Europe’s second largest insurance company, AXA, has become Switzerland’s first all-line insurer to offer its customers the option of paying their bills with Bitcoin (BTC), powered by a partnership with established cryptocurrency broker Bitcoin Suisse.
Bitcoin payments are accepted for almost all AXA products, except for life insurance due to legal barriers to the latter.
AXA calls the accelerated digital transformation of the global economy during the coronavirus pandemic a key factor in its choice to integrate cryptocurrency into its day-to-day operations. But even in 2019, the insurer notes that it had conducted market research that showed that about 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 adoption of Bitcoin payments is “AXA’s answer to its customers’ growing demand for alternative payment solutions, with new technologies playing an increasingly important role.”
The setup for the customer is a simple online transfer with a reference number: the amount due in Swiss francs is calculated in an equivalent amount in Bitcoin and the indicated exchange rate remains valid for a certain period of time. During this time frame, customers do not bear any exchange rate risk and AXA does not charge additional fees for customers who choose to pay their bills in Bitcoin rather than fiat currency.
AXA itself will not keep any Bitcoin it receives on its balance sheet. Instead, the Bitcoin goes into the hands of crypto broker Bitcoin Suisse. Notably, while AXA itself does not charge for Bitcoin payments, Bitcoin Suisse includes its own 1.75% commission when calculating Bitcoin / Swiss Franc exchange rates for AXA customers.
AXA’s previous involvement in blockchain-based technologies has included membership in the car records platform since 2017, which uses blockchain to track and record the lifecycle of vehicles. The insurer also sponsors the Blockchain Challenge of the University of Basel, where it supports research into the use of smart contracts in the insurance industry.