The New Global Operating System For Money

Key Takeaways

  • We’re on the brink of the next phase of the internet as more businesses and institutions begin exploring the benefits of enterprise-grade blockchains.
  • These blockchains are forming a new cloud infrastructure layer where businesses and developers can store, access, transact and build with digital dollars and other data tied to real-world assets like houses, cars, event tickets, customer loyalty points and even proprietary internal data.
  • The open-source nature of digital dollars like Circle’s USDC enables the creation of brand new financial services that can enhance inclusion around the world and bring more people into the global economy.

From the Cloud to the Blockchain

Written By

Li Fan

Chief Technology Officer


The next generation of enterprise tech

The corporate world has moved to the cloud en masse, reaping incredible benefits and creating new ways of doing business that have spurred remarkable breakthroughs in product development, operational efficiency and many other areas.

Security gains, easier compliance, cost savings, mobility and increased collaboration1 are just a few of the ways the cloud has enabled companies to advance their ability to compete and serve customers as more of the world’s data streams move online.

This shift to cloud shows no signs of slowing. Corporations now store 60% of their data in the cloud, with around 9 in 10 large enterprises adopting a multi-cloud architecture and 76% of organizations worldwide use at least one shared and one private cloud.2

Trends in corporate cloud usage2

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-03-1But this corporate embrace of the cloud was not inevitable. Early in its history, the cloud was often thought of as a security downgrade and a niche operating model that only applied to a handful of tech-forward businesses. Cloud migration was viewed as an arduous, daunting task.

Fast-forward a few years, and now we’re on the brink of the next phase in this evolution as more businesses shift activity to enterprise-grade blockchains, which are rapidly maturing and essentially forming a new layer of this near-ubiquitous cloud infrastructure. Many of the world’s largest, most sophisticated companies are continuing to invest in blockchain for more of the operational benefits that initially made the cloud so appealing.3

In our previous series, The Convergence of Money and the Internet, Circle CFO Jeremy Fox-Geen and CBO Kash Razzaghi laid out a vision for how this next layer of cloud-based commerce could unfold in the coming years, and how dollar digital currency like USDC can make the blockchain value proposition even more attractive for enterprises. 

Jeremy and Kash also cover where blockchains fit in internet history, how stablecoins and the tokenization of “real-world assets” could drastically rewire global payments and financial markets, and why understanding all of this can help corporate leaders future-proof their businesses as money and the internet converge.  

In this series, my Circle colleagues and I go a bit deeper into the technical aspects that underpin this powerful new infrastructure to help businesses and developers understand how it uses today’s cloud as a base layer to enable these capabilities. 

In short, the opportunity isn’t just about converting existing financial flows from traditional settlement rails to the internet. It’s also about bringing new efficiency to non-financial data that is already digitized – and beyond that, digitizing data that still lives offline in inefficient legacy systems.

We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible in this new era where money exists as data and ownership of pretty much everything can move online.

Web-driven revenue decreases in traditional industries, 2002-20204 

EvoutionlMoneyInternet-06On a personal level, having spent decades in engineering at traditional tech firms including Google, Pinterest, Baidu and Lime, my career has spanned various iterations of the internet. I’ve never been more excited than I am right now about what Circle is building to bring this next era of digital transformation to global audiences.

Let’s dig into what makes it so exciting.


The what: A new layer of the cloud

Since Bitcoin appeared in 2009, it has created some misconceptions around the idea of what a blockchain can be. For businesses, it’s important to understand that blockchains are for much more than just cryptocurrency trading. At its core, a blockchain is simply a shared database that many independent computers keep track of simultaneously. Each computer, or “node,” essentially keeps a copy of the database and helps to confirm transactions by adding new ‘blocks” to the chain.  

Many of these blockchain nodes are housed on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft and other major cloud providers that enterprises already use today. These providers are reciprocating the interest by investing in new capabilities that make their platforms more attractive and useful to blockchain builders.

A quick glance at some recent deals illustrates the opportunity that today’s cloud providers see in blockchain. In January 2023, AWS formed a relationship with Ava Labs, which provides open-source contributions to  Avalanche, a proof-of-stake blockchain that already supports significant commercial activity5 and has more than a half billion USDC in circulation on its network as of March 3, 2023. Amazon’s deal with Avalanche essentially enables any company to create a custom, permissioned blockchain within its larger public architecture. 

