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Paige: You are listening to “Coffee with Gringos.” I’m Paige Sutherland.

Ian: And I'm Ian Kennedy.

Paige: Today we're going to be talking about cryptocurrency, specifically Libra, which is Facebook's new proposal to invent their own currency. So, it's not like Facebook isn't doing enough. Now they want their own currency. So again, if you get lost, go online, check out that transcript as well as vocabulary guide. So, Ian—Libra, Facebook, creating their own currency. What are your initial reactions? Were you surprised? It's kind of out of their wheelhouse.

Ian: Yeah, I guess I was a little surprised at first. But the more I think about it, the more you see these big tech companies like Facebook, Google and others, they're really trying to find other revenue streams. They're trying to find other marketable options, other ways to expand their business. And so, with the rise of cryptocurrencies in the world, in general, I think it was just a matter of time before these tech companies jumped on board, started doing their own kind of thing.

Paige: With cryptocurrency, I'm going to be honest, I don't know much about it, it's still kind of confuses me. When Bitcoin became such a trend, a lot of people, a lot of my friends started investing. “Oh, Bitcoin that's like the way of the future.” But to me, I'm not going to put my money into something that I don't understand. It's pretty out there. It's just so sporadic. Did you invest in any Bitcoin or type of crypto?

Ian: I didn't, I had a similar situation, I had a lot of friends just talking about investing in it. It's the way of the future, it's the currency of the future. And I'm a little more risk averse with my money, with my investing. And so, kind of raised some flags with me some red flags, I don't like to just jump into a new trend, especially when it has to do with money. So, I was a little bit more cautious and I didn't invest at all, I haven't invested in it at all. And glad for that reason, because we're seeing it again, it's like a trend, it's very volatile. Also, it goes up and down, up and down. For that reason, I didn't I didn't get involved myself.

Paige:  I agree. I think when it comes to money, like I'm not a gambler, I like something that's secure and like a sure bet. What I do like about the Bitcoin is the idea that it's not controlled by this, like large bank, this large institution that's just making money off you. I mean, for us, we’re  from the US, we, you know, really experienced the 2008 economic crash where, you know, our government bailed out the banks. And that was kind of a moment that we were all angry. I mean, they were taking our money and gambling it and then lost it all. And then it was like, Okay, no problem, we'll just pay for your debts. So, it's kind of I think, after that that's where you got these cryptocurrencies coming into reality, because people were like, fed up with the banks. They're like, I don't want to be paying these annual fees, these overdraft fees, all these type of fees where I want to control my money and not have you use it, do whatever you want with it, maybe lose it.

Ian:  Right. Now kind of a more no strings attached, kind of system or policy that makes people feel like they're not getting robbed by their bank getting nickeled and dimed just for them storing their money with them, essentially.

Paige:  So, I think with Facebook, the thing that scares me is that it's Facebook. I mean, you have the largest company in the world, essentially, going to control our currency. It's kind of the opposite of what these Bitcoin cryptocurrencies we're trying to create is, the money wouldn't be in our control if Facebook is the ones controlling it, which is the largest company. But I think what's interesting too is the marketing. They are trying to reach this group of people who are shut out of the economy. So, it’s people from lower economic backgrounds who can't get into these institutions, these banks. And so, the idea is that this Libra, as they call it, would be something that everyone can access, all you need. Is your photo and a name. Very, very open. What was your initial reaction to that?

Ian:  Yeah, well, it's really interesting to think about in a number that was quoted that I wasn't aware of is that there's, I think I read there's over a billion people with without bank accounts. And so you have this huge untapped market, that can be entered into, in order to fulfill this need. I think people are a little wary of it, because like you said, it's Facebook, it's one of these newer institutions.  I think, in the United States, most people think of a bank as oh, the banking system has been around for so long. It's, you know, it's well established. It's something we're used to. And naturally, we as humans, were a little afraid of things that are that are new. I think, especially right now, Facebook's going through a little bit of some bad publicity. So, the timing is always sensitive as well around these kind of issues. So, some people are having trouble with trusting these big companies, Facebook, in particular, after the data sharing that happened in the 2016 election. So, it'll be interesting to see the public's perception of Libra. And now if it takes on or is it falls flat.

Paige: I think the good thing about it is, like you said, there's obviously the negative side of Facebook, but there's also the positive side of Facebook is that it's a successful company that, you know, has a lot of connections in the business world. So, you have this currency now, where their plan is, once they launch is that they're going to partner with a lot of companies. So unlike Bitcoin, you can't really use your Bitcoin, like at the supermarket or at certain stores. You kind of just have it and then you have to convert it into your currency. Where the Libra idea is that I can go to New York, and I can buy my groceries and I can pay with Libra. So, I don't have to convert it to any currency. So that would be kind of nice, where your money is just in one place, I can use it as like a card of all the stores that I go to. And I don't have to do the annoying step of converting it. And what's the conversion rate? Am I going to lose money? Am I going to gain money?

