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Square's board was divided over move into cryptocurrency, says Dorsey


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Square's board was divided over move into cryptocurrency, says Dorsey

One major payments processor faced significant internal resistance to its decision to enter the cryptocurrency sector.

Square Inc.'s ultimate decision to do so was fraught with "debate and disagreement and fights," Chairman and CEO Jack Dorsey said at Consensus, CoinDesk's cryptocurrency-focused conference. The payments processor started allowing customers to buy and sell bitcoin on its Cash app in November 2017, marking the entry of an established payments company in the largely unregulated market for transferring digital currency.

"We pushed through and it really tested us. Every aspect of implementing this tested us," said Dorsey, who is also Twitter Inc.'s CEO.

When asked how Square's financial partners reacted, Dorsey said they were "curious" and "skeptical" but "not resistant" to the idea.

Skepticism from board members such as David Viniar and Lawrence Summers, who are "deeply embedded" in the traditional financial system, promoted a healthy debate at the company, according to Dorsey. Viniar previously was Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s CFO and still sits on the bank's board. Summers is a director on the board of LendingClub Corp. and chair of Banco Santander SA's advisory board, among other positions.

Calling cryptocurrency "fundamental" for the future, Dorsey said the internet deserves, and will have, a "native currency." Dorsey is not sure if that currency will be bitcoin, but he hopes it will be. One of his goals for the near future is to increase access and help bitcoin on its way to becoming an everyday currency. Square is focused on finding a way to do that and accelerate mass adoption "from a 10-year time frame or a 20-year time frame to a five-year time frame," the CEO said.

Dorsey said that everyone has a role to play in the development of the technology, and that Square's is one of education and interfacing with users.

"We're not going to be the company that necessarily comes up with the right frameworks or the right algorithms or the right technologies," he said. "But I do believe that we will help dramatically with the experience and simplifying it and making it more straightforward."