Share of Ethereum nodes hosted today by Amazon6

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-03Google Cloud is also deepening its formal involvement in blockchain by agreeing to become a validator for Solana and create new features designed to appeal to Solana node operators.7 Solana is a highly performant blockchain that offers sub-second, sub-penny transactions and already has more than $800 million USDC on its network as of March 3, 2023. 

Microsoft is accelerating their blockchain strategy as well with recent investments in enterprise data storage.8

Taken together, these partnerships show strong votes of confidence in the continued maturation of blockchain infrastructure. Now let’s take a closer look at the breakthrough opportunities this infrastructure can deliver for businesses, and why more developers are flocking to it.


The why: Web3’s “tokenization of everything”

Perhaps the biggest blockchain breakthrough is that it enables not just money, but “real-world” assets – think houses, cars, event tickets, customer loyalty points, medical records and even content rights –  to be represented and stored online as uniquely identifiable digital tokens.

The distribution of the database provides extra layers of transparency and trust, which is what makes tokenization so compelling. It’s possible to verify and represent ownership of practically anything on-chain, which enables the offline-to-online transformation to cover more types of assets. Since many third parties share the ledger simultaneously, it’s immutable and impossible to change.

Embedding these types of assets — along with tokenized dollars — directly onto a distributed cloud network can give enterprises a brand new opportunity to rethink not just  operations, but their broader corporate strategies.

“Web3”, as this tokenized commerce layer is sometimes called, can lead to new breakthroughs in product development, inventory and supply chain management, customer retention, data storage and more. Even internal flows of information and funds can be tokenized and brought on chain so they no longer live in cumbersome, disconnected legacy systems or homegrown apps that are hard to maintain and upgrade.

There are already numerous examples of how this transformation is playing out. Global law firm DLA Piper is tokenizing “almost everything” as they accelerate their digital transformation on the Hedera blockchain.9 Hedera is governed by many prominent multinational corporations and also features native USDC liquidity.

The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), which operates the market infrastructure responsible for clearing trades on the New York Stock Exchange, is already running a blockchain pilot.10

Public sector agencies are also getting involved. Recently, the California DMV launched a program to begin tokenizing car titles on a public blockchain, with additional consumer applications to follow.11

Taken together, these programs show a wide range of blockchain uses – some of which go beyond payments and finance. We expect this trend will continue and are committed to building infrastructure to help more businesses and developers take advantage.

Here’s a closer look at our role in making this happen.


The how: Circle’s role in global adoption

While Circle is widely known today for issuing digital assets — USDC and EURC — that travel across this blockchain infrastructure, we also provide a wide array of services to help companies bring tokenized data and money into existing back-office flows and customer-facing apps and websites.

Just like many developers build their tools and software on top of AWS, Azure and GCP in order to further accelerate the adoption of cloud, our Web3 Services team builds tools and platforms to make it easier for enterprises and third-party developers to build apps on top of blockchain. These services include automated digital asset management along with a simpler, more secure way to design smart contracts that make everything work.

Taken together, these services are designed to bring the benefits of Web3 to today’s internet. They make it easy to embed blockchain data within existing “Web2” experiences, so businesses don’t need to build new apps and websites from scratch. This makes it simple to create and custody non-fungible tokens (NFTs) tied to your company and customer assets, so they are easily accessible within existing user interfaces for customers, employees and other parties. 

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-11To date, widespread adoption of blockchain infrastructure has been slowed by inaccessibility. This is largely due to the siloed nature of individual blockchains and inefficiencies in existing processes for bringing assets from one chain to another. Behind the scenes, Circle is building significant additional infrastructure to address these barriers that, once complete, will simply “make things work” in a way that’s out of sight for both enterprises and end users.

First off, we have always envisioned our digital currencies living in a “multi-chain” world. USDC is already thriving on 8 different blockchains, with additional chain launches anticipated. Our philosophy is to make USDC available wherever active developers and the right security structures exist, so that it is fungible across a wide swath of the blockchain ecosystem.

Secondly, we are building Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol (CCTP) to eliminate friction when sending value across the blockchains where USDC lives. No two blockchains are alike, and each presents valid reasons and attractions for companies and developers. CCTP will make USDC interoperable across multiple networks, enabling enterprises to build apps on their blockchain of choice that all users can then access freely without worrying about silos. 

This will be a critical step towards unlocking mainstream experiences and lighting a path for a billion new users to interact with tokenized data.