Ian:  What are the fees? Everything that's involved with those conversions, that really just is kind of a headache.

Paige: And here, like you said, there's a lot of people that don't have bank accounts here because they don't have the money or they can't pass a certain background check or financial check or something like that, that will be able to now use Libra and go to stores and store their money there and send money. That's another thing that's important, is they're going to make it easier for people to send money internationally, which happens a lot here you have families that are living all over South America, Europe and the US. With the Venezuelan crisis, you people sending money all the time. And these money grams, these all different kind of third parties are charging a lot of money. Where Facebook promises to be like, “okay, like we're going to charge a lower fee.” This will be a lot easier.

Ian:  Exactly. And furthermore, to your point, what other company has as big of a global reach as Facebook, right? So, the market is the entire world. It's a global market. And It's kind of like what we talked about, there's so many so many people without bank accounts that you're just missing a huge, huge chunk of this market is that can be tapped into and I think can be a win on both sides. If it's done, right. That's always the problem is implementing it right. In theory, it's a fantastic idea. But the actual reality of it, I guess we'll see how it goes.

Paige:  When I read their sales pitch, I was very skeptical because they pitch it as you know, a billion people are not allowed into the economy because of social, economic reasons. Now they can through Libra. And my initial thought is okay, Facebook, like you're not this moral company that wants to help the poor. So, it's kind of like their pitch. I don't buy but if that is true, and that's reality, what happens, and they're not taking advantage of that population, I think it would be wonderful. Because having a billion people in the world who can't have bank accounts that can't exchange or buy things easily is tough. Like we need to fix that problem. So, I don't know if lever is the answer. But I was a little like, please. Are you like trying to be really moral here? Or just trying to make money?

Ian:  Right? Yeah, whenever there’s some skepticism, it's never just a good message. There's always some money involved, of course. But I think it if this is the way that we can get everyone together to have a more seamless and more convenient way of transactions of trading money. I think it's a great idea. But again, it has to be done in the right way.

Paige:  True, I think we talked about before we started recording was this idea that when you make it easier for people to buy this currency, you know, they only need I think, a photo and a name. There's no like background check, financial tech, any of that kind of stuff. The problem would be what about the black market? Right? Are you going to have people doing business on this app that isn't legal? And how would you know? How would you regulate against this kind of black market?

Ian:  Right? When you get down in the weeds of it, it gets more complicated. When you look at things like money laundering, when you look at things like, you said, the black market, these kinds of shadier activity that can be masked through this sort of system.

Paige: So that was kind of my initial thing. It's like, “Oh, it's easier to send money international.” But, like, how easy is too easy rather, for these kinds of illegal transactions? I don't know. I'm assuming it's something Facebook has thought about, but it's still unclear. What I like about it, too, is in the US…have you heard of Venmo?

Ian:  Oh, yeah.

Paige:  So, like, that was amazing. In the US, I would pay my rent with it, I would pay groceries, utilities, everything because you're always sharing it, right? You live with housemates; you go out with your friends you want to split dinner. Venmo is this app where it's just all seamlessly electronic. If we go to dinner, and we want to split it, I pay for it with my card, and then you just Venmo me, electronically, the money. And it just goes from our bank accounts. And It's like, instantaneous. And when I arrived here, I was like, “Wait, Venmo doesn't exist? I can't use that?” This is what Libra is trying to do, is that instead of using dollar, Chilean peso or whatever currency, they'll have that Venmo where you can exchange money—Libra—like that seamlessly. Which I think is something that's missing here. You go to dinner, and it's like, “oh, I ordered this and that and this, and you have to pay this on this card or this in cash or…. it’s a little complicated now paying your bills here.

Ian:  Sure, you can do, like, online transfers through your bank accounts, but it's not quite as seamless as tapping just a couple buttons. So, I think it'd be something that could really change the financial game—in the whole world, if again, done the right way.

Paige: So, the plan is Facebook wants to launch next year—so, 2020. Are you someone who's gonna, you know, wait a year, wait till you see how it pans out? Are you going to, like, look into maybe getting some Libra?

Ian: I’m typically one to wait and see how things go once the dust settles. And I also have a motto: “if it if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” So, with a lot of these kind of things, I tend to wait and see what happens before jumping in.

Paige: And the same some of my friends who jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon made a quite a bit of money, because they came in right when it started. And then they left soon enough that they missed the drop.

Ian:  Exactly. That's the that's the investment game for sure. So yeah, of course, it's you know, high risk, high reward with investment. So, you know, if you get in at the right time, with the right amount, you know, you can really, you can really cash out big, but it has to be good timing, and it has to be….it just has to work out.

