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The use of cryptocurrency in business

Why companies should consider using cryptocurrency

An increasing number of companies worldwide are using bitcoin and other digital assets for a host of investment, operational, and transactional purposes. As with any frontier, there are unknown dangers, but also strong incentives. Explore the kinds of questions and insights enterprises should consider as they determine whether and how to use digital assets.

Why consider using crypto?

Roughly 2,352 US businesses accept bitcoin, according to one estimate from late 2022, and that doesn’t include bitcoin ATMs1. An increasing number of companies worldwide are using bitcoin and other crypto and digital assets for a host of investment, operational, and transactional purposes. Based on a survey polling a sample of 2,000 senior executives at US consumer businesses, merchants are embracing digital currency payments with the hope of gaining a competitive advantage in the market and in the belief that the use of digital currency will continue to expand.2 Big brands are accepting customer payments in bitcoin to purchase everything from groceries to airline tickets.3 Some sports teams and associations are not only accepting cryptocurrency but also exploring the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to create a more immersive fan experience.4 More and more retailers are accepting bitcoin to access additional customers who prefer to pay that way. One can even buy real estate using bitcoin.5 Several companies, in highly publicized moves, have invested millions of dollars in bitcoin.6 The adoption of crypto and digital assets is becoming even more common across various commercial and investment applications.

The use of crypto for conducting business presents a host of opportunities and challenges. As with any new frontier, there are both strong incentives and unknown dangers. That’s why companies intent on using crypto in their businesses should have two things: a clear understanding of why they are undertaking that action and a list of the questions they should consider.

This publication endeavors to provide you and your company with an overview of the kinds of questions and insights that enterprises should consider as they determine whether and how to use crypto. So, if your company plans to participate in crypto, it’s important to think ahead, prepare, and engage in a thoughtful manner. (For considerations related to investing in cryptocurrencies and digital assets, please consult Deloitte’s complementary report, Corporations investing in crypto: Guidelines and considerations for companies on digital asset allocation).

The use of cryptocurrency in business

What can crypto do for your company?

To spark your company’s thinking about crypto, here are some of the rationales behind why some companies are currently using crypto:

  • Crypto may provide access to new demographic groups. Users often represent a more cutting-edge and tech-savvy clientele with disposable income for luxury goods and services. In fact, one recent survey found that 85% of surveyed merchants see crypto payments as a way to reach new customers, while 77% said they are accepting crypto because of its lower transaction fees8.
  • Introducing crypto now may help spur internal awareness in your company about this technology. It also may help position the company in this emerging space for a future that could include central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
  • A greater awareness of the crypto industry and blockchain technology can introduce new investment and liquidity options through traditional investments that have been tokenized.
  • Crypto furnishes certain options that are simply not available with fiat currency. For example, programmable money can enable real-time and accurate revenue-sharing while enhancing transparency to facilitate back-office reconciliation.
  • More companies are finding that important clients and vendors want to engage by using crypto. Consequently, your business may need to be positioned to receive and disburse crypto to ensure smooth exchanges with key stakeholders.
  • Crypto provides a new avenue for enhancing a host of more traditional Treasury activities, such as:
    • Enabling simple, real-time, and secure money transfers.
    • Helping strengthen control over the capital of the enterprise.
    • Managing the risks and opportunities of engaging in digital investments.
  • Crypto may serve as an effective alternative or balancing asset to cash, which may depreciate over time due to inflation. Crypto is an investable asset, and some have performed exceedingly well over the past seven years9. There are, of course, clear volatility risks that need to be thoughtfully considered.

The decision to use crypto for Operations may require a different way of thinking from that behind the use of crypto for investments:

  • Investing in crypto is typically a longer-term play; using it in Operations often requires an even more thoughtful process for handling real-time decisions.
  • Using crypto in daily operations could help develop new means of innovative commerce. That’s in addition to possibly extending the company’s reach in the marketplace—not only to new customers, but also to new counterparties.
  • When using crypto, companies should navigate important onboarding issues, such as regulatory, accounting, and tax issues for which there is currently limited guidance from regulators.