What’s next

Circle is set to play a critical role in helping enterprises transition from the cloud to the blockchain, not just through digital versions of major government-issued currencies, but through “behind the scenes” infrastructure that enables the widespread tokenization and instant sharing of value and real-world assets. Our goal is to make blockchain accessible and easy to use so developers can build with digital currencies like USDC, and businesses can take advantage of this brand new array of applications and business models.

Major pieces of this infrastructure are ready to use now and will continue to progress rapidly throughout 2023. Our entire team is incredibly excited, and we would love to hear from you so we can collaboratively build solutions that address your pain points. 

Next, let’s take a look at how this blockchain layer is helping to turn dollars into an open-source, programmable set of building blocks for businesses and developers to build with.

The Building Blocks of the Internet of Money

Written By

Nikhil Chandhok

Chief Product Officer


Financial value as an open-source platform 

In the first part of this series, Circle CTO Li Fan explored how blockchains are forming a new cloud infrastructure layer where businesses can store, access and transact with “tokenized” money and other data tied to real-world assets like houses, cars, event tickets, customer loyalty points and even proprietary internal data. 

Her article builds on the broader vision laid out by Circle CFO Jeremy Fox-Geen and CBO Kash Razzaghi in their earlier series, The Convergence of Money and the Internet, which covers the profound transformation we believe the shift to blockchain and digitized finance can unleash on global commerce, markets and even society more broadly.

Circle’s digital currencies, USDC and EURC, are already playing a key role in this transformation by equipping dollars and euros with the internet’s cost and speed superpowers and unshackling them from legacy settlement systems. But the ability to move value at internet speed, scale and cost is just the start of what’s possible with this new infrastructure.

What could make this technology a true breakthrough is its open-source nature. Since the launch of Ethereum in 2014, programmable blockchains based on smart contracts have created hundreds of billions of dollars in value and given rise to the concept of open-source “primitives,” or building blocks that businesses and developers can use to create new commerce and money applications that use the internet to bypass traditional payment rails.

Ethereum developer growth since 20181


Programmable stablecoins like USDC and Euro Coin are emerging as breakthrough way to use these smart-contract-powered blockchains. USDC has grown past $40 billion in circulation despite recent pullbacks in broader digital asset markets, with more than 9 trillion in total on-chain transactions, as of March 3, 2023. Last year, global stablecoin settlement exceeded $7 trillion compared to $14 trillion settled at Visa and Mastercard — and both of these card networks have already begun settling in USDC.2

Yet so far, this incredible growth has come primarily from within a tightly circumscribed world of “crypto-native” institutions and individuals, along with early digital currency adopters. As of early 2023, the total number of digital currency wallets stands at roughly 300 million. We believe this is a small fraction of the addressable market, and that we’re reaching a tipping point where billions of people globally are beginning to see the advantages of internet-based dollars. 

This next wave of adoption is already starting to take shape. In mature markets like the U.S., enterprises and other businesses are exploring blockchain and digital currency due to the incredible speed, efficiency, data visibility and cost savings compared to traditional systems. 

Outside of the U.S., there is growing demand for easier access to dollars for both commerce and personal use. The promise of raising global financial inclusion through digital dollars that anyone with an internet-connected device can access is truly profound.

At Circle, our vision is to turn this promise into reality. We are making it as easy as possible for developers to use modular building blocks to create new apps, interfaces and services for this “internet of money.” We want our digital currencies to be freely accessible, transforming today’s commerce flows and eventually giving rise to entirely new ways to use money that haven’t even been invented yet. 

This transformation is already starting, and we think it’s poised to accelerate in the coming years. In many ways, it could mirror the trajectory of the original internet. Just as the idea of streaming the latest Hollywood movie while riding a crowded bus would have seemed outlandish back in 1995, we think we’re just scratching the surface of what money – and especially dollars – can do around the world now that it exists as programmable internet data.

Earlier in my career, I spent more than a decade at Google in a variety of product and engineering leadership roles. That experience helped to shape my view of what an open-source, internet-native platform for money could potentially look like. 

Now I have the opportunity to help build it. Here’s a deeper look at why these building blocks represent such an important opportunity for the future of both the internet and the global economy.


Money joins the world of data

As Jeremy and Kash covered, the migration of financial value to the internet is a continuation of the process that began with the rise of the original internet in the 1990s. As the original internet grew stronger, faster and more popular, developers continued to build more services that we take for granted today, yet would have seemed like science fiction a generation ago.

