At Davos, Crypto Is No Longer on the Outside

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DAVOS, Switzerland — Even on the trains, you can’t get away from crypto.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting – canceled in 2021, delayed earlier in 2022 – formally kicks off Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland. Cryptocurrency advocates opened the parties up on Sunday with bitcoin pizza stalls and blockchain pavilions with flashy banners lining the famed promenade.

WEF attendees were bombarded with signs advertising stablecoin issuer Circle and crypto brokerage Bitcoin Suisse as they got off their planes in Zurich or trains in Davos. Casual passers-by talked about owning shiba inu and cardano. At the end of the day, the crypteratti dispersed to one of the nearby AirBnBs.

“Five years ago, we were the only crypto company on Promenade,” said Sandra Ro, CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) at a kickoff party at a local church (dubbed “The Sanctuary”) right outside the closed-off conference venue. “And look at it now,” she added.

Perhaps nothing announced the turbulent crypto industry's arrival at the world's biggest business table more than the fact that the WEF itself is holding serious discussions about digital money, with industry participants as key players.

Jeremy Allaire, chairman and CEO at Circle Pay and Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, sat side-by-side on Monday to discuss remittances and digital money at an issue briefing at the WEF media village. The panel, titled "Remittances for Recovery: A New Era of Digital Money," also included Asif Saleh, Executive Director of the BRAC, a developmental non-governmental organization based in Bangladesh.

The forum also hosted a discussion on the future of the global economy, the U.S. economy and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) themselves. That’s not to say the forum’s global leaders accept cryptocurrencies just yet – but they aren’t ignoring it.

Creeping in

A panel featuring Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and economist Jason Furman that purportedly focused on the future of the U.S. economy continued the discussion on crypto.

“For a lot of countries around the world, digital central bank currencies (CBDC) might make sense, I don’t think the United States needs to do them,” said Furman, an economics professor at Harvard University.

All of the panelists quickly became very enthusiastic about sharing their thoughts on stablecoins and the like, despite the best efforts of New York Times deputy managing editor Rebecca Blumenstein, who moderated the panel, to put a stop to it.

Toomey mentioned a bill he introduced to regulate stablecoins, asking about the role of a CBDC in a world where private stablecoins flourish.

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