Europe’s second-largest insurance firm AXA has become Switzerland’s first all-line insurer to offer its customers the option to pay their bills with Bitcoin (BTC), facilitated through a collaboration with the established cryptocurrency broker Bitcoin Suisse.
Bitcoin payments will be accepted for nearly all AXA products except for life insurance, due to regulatory barriers to the latter.
AXA has cited the accelerated digital transformation of the global economy during the coronavirus pandemic as being a key factor in its choice to integrate cryptocurrency into its everyday operations. However, even back in 2019, the insurer notes it had conducted market research showing that roughly a third of respondents aged between 18 and 55 already owned or were interested in crypto.
According to Claudia Bienentreu, head of open innovation at AXA Switzerland, the acceptance of Bitcoin payments is “AXA’s response to growing demand from its customers for alternative payment solutions, with new technologies playing an ever greater role.”
The setup on the customer front will be a simple online transfer with a reference number: the amount owed in Swiss francs will be calculated into an equivalent sum in Bitcoin and the indicated exchange rate will remain valid for a specified time. During this time window, customers will not bear any exchange rate risk, and AXA is not charging any additional fees for customers who choose to pay their bills in Bitcoin rather than fiat currency.
AXA itself will not be holding any Bitcoin it receives on its balance sheets. Instead, the Bitcoin will go into the hands of crypto broker Bitcoin Suisse. Notably, while AXA itself is not adding any fees for Bitcoin payments, Bitcoin Suisse does incorporate its own commission of 1.75% when it calculates Bitcoin-franc exchange rates for AXA customers.
AXA’s prior engagement with blockchain-based technologies includes its membership of the car dossier platform since 2017, which uses blockchain to track and record the life cycle of vehicles. The insurer also sponsors the University of Basel’s Blockchain Challenge, where it backs research into the use of smart contracts in the insurance industry.