Paige: I agree, though, what you said. I mean, I don't know internationally, but in the US Facebook has a pretty bad reputation that it needs to kind of recover from. So, I will be curious, like you said, if this is something that will hold them back a little bit. Because people are leaving the platform and aren’t trusting it, especially when it comes to privacy. And there's nothing more private than your money. So, it’s like if you're leaving the platform, are you really going to now put your money on it? I don't know. It'll be it'll be interesting to see how successful it is.

Ian: Exactly. I guess we'll find out.

Paige: But yeah, so everyone, make sure that you invest in some Libra, come 2020, and then share your proceeds with me in Ian.

Ian: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

Paige: Well, as you all know, if you get lost, go online to that transcript and the vocabulary guide. Thanks again for listening.

Ian: We’ll See you next time.


Key Vocabulary, Phrases and Slang:


1.     cryptocurrency (noun): alternative, digital currency.

a.     The rise of cryptocurrency has been rapid in recent years.

2.     proposal (noun): plan, suggestion.

a.     Their proposal is to open a new subway line in the city.

3.     wheelhouse (noun): something’s specialty or interests. 

a.     He’s always stayed in his wheelhouse with dating women and always does the same thing.

4.     revenue stream (noun): source of earning money.

a.     Google is constantly expanding its revenue streams for growth.

5.     to jump on board (expression): to join, commit to something

a.     When I heard about the protest, I decided to jump on board and help with the organization.

6.     trend (noun): something currently popular or attractive. 

a.     The latest fashion trends can be seen in today’s culture.

7.     out there (adjective): unusual, strange.

a.     My professor has some ideas that are pretty out there.

8.     sporadic (adjective): something unpredictably happening at different times, not together.

a.     There was sporadic fighting between the groups.

9.     to invest (verb): to use money for the later objective of a financial gain.

a.     Many people invest daily on the stock market.

10.  risk-averse (adjective): to avoid taking risks.

a.     She is always risk-averse when it comes to her investments.

11.  to raise red flags (expression): to signal or show possible problems or danger.

a.     The information seemed too good to be true and raised some red flags for me.

12.  volatile (adjective): rapidly changing, unpredictable.

a.     The city has the most volatile weather in the country.

13.  gambler (noun): person who plays games for a chance of earning money.

a.     There are more gamblers in Las Vegas than you could imagine.

14.  to bail out (phrasal verb): to withdraw from commitment or obligation (financially).

a.     The government bailed out the banks following the recession.

15.  fed up (adjective): annoyed, disappointed.

a.     My mom is so fed up with the way my sister is behaving in school.

16.  no strings attached (idiom): offer or opportunity with no special conditions or restrictions.

a.     They are offering us a great deal with no strings attached.

17.  nickel and dime (expression): overcharge money for small things.

a.     My mobile company is always nickel and diming me!

18.  untapped (adjective): unused, undiscovered.

a.     He is always looking for the untapped markets in order to expand his business.

19.  wary (adjective): careful, cautious.

a.     You should be wary about investing in unknown sources.

20.  well established (adjective): long-existing.

a.     The law policy in the country is very well established.

21.  fall flat (phrasal verb): to fail

a.     Our plan for the project fell flat once we discovered the complications.

22.  annoying (adjective): causing irritation or discomfort.

a.     It’s very annoying that you never listen to me!

23.  chunk (noun): portion or part of something larger.

a.     I was able to finish a chunk of my homework today.

24.  sales pitch (noun): a speech given to persuade someone to buy something.

a.     He always gives his sales pitch to new people when they meet.

25.  skeptical (adjective): uncertain unconvinced.

a.     I am always skeptical when I hear about new and easy ways to make money.

26.  tough (adjective): hard, difficult

a.     My exam was really tough this morning.

27.  seamless (adjective): smooth, without problems.

a.     Her transition from the previous role to her new role was seamless.

28.  in the weeds (phrasal verb): concerned with small details.

a.     If you look in the weeds of the problem, you’ll see lots of complications.

29.   money laundering (noun): hiding the origins of illegal money, usually through foreign banks or legitimate businesses.

a.     The man was caught running a complex money laundering operation.

30.  shady (adjective): doubtful, suspicious.

a.     The company was involved in shady practices.

31.  tapping (to tap) (verb): touching.

a.     She is always tapping her desk with her pencil during class.  

32.  to pan out (phrasal verb): end up, to finish, conclude.

a.     We will see how the economy pans out after recession.

33.  once the dust settles (phase): when something becomes more calm or stable.

a.     We can look at the results once the dust settles on the experiment.

34.  bandwagon (noun): activity or idea that suddenly becomes popular.

a.     Everyone is getting on the cryptocurrency bandwagon.

35.  proceeds (noun): winnings, earnings.

a.     He received lots of proceeds from winning the competition.