What Is Swell?

Alongside many of the other top cryptocurrencies in the world, Ripple has seen massive gains in recent years, both in terms of overall value and with regard to its global interest. Compared to other cryptocurrencies, Ripple is also notable for the way its developers have intended for its technology to be integrated with traditional banking mechanisms and models.

Ripple's potential to enhance the way that banking is done by smoothing out and speeding up the settlement process has been a significant driver of investor interest. In October 2017, the creators of Ripple aimed to draw additional attention to their technology with the launch of an event called Swell. Swell was designed as a summit of a number of the most prominent names in the cryptocurrency field and was hosted in Toronto, Ontario.

What Is Swell?

In an announcement in August 2017, the Ripple team indicated that their customers had "requested that Ripple bring together leaders in banking and blockchain who are committed to changing the way the world moves money today." In response to those requests, the team put together a conference called "Swell: The Future is Here," which was held in Toronto, Ontario from October 16 to 18 of 2017.

Swell was designed as a meeting of the top names in the virtual currency and blockchain worlds, an event in which "a roster of payments experts and industry luminaries" could "discuss trends, success stories of blockchain implementations and real-world blockchain use cases to meet changing customer demands for global payments."

The main focus of the event was discussing ways in which blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies more generally could aid in transforming the way that the traditional financial system works.

First Swell Conference: Agenda and Speakers

In its first iteration, Swell featured keynote speakers including Dr. Ben Bernanke, former chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, internet pioneer and inventor of the world wide web. Don Tapscott, the co-author of the book Blockchain Revolution was also a featured speaker.

According to Ripple's website, the agenda for the 2017 Swell summit included private meetings, keynote addresses, and special interest sessions. In one event, leaders representing several traditional banks "reveal[ed] how payments are evolving in their businesses and the services they'd like to see their banks offer."

Another session offered RippleNet customers the chance to speak about how they have integrated Ripple technology into their own global payment practices. Elsewhere, a panel of market leaders discussed regulation and trends in the digital asset world.

Later in Swell, a series of representatives from "first-mover banks" discussed their own specific use cases involving Ripple technology. Speakers discussed the opportunities that new payments players may find in the world of traditional banking, as well as the competition and barriers they may run up against.

A panel featuring Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin offered their thoughts on the different types of blockchain technology and how blockchain will continue to develop into the future.

The first Swell event was designed to bring together "leaders in banking and payments, corporate treasurers and industry luminaries focused on blockchain." Most often, attendees were representatives of existing financial firms or cryptocurrency and blockchain organizations. As such, interested parties needed to request access to the event via the Ripple website or at the Sibos banking and financial conference.

Besides the keynote speakers, Swell featured Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, Axis Bank CIO Amit Sethi, Chain Inc. president Tom Jessop, GE Capital managing director for treasury operations Kristen Michaud, Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf, Santander head of innovation Ed Metzger, and Siam Commercial Bank head of strategy Dr. Arak Sutivong.

Takeaways from Swell Conference

In a post-mortem analysis of the event, Ripple analysts described Swell as "far from a typical banking event." They described a situation in which attendees could speak candidly about "the pain points associated with cross-border payments, and the obligation they have to improve the payment experience for their clients."

According to Ripple's analysts, three primary themes emerged at the event. First, banks have a desire (and a need) to improve the overall customer experience for both retail and corporate customers alike. Second, banks are concerned about losing market share to other types of payment providers. And third, banks as a group desire a line of sight into the future of blockchain.

Attendees frequently commented on the need for tracking the status of a payment. They expressed confusion at the fact that daily minutiae outside of the banking world are easily trackable, but that keeping tabs on a global payment is still difficult.

Airbnb's former global director of payment programs, Kapil Mokhat, commented as part of a panel discussion, saying that "the banks are slightly behind, but services like PayPal are preferred because [Airbnb hosts] know they can log in and see the money the second we push it."

Another takeaway from Swell was that an enterprise blockchain network like RippleNet, which connects banks to payment providers, introduces transparency into the payment tracking process.

Swell attendees indicated that banking customers are not afraid to find alternate means of sending and receiving money quickly if their banks are not able to deliver. What's more, the pool of payment service providers seems to be growing. With more than 65 providers in this space, banks are constantly being challenged in new directions. The result, for UAE Exchange COO Rahul Pai, is that "customers are in control, now more than ever before. And there will be businesses built where non-banks will own endpoints."

Many panelists felt that consumers will continue to generate demand for new financial services, while the list of payment providers around the globe will continue to expand. Rather than disrupting banks, dLocal's Sergio Fogel suggested, "we're [executing] transactions that wouldn't otherwise happen."

A final takeaway from the conference seems to be that commercial applications of blockchain technology are only increasing in number. Although the blockchain market is nascent, those applications which provide a compelling case for global payments have already gained traction. RippleNet has grown to more than 100 members, 89 of which are banks.

The Future of Swell

Considering its focus, Swell highlighted the possibilities inherent in Ripple and its associated technologies. It was seen by some as a competitor of Swift's Sibos conference.

In the process, Swell increased visibility for Ripple, boosting XRP prices during the conference to a 7-week high of $0.30, according to CoinDesk. The chart below indicates the price search volume of Ripple leading up to and including the Swell conference.

In the weeks following the Swell summit, XRP skyrocketed in price, climbing to more than $3 per token. It's likely the Swell conference and the increased visibility it provided the Ripple token contributed to these gains.

Ripple has now taken place for four years in a row, with the goal of uniting customers, partners, thought leaders, and ecosystem players in one place to conduct business. In 2020, the Ripple Swell conference was held virtually due to the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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