Two primary paths for using crypto

The first question to ask when considering using crypto in your company’s operations is: Do we hold crypto on our balance sheet or simply adopt crypto-enabled payments? To determine an appropriate path for your business, you should consider how it aligns with your business objectives. Consider the potential benefits, drawbacks, costs, risks, system requirements, and more. The following sections provide some broad considerations around two different paths as your company embarks on its crypto journey.

Enabling payments: “Hands-off”

Some companies use crypto just to facilitate payments. One avenue to facilitate payments is to simply convert in and out of crypto to fiat currency to receive or make payments without actually touching it. In other words, the company is taking a “hands-off” approach by using a service provider to do the conversion and thus keep crypto itself off the books.

Enabling crypto payments, such as bitcoin, without bringing it onto the company’s balance sheet may be a quick and easy entry point into the use of digital assets. It may require the fewest adjustments across the spectrum of corporate functions and may serve immediate goals, such as reaching a new clientele and growing the volume of each sales transaction. Enterprises adopting this limited use of crypto typically rely on third-party vendors.

The third-party vendor, acting as an agent for the company, accepts or makes payments in crypto through conversion into and out of fiat currency. This may be the simplest option to pursue. And, likely, it may cause relatively few disruptions to a company’s internal functions since the hands-off approach keeps crypto off the corporate balance sheet.

The third-party vendor, which will charge a fee for this service, handles the bulk of the technical questions and manages a number of risk, compliance, and controls issues on behalf of the company. That does not mean, however, that the company is necessarily absolved from all responsibility for risk, compliance, and internal controls issues. Companies still need to consider whether the service provider they select is paying careful attention to issues such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) requirements. And of course, they also need to abide by any restrictions set by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions set by the US government.

Enabling payments: “Hands-on”

On the contrary, other companies currently using crypto in a “hands-on” fashion use a third-party custodian. If a company is ready to go beyond simply enabling crypto payments and intends to broaden crypto adoption within Operations and the Treasury function—in other words, to go the hands-on route—it may potentially find a significant increase in benefits, as well as in the number of technical matters to address.

To ready itself, the corporate treasury might consider several preliminary issues, including the following:

  • What does the company want to achieve by adopting the use of crypto? If the goal is unclear, that can lead to scope creep and difficulty in managing risk.
  • What steps has Treasury taken to acquire the necessary know-how to receive, monitor, and manage crypto payments?
  • Does Treasury think the company should maintain custody of the crypto itself or outsource that to a third party?
  • What measures are in place, or what thought has been given to possibly investing in crypto as a new asset class?
  • What adjustments does Treasury foresee in anticipation of the eventual issuance of digital currencies by central banks?

Treasury will be inextricably involved in these decisions, and the changes they require, since:

  • Traditional treasury groups maintain the financing relationships for the company (e.g., banking groups, investment partners, third-party working capital providers).
  • Treasury determines which types of banking and financial services—now in a potentially broader and bolder digital asset ecosystem—corporations will need.

Here are two paths a company can follow when embarking on a broader hands-on adoption of crypto:

  • Use a third-party vendor or custodian to maintain custody of the crypto on a blockchain and provide wallet management services that facilitate the tracking and valuation of the crypto assets.
  • Integrate crypto into the company’s own systems and manage its own private keys. (Consult your legal counsel to determine whether any license will be required to enable the transmission of crypto.)

Many companies currently using crypto in a hands-on fashion use a third-party custodian. Given that tendency, we will examine this path in greater detail.

The second approach, self-custody, presents more complexity and requires deeper experience. Moreover, if the company follows this route, it will likely have greater accountability for the work supporting its transactions. That said, much, if not most, of what follows could also be applicable to companies that self-custody.

Additional considerations for a "hands-on" approach

Identify your company’s path and develop a road map

As with any technology change or upgrade, it is important to have an implementation plan. Crypto is viewed by some as a critical part of the evolution of finance. When your company chooses to engage with crypto it triggers changes across the organization as well as changes in mindset.

