to help the thousands of people who use international payments services every day, and we will be adding more currencies and destinations in the coming months,” Santander said in a news release.
“Blockchain technology offers tremendous opportunities to improve the services we offer our customers, and the launch of Santander One Pay FX is the first of many potential applications,” it added.
As the FT reports, “Santander is one of many banks and financial institutions have been experimenting with blockchain … in the face of rising competition from new tech-focused rivals.” Its InnoVentures venture capital fund invested in Ripple in 2015.
Some groups “remain skeptical about the potential to use blockchain at scale,” the FT also said, noting that Swift, the bank-owned messaging system, said last month that “further progress is needed” before distributed ledgers can become more mainstream.
According to Santander, each country involved in the One Pay launch will offer customers different payment options depending on the market. Customers in Spain, for example, will be able to send dollars to the U.S. and pounds to the U.K., while customers in the U.K. will be able to send euros to 21 countries and dollars to the U.S.
“Innovation is going to continue and you have to be ahead of the pack,” Botín said.
Earlier this year, two money transfer firms, MoneyGram and Western Union, announced projects using Ripple’s digital currency XRP.