by Joseph Young
USAA, a San Antonio-based multi-billion dollar banking corporation, has integrated Coinbase’s API, to allow its users and clients to track their Coinbase wallet balances in one unified user-interface while checking their bank accounts and credit cards online.
Founded in 1922 by a group of U.S. Army officers, USAA provides insurance, banking, investments and retirement products to 11.2 million former and current members of the U.S. military and their families.
The company intends to bring bitcoin to more people in the U.S, and is aiming to bring the currency closer to mainstream with the partnership with Coinbase.
The bank’s newly released pilot bitcoin app has been rolled out to a larger group of USAA members over the past week, and plans to increase the number of early-access users in the upcoming weeks.
“Our highly mobile member base is looking at new innovations,” said Darrius Jones, assistant vice president of enterprise innovation for USAA, in an interview on Wednesday. “Our military members move quite a bit compared to other consumers. What better than being able to look at your various household account balances in a single place?”
Despite the increasing interest of banks and established financial institutions in distributed ledger and the blockchain technology, USAA is the first bank to integrate and use bitcoin, instead of building their own specialized blockchains and “altcoins.”
Banks have been spending millions of dollars to explore the potential of the blockchain technology and its applications in the traditional financial sector. However, many financial experts and bitcoin entrepreneurs oppose this approach, claiming that these banks have been simply been creating centralized payment networks on top of the blockchain’s decentralized system, defeating the whole purpose of a distributed ledger-based payment protocol.
“There have been a lot of banks interested publicly in blockchain technology but it’s not clear what they mean by that,” said Nick Tomaino, business development manager at Coinbase. “Most are talking about private blockchains versus bitcoin technology and none have shipped anything. This is a bank actually talking about bitcoin and is shipping something.”