The implementation plan should include, but is not limited to, these types of questions:

  • What is the overall strategy?
  • What are the short- and long-term objectives?
  • What partners, internal and external, does the company need to involve? Can leaders identify effective champions for the effort across the enterprise, in all relevant departments?
  • Will the decisions and actions the company takes now allow for flexibility and scaling of efforts later?
  • How can the company integrate the security needs of operating in the digital asset ecosystem with existing security and cyber efforts in the company?
  • How can the company implement the introduction of crypto? Does it begin with a payments-only, hands-off approach? Or does it engage hands-on?
  • What resources will the company need above and beyond those it currently has? What new expertise might it need?
  • What will the implementation road map look like?
  • How will the company evaluate progress as it implements? Does the company have the necessary processes in place to monitor the execution of transactions and vendor performance?
  • What does the final state before launch look like?

This can be a complex endeavor. That’s why, before engaging in a more robust launch, some companies have chosen to pilot the use of crypto just as they would pilot a new technology. One type of pilot is an internal, intradepartmental pilot based in Treasury, since Treasury is typically responsible for internal funding of the company and its departments and subsidiaries. The pilot can begin with the purchase of some crypto, after which Treasury uses it for several peripheral payments and follows the thread as the crypto is paid out, received, and revalued.

There are several platforms built to address inter-entity payment settlements that could help Treasury pilot such an effort. They allow for internal transfers from department to department and help ensure the real-time balancing of the company’s global payment system. Some companies think of the pilot this way: It’s a bit like a contrast dye that enables a radiologist to see the internal organ or tissue of a patient by making it more visible against the background of other tissues. So, too, with a crypto pilot. The piloted crypto, like a contrast dye, can help isolate and identify the potential opportunities and roadblocks to the broader adoption of crypto by the company.

Concluding thoughts

Onboarding the use of crypto and digital assets generally—with all their permutations and combinations—represents a significant commitment. It’s a much bigger decision than adopting a new form of payment. Adopting crypto calls for a broad rethinking of fundamental strategic questions and how the company intends to manage operational complexities.

The good news is the introduction of crypto to a company’s operations can be done incrementally. It’s important that the internal and external players begin to invest the time and effort required to succeed when the company is ready to take the first steps. Everyone should engage, from the board and its committees to risk, treasury, finance, tax, accounting, operations, technology, communications, and legal departments.

Adoption will likely require new processes and controls that span departments. Engaging with crypto requires players, inside and outside of the enterprise, to adjust their thinking and get comfortable with new realities across a broad spectrum of activity. That’s also why strong leadership from the C-suite is indispensable to any effort.

The adoption and use of crypto and, more broadly, digital assets, is gaining traction across industries. Customers and service providers alike are beginning to see more fully the potential benefits of crypto. So, companies should consider leaning in and examining the relevance and application of crypto to their business. And executives should be prepared to provide a clear point of view and substantiated recommendations for an appropriate course of action. 

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1Maddie Sheperd, “How many businesses accept bitcoin? Full list,” Fundera, October 10, 2022.
2Claudina Castro Tanco, Merchants getting ready for crypto: Merchant Adoption of Digital Currency Payments Survey, Deloitte, 2022.
3Gabriëlla Modderman, “Who accepts bitcoin as payment?,” Cointelegraph, June 5, 2022.
4Bitrates, “Five major sports teams that accept cryptocurrencies,” August 12, 2022; Steve Ehrlich, “Professional sports’ acceptance of crypto is fueling adoption—here’s how,” Sports Business Journal, September 8, 2021.
5Jenna Hall, “ Can you buy a house with bitcoin?,” Bitcoin Magazine, May 26, 2022.
6Stephen Graves and Daniel Phillips, “The 10 public companies with the biggest bitcoin portfolios,” Decrypt, July 25, 2022.
7Kathleen Marshall, “Fidelity to start offering bitcoin and ether trading,” Investopedia, November 3, 2022.
8Ezra Reguerra, “85% of merchants see crypto payments as a way to reach new customers: Survey,” Cointelegraph, July 6, 2022.
9Cristina Polizu et al., “A deep dive into crypto valuation,” S&P Global, November 10, 2022.
10Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), “Exposure Draft: Proposed Accounting Standards Update: Intangibles—Goodwill and Other–Crypto Assets (Subtopic 350-60),” March 23, 2023.

This article contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser.

Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this article.

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