A former executive of the leading online and mobile payments firm Paypal, and credit card network Visa, has joined the company behind the Ripple protocol, a technology currently being explored by banks to upend their backend systems.
With 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, Bret Allenbach will be joining the distributed ledger startup Ripple Labs with knowledge and skills from his time as executive of finance at Visa and CFO of Paypal. He will be leading the firm’s effort to streamline the company’s settlement technology and devise new growth strategies.
During his 9 years at Paypal, Allenbach served as senior director in various departments, including global risk analytics and forecasting, and global risk management, as well as vice president of Paypal’s Financial Services Group. In addition to his combined 15 years at Paypal and Visa, he also worked for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, World Savings and Loan Association, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
Allenbach joins Ripple Labs nearly a year since he left Paypal. He has spent the last 11 months consulting and looking for new opportunities, but ultimately settled with Ripple Labs because of the company’s mission to modernize the world’s payment infrastructure using technology based on the Bitcoin blockchain.
"In providing payments services to people and businesses throughout my career, I’ve experienced first-hand the inefficiency and inaccessibility of today’s settlement infrastructure,” said Allenbach in a press release.
“I look forward to engaging with the team and helping to support our grand vision of enabling an Internet of Value."
— – Bret Allenbach
Ripple Labs is a company on the forefront of the recent interest and experimentation of blockchain technology by the traditional financial industry. Though originally created to circumvent the financial industry, Bitcoin’s blockchain and its derivatives, including distributed ledgers, may vastly improve the efficiency of financial institutions. Ripple Labs is leading the charge having partnered with the numerous banks and payment processors.
Ripple Labs partnered with German bank Fidor in May of 2014, to integrate the Ripple protocol into the bank’s internal account system. The technology went live later that year and allowed all Fidor account holders to send money to each other in any currency free and instantly. Later that year the company announced a partnership with international payment processor for banks and businesses, Earthport, to create a global real-time payment option. The service was launched last month and is the first regulated and public financial service using distributed ledger technology, let alone the Ripple protocol.
Ripple Labs has also inked partnerships with three of Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks, an effort made possible by the firm’s regional lead and payments veteran, Dilip Rao. The banks have yet to release any public products using the technology, but have been experimenting with it by settling payments between their various subsidiaries.
With the addition of Allenbach as CFO, and his fine tuning of the company’s finances, Ripple Labs will likely have an easier time convincing banks to explore, and ultimately use, its distributed ledger technology.
Ripple Labs CEO and Co-Founder Chris Larsen stated, "having architected a financial risk model for PayPal’s payments business that helped catapult PayPal from a multi-million dollar enterprise to a multi-billion dollar one, Bret has a proven track record as a key growth driver and strategist for fintech companies navigating new territory. He will be instrumental in charting and propelling Ripple Labs’ next phase of growth.”
"Bret adds a wealth of front-line experience and analytical prowess to our growing bench of cryptography, security, fintech and banking specialists."
— – Chris Larsen
Allenbach is just the latest addition to a growing list of financial professionals, including some from Wall Street, joining Ripple Labs and other blockchain and distributed ledger firms. Earlier this year former CEO of The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, Donald Donahue; former US Treasury Assistant Secretary, Michael Barr; and Matthew Mellon of the Mellon banking dynasty joined Ripple Labs’ advisory board.
Other notable figures that joined the startup included Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Susan Athey; the Founder of Spitzberg Partners LLC and former German Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg; and former Yahoo Senior Vice President and Hightail CEO, Brad Garlinghouse.
Santander non executive chairman and former head of Global Commodities at Goldman Sachs, Blythe Masters, joined the blockchain race to Wall Street earlier this year when she announced that she became CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, a company looking to bring distributed ledgers to the financial industry. Her, alongside co-founders Sunil Hirani and Donald Wilson, are creating private distributed ledgers that seek to modernize the backend systems of the world’s stock exchanges and clearing houses.
“I spent my whole career thinking about risk, markets, infrastructure, and regulation,” Blythe Masters told Bloomberg News. “I had seen the financial crisis unfold, and I had seen the credit derivatives market get operationally ahead of itself, which resulted in systemic risk counterparty exposures. I began to believe that distributed ledgers had the capability to tackle that problem.”
This year bitcoin storage service and payment processor, Xapo, announced that founder of Visa Dee Hock, former Chairman & CEO of Citibank John Reed, and former Secretary of the Treasury and Harvard Professor Lawrence H. Summers would join the firm’s advisory board.
“We live in the 21st century but are still using command and control organizational structures from the 16th century,” said Hock in a public statement.
“Bitcoin is one of the best examples of how a decentralized, peer-to-peer organization can solve problems that these dated organizations cannot. Like the Internet, Bitcoin is not owned or controlled by any one entity, so it presents incredible opportunities for new levels of efficiency and transparency in financial transactions.”
— – Dee Hock
Reed added, “Financial services have remained largely untouched by the digital revolution, Bitcoin represents a real opportunity for changing that. Money at its core is simply a ledger for keeping track of debts and Bitcoin is truly the best iteration of a universal ledger we’ve ever seen.”