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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

CEO Insider

CEO Spotlight: Lorenzo Pellegrino of Skrill Discusses Its Crypto Market Entry

Lorenzo Pellegrino

Lorenzo Pellegrino is the CEO of digital wallets Skrill, NETELLER and affiliate marketing services company Income Access which are all part of the Paysafe Group, which has annual revenues of more than $1.9 billion. He is responsible for setting the strategy for these businesses and sharing their vision with the wider leadership team who in turn make sure everything runs as it should do.

As part of a larger international payments company, Paysafe Group, Lorenzo’s role involves collaborating with the rest of the group which also includes payment solutions like PaySafeCard. Also, he oversees some other Paysafe services including Rapid Transfer, which enables payments made by direct bank transfer, and the company’s Card Issuing division which issues prepaid cards on behalf of operators in different verticals, such Coinbase.

What does Skrill do?

Skrill has been making digital payments simple, secure and quick since 2001. We develop global payment solutions for people’s business or personal lives, whether they’re investing in crypto, depositing funds on a gaming site, buying online or sending money to family and friends. We also meet the needs of businesses worldwide, helping them build a global customer base and drive growth. As well as our cryptocurrency service, Skrill offers a number of other services including the ability to send money internationally or use our Prepaid Mastercard.

Why did you decide to include a gateway to Crypto in Skrill’s offerings?

We know many people want to experiment with cryptocurrency but don’t know where to start so we decided to make the entire process very straightforward, enabling people to start buying and selling crypto securely and almost instantly. Digital money and cryptocurrencies have a lot in common, so it is a natural fit for experts in digital money such as Skrill or NETELLER to be interested in the cryptocurrency space. We are excited about the growth potential in the industry, and the huge amount of investment in technology and overall innovation in the space.

Can you walk us through your decision-making process when faced with tough choices?

I consider the various outcomes of the decision – what might happen as a result, and when, and what the consequence might be. My business choices are influenced by whether the outcome will make things easier or more enjoyable for the team, accelerate our business or revenues, or boost our brand – for example, when looking into exploring new business ventures. If it doesn’t fall into any of those buckets, I probably wouldn’t pursue it.

I often get an outsider’s opinion. Speaking to someone who is one step removed can help you to see the wood for the trees and speed up your decision. In business, it’s important to surround yourself with smart people who you trust. Once I’ve made a decision, I never look back and I focus on progress. There’s little point in thinking ‘what if’. 

What was the attitude of your board when you started making the push for crypto?

At Paysafe we’ve actually been involved in the cryptocurrency space in one form or another for a number of years. One of our main business objectives is around making it possible to use cryptocurrency (or the value of it) in the real world, which our executive team supports.

Through alternative payments installations such as Skrill Quick Checkout and the Coinbase Debit Card, we are helping to evolve cryptocurrencies from being purely a trading commodity or store of wealth and bringing them into the real world. While we may still be some way off seeing cryptocurrencies ubiquitously advertised as accepted in-store or online, functionalities enabling Bitcoin purchases are coming to the fore.

Many people claim that crypto is the future of money, what do you think?

The ‘future of money’ is a bold claim, however there is no doubt that crypto is starting to rock the boat. The recent moves by both Corporations and Governments to explore this area seriously, and in some cases actually start to implement blockchain and cryptocurrency protocols, shows how far the industry has come.

Throughout history money has always evolved, from shells to gold to digits on your screen and a multitude of steps in between. This could potentially be the next evolution of one of the most fundamental of human creations – although it would be careless to say this is guaranteed. Overall however, it does excite me and that’s why I am so keen to further aid its adoption with our companies.

Do you think business leaders need to start including crypto payments in financial operations?

In Lost in Transaction 2018: The future of payments for SMBs we asked small-to-medium-sized businesses in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Austria about accepting cryptocurrencies through their online checkout. 6% of online businesses accepted cryptocurrencies at that point in time (rising to 9% in the US), but a further 15% had ambitions to accept them in the next two years. This 250% anticipated increase in acceptance rates was the highest of any new payment method, ahead of subscription payments (156%), loyalty cards (127%), and via mobile apps (116%).

But willingness to embrace cryptocurrencies as a payment method and having the capability to do so are not the same thing; if cryptocurrencies are on the verge of breaking through as a mainstream alternative payment option as our data suggests then businesses must strategise how to build cryptocurrency acceptance into their checkout in an efficient manner, and without compromising their existing payments infrastructure or restricting the spectrum of other payment methods that they are able to accept.

This journey begins with partnering with the appropriate payments service provider that offers a merchant account service that includes cryptocurrencies within its available payment methods. With the right payments service provider merchants can accept multiple alternative payment methods through a single, simple integration; including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin into the mix of payments is the most effective way of including Bitcoin payments into the checkout.

What are your thoughts on the regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies? 

Regulating a new industry is always tricky as it can be argued that it leads to the stifling of innovation. While cryptocurrencies are still operating in a regulation grey area, I do believe the approach being taken by the regulatory bodies in certain countries, such as the UK with their FCA, is promising. Working with industry insiders and people in the know is essential to ensure people involved are kept safe, without creating a hostile environment for the companies involved. 

Would you or other members of your management be interested in receiving remuneration/compensation in crypto? 

Currently I don’t believe the systems are in place to easily pay wages in cryptocurrency and handle all the backend accounting and so on, although I’m sure it has crossed the minds of a few of us. At the moment I’d probably just suggest they use their Skrill account if they want exposure to crypto.

What’s your advice for CEOs that are grappling with whether to stick with the status quo or venture into uncharted waters?

I’d probably go back to my thoughts on decision making. I would say that if it’s going to bring happiness, wealth or fame to your business then go for it. If not, think twice about whether the effort will be worth it in the long run. And once you’ve made your decision, go for it – don’t look back.


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Anna Papadopoulos
Editor, writer, teacher, consultant. Advocate for plain language, journalism, free speech, and tolerance. Feminist. Based in Sydney, Australia.
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