Lamont Black, DePaul University professor, explores promising crypto applications for credit unions.

Serving the ‘crypto curious’

Credit unions are a source of trust for members interested in cryptocurrency.

May 24, 2022

People who truly know cryptocurrency don’t need credit unions. The opportunity for credit unions lies in serving the “crypto curious,” those who may invest in cryptocurrency and want more information, says Lamont Black, professor at DePaul University.

“You’re a source of trust for the crypto curious,” says Black, who addressed the 2022 CUNA Finance Council Conference Monday in Las Vegas. “Members are investing in crypto and moving money out of the credit union. Do you want to discourage or facilitate this? If you want to connect with members who are tech forward, you have to see this as an opportunity for member engagement.”

Black, an initial crypto skeptic who once worked for the Federal Reserve, advises finance leaders to consider cryptocurrency as it relates to their business goals: members’ financial well-being and growing the credit union.

“How do crypto and blockchain fit into this picture?” he asks.

Black views crypto as a form of fintech: a technology that’s both a potential threat and partner.

“It’s all about how we connect the two: the trusted with the innovative,” he says. “Crypto and blockchain are at the frontier of fintech.”

Credit union applications for crypto include educating members, providing access to cryptocurrencies, exploring ideas for member investments, and examining enterprise applications for blockchain.

Eventually, Black believes real estate titles will move to nonfungible tokens (NFTs) because NFTs “record and verify ownership. If you have an NFT for a title, you don’t need a title company. The technology is growing and expanding.”

Risk assessments, however, are a must before providing crypto services. “You must do your due diligence,” he says. “But you can’t ignore crypto. There’s so much interest among consumers that you need to actively decide either way. Don’t just hope it goes away.

“This is the beginning of the journey, and you don’t have to do it overnight,” Black adds. “Continue the journey. It will help you think about the role of crypto and blockchain in the future of finance. Fools rush in, but don’t get left behind.”