One of the largest banks in the United States has acknowledged that cryptocurrencies could pose a threat to its business model. In Bank of America’s new annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the corporation largely reflected internally about a number of economic, geopolitical, and operational risks faced.
One of those stated risks is surrounding the increased adaptation of cryptocurrencies, which could have negative effects on the corporation’s earning potential.
In addition, technological advances and the growth of e-commerce have made it easier for non-depository institutions to offer products and services that traditionally were banking products, and for financial institutions to compete with technology companies in providing electronic and internet-based financial solutions including electronic securities trading, marketplace lending and payment processing. Further, clients may choose to conduct business with other market participants who engage in business or offer products in areas we deem speculative or risky, such as cryptocurrencies. Increased competition may negatively affect our earnings by creating pressure to lower prices or credit standards on our products and services requiring additional investment to improve the quality and delivery of our technology and/or reducing our market share, or affecting the willingness of our clients to do business with us.
Increased adaptation of cryptocurrencies also had Bank of America admitting that it may need to make “substantial expenditures” to compete with these rising technologies:
In addition, the widespread adoption of new technologies, including internet services, cryptocurrencies and payment systems, could require substantial expenditures to modify or adapt our existing products and services as we grow and develop our internet banking and mobile banking channel strategies in addition to remote connectivity solutions.
Interestingly, Bank of America might have already taken action to help counter these technologies by banning cryptocurrency transactions on their credit cards.
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Additionally, the document stated concerns besides those directly affecting earning potential; they noted that emerging cryptocurrencies could impact Bank of America’s compliance with anti-money laundering regulations:
In addition to non-U.S. legislation, our international operations are also subject to U.S. legal requirements. For example, our international operations are subject to U.S. laws on foreign corrupt practices, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, know-your-customer requirements and anti-money laundering regulations. Emerging technologies, such as cryptocurrencies, could limit our ability to track the movement of funds. Our ability to comply with these laws is dependent on our ability to improve detection and reporting capabilities and reduce variation in control processes and oversight accountability.
Even though cryptocurrencies were a small mention within the entire report, its brief discussion indicated that the company is both aware of and reacting to the further potential impacts of cryptocurrency.
In recent years, Bank of America has clearly shown its ambition in patenting blockchain technology; according to a January Bloomberg report, Bank of America “has applied for or received at least 43 patents for blockchain, the ledger technology used for verifying and recording transactions that’s at the heart of virtual currencies. It is the largest number among major banks and technology companies, according to a study by EnvisionIP, a New York-based law firm that specializes in analyses of intellectual property.”