Visa hopes its new crypto consulting arm will help it become cooler than its competition

The world’s largest card company just doubled down on its bid to capture the crypto market. Visa announced today that it has launched a crypto advisory practice for its clients and partners under its Visa Consulting and Analytics (VCA) arm.

The news comes just a few months after Cuy Sheffield, Visa’s head of crypto, declared the asset class had become “cool” at a fintech conference last month. The payments behemoth made waves when it bought a CryptoPunk NFT in August this year, but its move to launch a dedicated crypto consultancy shows its attempts to capture crypto market share in a crowded field extend beyond marketing stunts.

Visa’s partnerships with crypto platforms have doubled in the past 18 months, Sheffield told TechCrunch in an interview. Consumers have also spent about $3.5 billion dollars using Visa’s crypto-linked card programs, Sheffield said, up from $1 million in July

It also announced the results of a new global survey it conducted on consumer attitudes about crypto, which found that 40% of its 6,000+ respondents would be likely to switch primary banks to one that offers crypto products.

Visa has seen “an incredible amount of inbound calls from hundreds of clients and partners and traditional financial institutions” who are looking to integrate crypto into their offerings, Sheffield said. Visa’s consulting arm has around 700 employees, though the company did not share how many would be affiliated with the crypto practice.

“We see Visa well-positioned as a global neutral brand, with deep expertise in crypto, that can help to abstract away some of the complexity of these new technologies and help banks bring it into their core products,” Sheffield said. 

To that end, Visa invested in blockchain compliance firm TRM Analytics by participating in its $60 million Series B, announced yesterday. American Express and Citi also participated in the fundraise. Visa is just one of many card incumbents scrambling to make inroads into crypto, which is threatening their fee-dependent business model by replacing them as the new underlying infrastructure for payments.

Mastercard, for its part, launched a crypto rewards program in October this year, using Bakkt as its custodian for digital assets. Visa does not hold crypto in custody directly either, but partners with Anchorage Digital to provide this capability — a company it first invested in in 2019. Visa is building out its crypto API platform on top of Anchorage, enabling other banks to access their custodial services, Sheffield said.

Sheffield anticipates growth in Visa’s crypto-linked debit card programs as well as use cases like central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Although just seven countries have launched CBDCs to date, 87 more are considering them, according to The Atlantic Council.

Visa is hoping to capitalize on this interest by helping banks develop CBDC-related products, Sheffield said.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time on research on what infrastructure CBDCs would use for consumer experiences, and how consumers would interact with them. We are taking that expertise and the engagements that we’re having with central banks and helping banks start to think about their role in preparing, as we think there’ll be a number of countries that end up going down this route,” Sheffield said.