Good Friday morning.
Facebook may have gotten all the attention this week, but it’s also been a bang up week for Ripple, which uses cryptocurrency to facilitate real time transactions, working with financial institutions. On Monday, Ripple announced it was investing some $50 million in MoneyGram, which will use Ripple’s XRP product to speed up and simplify cross-border payments. MoneyGram stock soared 150% after the announcement.
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse told those attending Fortune’s Brainstorm Finance in Montauk, N.Y., that the Facebook announcement had been a “call to action” for other institutions considering cryptocurrency projects. “I’m thinking of sending a case of champagne to David Marcus,” who runs the Facebook-led Libra project, he said. “It’s going to be a record week for Ripple.”
The very term cryptocurrency conjures up images of shady transactions by criminals seeking anonymity. “There is a lot of hype and a lot of bullshit in the blockchain space,” Garlinghouse said. But his company’s work with financial institutions avoids anonymity, complies with bank “Know Your Customer” rules, and allows real-time settlements without the need for institutions to hold large cash balances to cover them. Referring to those balances, he said: “If you can reduce the amount of oil in the engine, that creates tremendous efficiencies.”
Also at the event, entrepreneur and Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp told how she is using blockchain technology to track the provenance and movement of diamonds. And 17-year old Ananya Chadha—who won the CryptoChicks Hacking Award in Toronto last year—wowed the group with her animated description of how blockchain plus genetics plus nanotechnology plus brain-computer interface is going to create “the craziest things” in the future.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat closed out the day. Asked if he would consider joining Facebook’s Libra alliance, Corbat replied: “We’d take a look at it.”
More from Day 2 of Fortune Brainstorm Finance here; other news below.
The U.S. came very close to carrying out strikes on Iranian targets overnight, with President Trump having given his approval. Planes were in the air and ships in position, and Trump reportedly even went so far as to warn Iran (via Oman) of the imminent strikes—but then he changed his mind at the last minute. Why? Right now, that’s not clear. New York Times
The S&P 500 hit a new closing record of 2,954.18 yesterday, as Wall Street reckons the Fed will cut interest rates next month. The index also hit a new intra-day record, at one point reaching 2,958.06. Big winners included Oracle (over 8%) and General Electric (almost 3%). Washington Post
Slack had a killer first day of trading, with its shares closing at $38.62, which is 48% higher than the reference price set by the NYSE. It was a direct listing, so the price was set by the stock exchange rather than banks and Slack itself. Wall Street Journal
Huawei’s fightback against U.S. pressure could involve demanding more royalties from American firms that use its intellectual property, according to experts speaking to CNBC. Huawei has valuable patents in core telecommunications network technology and Internet-of-things tech, and it’s already recently been chasing Verizon for $1 billion in royalties. CNBC
Around the Water Cooler
Bernie’s Ownership Idea
The socialist Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders wants to force companies to give greater ownership of the business to their employees. Setting aside the question of compulsion, the idea actually has a great deal of precedent, particularly in the U.K. Here’s a rundown of how and why the employee-ownership trend is growing there, and what it means for businesses. Fortune
The race for the leadership of the British Conservative Party—and thereby the country—is now down to two individuals: former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is a hard Brexiteer and the most likely victor, and current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is a slightly more moderate figure. The whittling was done by Tory lawmakers, and now it’s up to the party membership to choose the winner. In a month’s time. Because it’s not like the country is undergoing any sort of urgent crisis or anything. BBC
Yesterday was a bad day for decision-making in the EU. The member states failed to agree on who the new European Commission president should be—the EU is trying out a system whereby each political grouping in the European Parliament nominates a lead candidate, but it doesn’t seem to be going well. Perhaps more seriously, member states also failed to agree a plan to go carbon-neutral by 2050, thanks to the obstinacy of Poland, Czechia, and Hungary. France24
Fortune‘s Shawn Tully has a fascinating piece on how real estate investment giant Amherst is using computer models to spot newly listed homes in the right kind of suburbs, figure out how much renovation might cost, and come up with a likely rent to charge. Fortune