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To meet the demand of crypto-curious members, and with the blessing of the National Credit Union Administration, Dunedin-based Achieva is now the first credit union in Florida to provide its members with crypto services.
Achieva announced Wednesday that members could buy and sell Bitcoin through its updated mobile application. The credit union realized its members traded over $2.6 million in digital currency over the last year – and the innovative service allows them to forgo third-party apps and transact with their financial institution of choice.
“They (members) have a lot of interest in really learning about it,” said Tracy Ingram, chief digital and infrastructure officer for Achieva. “And based on feedback and patterns we’ve seen, we really wanted to provide that educational opportunity to our members so they can learn and work with us through our mobile app.”
In late December 2021, the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) announced that federally insured credit unions could partner with third-party digit asset service providers. Kyle Hauptman, vice-chair of NCUA, told Coindesk that credit unions watched endless outflows of cash to crypto exchanges – and many people, especially those new to crypto investing, would prefer using their primary financial institution.
Hauptman added that the financial service world “has always been adapt or die,” and credit unions could follow the path of the now-defunct Blockbuster Video if regulators prevented innovation.
Founded in Pinellas County in 1937, Achieva enjoys a Superior 5-Star credit union rating from Bauer Financial. The financial institution holds over $2.4 billion in assets and serves over 153,000 members through 22 branches from Hernando to Charlotte County.
Ingram used a restaurant analogy when describing what it means to be the first credit union in the state to provide crypto services.
“When you go into a restaurant, and you look at the menu, most restaurants have more than five things because they want to provide lots of different options,” said Ingram. “So, that’s what we’re really looking at – providing different options for our members … we’re excited because we’re offering something – first in Florida – that they’re really asking for …”
To launch the service, available as a widget integrated into the latest version of the Achieva app, the credit union partnered with Bitcoin-based company NYDIG. According to its website, NYDIG hopes to bring Bitcoin to Main Street by fusing high tech with institutional-grade finance to create a new era of financial products.
In December, NYDIG announced a $1 billion funding round that brings the company’s total value to over $7 billion. According to a release, the funding will further develop its platform using recent upgrades to the Bitcoin protocol, including Bitcoin and Lightning payments, asset tokenization and smart contracts.
“We selected a trusted partner that has a well-established tech stack,” said Ingram. “We started this at the beginning of April, and we really took our time – so that we could spend the time that our staff needed internally so that they could obtain that educational piece and try it out for themselves before we launch.”
Before the updated app’s launch, Achieva allowed its employees to try the new service and gave them $10 to purchase bitcoin. NYDIG provided an additional $5 to everyone that took advantage of the trial run. By clicking on the app’s Bitcoin widget, users can instantly see the current market price for the apex cryptocurrency, view their trading history and buy, sell and hold the bitcoin.
Achieva instantly debits funds from members’ accounts, and educational resources and customer service information is readily available. Ingram often stressed the importance of the educational aspects – for both employees and consumers.
“It’s one of those things that’s happening out in the community and the world, that is definitely geared towards technology, and … it’s quite unique,” said Ingram. “It was really important for us to give them that time, so that if they needed a better understanding of what this is, and especially so that they can really experience that user interface that our members have … so they can be that trusted advisor and partner with our members.”
In February, NYDIG launched a Bitcoin Savings Plan that allows employees to convert a portion of their paycheck to bitcoin. When asked if Achieva employees could receive their pay in bitcoin, Ingram laughed and stated, “not at this time.” However, during the three-week pilot program, the credit union’s employees purchased over $2,500 in bitcoin.
Members must pay a 2% transaction fee for any crypto purchased or sold through the app. NYDIG, and by proxy, Achieva, only offers Bitcoin at this point, but the company is looking into expanding.
Ingram noted that the Tampa Bay region is becoming more “tech-centric.” As time moves on, she expects more companies throughout the area and beyond to increasingly utilize blockchain technology for a variety of uses.
“Obviously, we’re going to keep looking at what’s happening out in the world and the community – what our members are asking for,” said Ingram. “We’re going to really be watching closely the regulation and how that shifts so that we can meet our members’ needs and demands as everything progresses.”