Crypto in Canada: Where Prepaid is Driving Innovation — and What’s Next?

There’s one major question in the Canadian payments market that’s part of major regulatory discussions: Where does crypto fit into Canada’s economy? This hot topic is going to continue to drive conversations across the payments ecosystem. 

With bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies having a massive market boom over the past few years, the debate about where and how crypto fits into the mainstream financial system is one that regulators are having to face head on. Of course, the political parties in Canada — much like the financial ecosystem — remain split on where crypto plays a legitimate role in Canada’s payments system. 

Regardless of what the regulatory landscape looks like for crypto in Canada, one thing is clear: the fintech market in Canada has embraced crypto as a new and innovative way to attract more consumers onto their platforms. Even more interesting is how prepaid has made its ways into the crypto conversations.

Where Prepaid, Fintech and Crypto Meet: A Digital Payments Movement

Prepaid as a platform continues to fuel Canada’s digital payments and banking ecosystem by helping financial services companies of all sizes bring new, inclusive offerings to market. Increasingly, when companies launch prepaid card programs, they are finding new ways to tie unique loyalty programs around those cards. Bitcoin rewards, delivered via prepaid cards, have begun to carve their own niche as the new cashback reward opportunity. 

For instance, Mogo — a CPPO member and one of Canada’s leading financial technology companies — has put its crypto stake in the ground. Just recently Mogo acquired 39% of Coinsquare ($103.8 million), a company that has grown to a $688 million in assets in 2021. In March 2020, the company formed Mogo Ventures to manage its investment portfolio of approximately $124 million which includes strategic investments in emerging and leading companies in crypto. Mogo Ventures has a portfolio of $18.1 million, with digital assets totaling $1.7 million. 

Mogo has also set the tone for how to leverage prepaid and crypto as a customer loyalty tool through MogoCard, a prepaid card that has cashback bitcoin rewards. The MogoCard offers unlimited 2% bitcoin cashback on every single purchase, regardless of spend category.

“We believe green bitcoin is a much more appealing reward for the next generation of Canadians, and we’re pleased to facilitate simple access to it in a fun and engaging way to support the goals of business customers,” said Phil Barrar, Chief Innovation Officer at Mogo. “This kind of rewards program can work within a business’ existing rewards program and potentially help drive long-term financial benefit to their customers. Our goal with this new program is to help businesses leverage bitcoin as a relevant and exciting promotion or ongoing rewards program, where their customers can earn bitcoin sustainably, with a positive environmental impact, every time they shop or buy.”

Shakepay, a Canadian bitcoin technology company that supports customers to buy and earn bitcoin through financial applications, announced the availability of its Shakepay Visa Prepaid Card to the public after a successful invite-only launch. Through the Bitcoin Rewards Card, cardholders will earn up to 2% in bitcoin cashback on their first $5,000 spent, settled directly to the bitcoin balance of their Shakepay account. Cardholders will then earn 1% bitcoin cashback on every purchase beyond their first $5,000. 

“After a tremendous year for Bitcoin and Shakepay, we’re excited to make the Shakepay Card more widely available,” said Jean Amiouny, Co-founder and CEO of Shakepay. “The exclusive invite-only launch to our community was a huge success, and we couldn’t be more excited to open access to the general public. We know our customers value bitcoin rewards, and we’re looking forward to offering Shakers more ways to earn bitcoin.”

Navigating Regulatory Hurdles: What’s Next for Crypto in Canada

Crypto and the use of digital assets are gaining traction in the mainstream media as the leaders from some of Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency companies are pushing for a national strategy of how to manage this industry. The group, Canadian Web3 Council, was just launched and has representation from  Wealthsimple, Dapper Labs, Ledn, Ether Capital, WonderFi Technologies Inc., Aquanow, Aciom Zen, Chainsafe Systems, ETHGlobal and Figment and Informal Systems.

The non-profit’s co-founders are Jelena Djuric of Informal Systems and Connor Spelliscy, who co-founded the American industry group The Blockchain Association.

“The Canadian Web3 community has led the charge on some of the most innovative and high-valued projects globally,” Djuric and Spelliscy said in a press release. “World-changing talent and creativity often starts in Canada, only to flourish elsewhere. We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to nurture these talents domestically, for the benefit of all Canadians.”

Just as prepaid has cemented itself as a major force in driving digital banking innovation, major investments in crypto from financial services and fintech companies alike have changed how organizations are viewing the role of digital currencies in the future of financial services innovation. Organizations like SightSpan, a CPPO member, have seen the appetite for crypto evolve rapidly as the regulatory discussions evolve. 

“Today, everyone wants to talk about crypto and the narrative is significantly different than that of 8 years ago,” Andrea Corbine, SightSpan’s EVP of payments, told the CPPO last year. “Established Crypto firms with strong leadership now seem to have an approach of respect towards AML and CTF. There is an understanding that they need to build a solid foundation if they are going to have credibility across local jurisdictions and governments. They know they must have compliance and regulatory issues solved. This has been a very rapidly growing area of our firm.”

Matt McGuire, Co-Founder and Practice Director of The AML Shop (another CPPO member) has seen similar trends escalating in the past year, including the rise of crypto and prepaid being merged to better navigate regulatory hurdles. It’s clear the rise in discussions around cross-border transactions, privacy compliance and financial crime regulations will continue keeping crypto front and center for discussion for all financial services leaders.

FEATURED SESSION: 2022 CPPO Prepaid Symposium 

Continue the conversation about how crypto is impacting the Canadian payments ecosystem — including where prepaid fits in — at our in-person event: the 2022 CPPO Prepaid Symposium.

Crypto in Canada: What’s Next, What’s Real, What’s the opportunity?

An industry that’s moving faster than on-demand payments, the future of where crypto fits into Canada’s unique economy is still up for debate. Crypto in Canada remains a hot regulatory topic of discussion across every player in the payments ecosystem. In this session industry experts, product managers, regulators and investors will separate hype from honesty about the true potential for crypto in Canada.

Speakers:    

  • Phil Barrar – Chief Innovation Officer, Mogo
  • Nassib Kazoun – Crypto Consulting Practice Lead for North America, Mastercard
  • Lisa Durnford – Senior Manager, Regulatory R&D, Wealthsimple
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