Our solution is built to be extremely simple and user-friendly, says Monetum founder Marco Lavanna.

‘Cryptocurrencies’ is the buzz-word du-jour and its take-up is significant. Yet there is still a lack of knowledge about it. What are operators like Monetum doing to bridge this gap?

That is exactly where we want to step in and fill the gap. There is too much focus on trying to explain cryptocurrencies and very little focus on using it. We have built a system with usability in mind, making it easy for average users to spend crypto even if they have no idea how blockchains work, or what is cryptography. They store funds with us and we let blockchain do its magic in the background without any need for the users to get involved with the technicalities, unless of course they want to.

Having said that, we are also very proud of the fact that we have developed a solution for our sister company, a licensed payment institution, entirely running on blockchain, which is quite a novelty in a regulated fiat environment.

There is also a gap between the ‘virtual’ nature of cryptocurrencies and whether these can be used to buy services and products in the ‘real’ world. How does Monetum address this?

Very little usage of cryptocurrencies for payments is what we see as our biggest opportunity: crypto adoption is not going anywhere unless there is everyday usage, and everyday usage is not increasing because of a number of factors, which we are addressing with our solution.

One key factor is lack of trust, and the upcoming VFAA ACT provides consumers with the peace of mind that come from dealing with regulated institutions. We have submitted a notification in compliance with the VFAA to the Malta Financial Services Authority, to provide this peace of mind.

Another factor is ease of use. Our solution is built to be extremely simple and user-friendly, with mobile and desktop access, with very low fees that will act as an incentive to merchants to adopt the system.

Additionally, we are not asking consumers to move over to crypto and forget about their existing bank relationships. Rather we have created a solution that is bridging legacy payments with crypto so the transition doesn’t have to happen overnight and users can familiarise and get used to the solution while still keeping their funds in their existing bank accounts.

What are your main service and product offerings?

We offer a centralised crypto-fiat-crypto exchange and gateway that is at the core of our solution and manages the flow of funds between crypto and fiat so that the users can complete a purchase regardless of the currency they hold or the currency the merchant wants to receive (euro or Crypto).

The gateway will make sure that the buyer is debited in their currency of choice and the shop owner also receives their currency of choice. This happens in the background, while buyer and seller simply use their mobile or desktop wallet and click one button to complete the transaction.

The exchange also operates as a traditional exchange allowing users to trade their crypto or fiat currencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Finally, the integration with our sister brand Paytah allows users to link their crypto holdings to a private multicurrency IBAN.

Innovation is a continuous effort. What other innovations will you bring to the market in the short- to medium-term?

We are working very closely with a technology company on a hyper secure hardware wallet with fingerprint authentica­tion and more security features, and we have already planned open banking integration to have instant bank to crypto and crypto to bank transfers.

In general, we will keep working on innovations to improve ease of use and integration with old school banking

What are the main reasons for Monetum to have a presence in Malta?

Our sister company Phoenix Payments Ltd is licensed in Malta as a payment institution so it was a logical step to also develop the crypto side of our payment solution in the same jurisdiction. We are already familiar with the way the local regulator operates and additionally we already have offices and personnel, and we used the existing infrastructure as a foundation for the new project. And the weather is nicer here than in Switzerland, where I reside.

Does Malta have what it takes to deliver on its pitch of becoming ‘Blockchain Island’?

There seems to be a big thrust from the government – however there is still a lot of work to do. Local banks are very conservative and unwelcoming when it comes to cryptocurrencies, which in our case is an opportunity as our sister company offers multicurrency IBAN accounts that are of course available to crypto businesses or individuals trading crypto.

Additionally, we are having a hard time recruiting talent due to the limited pool of resources available on the island, and the complexity of bringing talent from outside the EU.

However, we trust the financial regulator and the government are putting all their efforts to solve those practical issues. 

You will be present at the Malta Blockchain Summit. How do you plan to engage at this event?

This is the first event we are participating as Monetum and we have high expectations. We will have a booth at the exhibition and a few surprises for our guests. The Malta Blockchain Summit is a great opportunity for us to talk to people about the project and we welcome everyone attending the event to visit our booth.

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