Financal services company Western Union is experimenting with the Ripple blockchain and corresponding XRP cryptocurrency, according to CEO Hikmet Ersek.
Ersek informed analysts of the Ripple tests during a conference call on February 13, noting that the company is considering ways to use Ripple to settle transactions and for capital optimization. A Western Union spokesperson told Fortune the company is also experimenting with XRP, Ripple's native cryptocurrency.
Ripple confirmed the relationship with Western Union. “We’ve been testing different products with Western Union for a while," the company wrote in a statement to Bloomberg News on February 14. "We’re excited about our work towards a pilot implementation of xRapid, which uses XRP in payment flows."
Western Union's Ripple tests aren't the first example of a major finance company experimenting with cryptocurrency, nor is Western Union the first to look specifically into Ripple. Just this week, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) — the central bank for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — signed an agreement to bring Ripple's blockchain software, XCurrent, to banks in the country.
However, Western Union is one of the few to experiment with XRP, which could help Ripple become an even bigger player in the crypto market.
Earlier this week, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse told attendees at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco that transactions with XRP are "1,000 times faster" than those using crypto market leader bitcoin and cost just “a fraction of a cent” each compared to bitcoin's $13. The company hopes to work "within the system” to gain traction with the mainstream, said Garlinghouse.
After experiencing significant growth in 2017, XRP hit an all-time high of $3.84 per unit in January 2018, but has since dropped back down to around $1.14, as of the time of writing. If Ripple's partnerships with Western Union and other institutions go well, 2018 could be the year it truly challenges bitcoin for the crypto throne.
Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.