But money couldn’t join email, video, text, and other types of data on the original internet, since there was no way to verify transactions without involvement from banks or other financial intermediaries. The rise of blockchain over the past decade has gone a long way toward fixing this. Blockchain’s key characteristics – cryptographic proof of transaction history and decentralized database distribution – eliminate the need for traditional intermediaries to confirm transactions.

While developers were fueling the first blockchains, regulations and trends in the traditional finance world – including PSD2 and the rise of “open banking” based on APIs — were accelerating the digitization of the corporate finance tech stack. Treasurers and finance managers began to face fewer technological constraints and enjoy more freedom to connect a la carte financial services via API to boost data visibility, speed transactions and make their operations more efficient.

Both the rise of blockchain and the digitization of traditional finance have brought incredible efficiencies to payments and commerce. But they had been happening in parallel worlds until stablecoins like USDC arrived to help bring these worlds together by eliminating the volatility often experienced with other digital currencies. Now, businesses are poised to benefit from the convergence of these two major innovations. 

Projected growth of open banking by 20303


Where Web3 comes in

This convergence is taking shape against the backdrop of today’s dominant “Web2” internet, where centralization has created incredible conveniences and connections for billions of people, but with downsides including sensitive data honeypots, closed-loops networks, value extraction from creators and users, “fake news” echo chambers and more.

The blockchain-based internet layer – sometimes known as “Web3” — helps to fix some of these problems. In many ways, it represents an evolution of the internet as we know it. Web3 brings the ability to directly embed financial flows alongside ownership proof of non-financial data, plus decentralized identity, audit-worthy immutability and composability. 

As my colleague Li pointed out, all of these features can be added into existing apps and websites so that Web2 and Web3 work together.

Web3 enables people to own tokenized versions of property in a personal wallet – whether related to purchased art and music, voting rights in a digital group, real estate and even their individual online identities – in a way that's not been possible during other internet eras.

Composability is perhaps the most important out of all of these. At its core, Web3 is open-source. Not only are the blockchains themselves programmable, but many open-source financial “primitives” already exist that any business and developer can access and use. These primitives are like building blocks that can be endlessly shared, configured, arranged and combined to create brand new financial services that run on nothing more than code. More of these primitives are appearing every day.

USDC is an incredibly useful manifestation of this concept, and is itself an open-source primitive. It is essentially a dollar API for commerce on the internet. USDC is token implemented as a smart contract, it references many other pieces of open-source software, and it is in turn integrated directly into many open-source, smart-contract-based financial marketplaces and payments services on the blockchain today. 

The continued rise of smart contracts4

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-04Over the past few years, protocols like Aave, Compound, Uniswap and others have built USDC and other open-source building blocks into multi-billion dollar, on-chain financial markets. Since they run completely on smart contracts, these markets eliminate manual work and errors while improving risk management. Last year, these major smart-contract-based markets all passed severe stress tests with flying colors, while many human-led markets failed spectacularly.

Taken together, these early on-chain financial services have proven that it’s possible for autonomous software to automate processes and do the work of entire teams to unlock previously unimaginable efficiencies for money and data. 

Almost overnight, they have enabled brand new business models that have never been possible – or even conceivable – prior to the appearance of this new infrastructure. More importantly, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Digital asset trading is just the start of what these building blocks can enable, and each day we see more utility and payments use cases created around USDC. 

Here’s a look at how we’re nurturing an open, global ecosystem for even more builders to thrive across this new internet layer. 


An open, global ecosystem

Our approach to these building blocks is twofold. First, we want to entice even more developers to build amazing new applications with USDC. These apps can then turn into a comprehensive operating system of money that businesses and institutions can use to make payments, run treasury, manage supply chain, operate markets and more, all connected via API to create a more bespoke financial and tech stack.

These apps can be used around the world to access, send, spend and invest dollars alongside native currencies.

Our commitment to open-source innovation has already helped create a growing ecosystem around USDC, led by apps from third-party developers who build with the USDC source code. Already, thousands of developers have built a library of apps for borrowing/lending, remittances and eCommerce, with more on the way.  

But this composable building block aspect is not just for third-party developers who want to create an alternative financial system. 

As more companies grow comfortable with this technology, in addition to choosing from the ecosystem menu, we expect their in-house development teams to build custom apps just for their own internal use. 

Taken together, we think blockchains and digital currencies will lead to software eating the world of finance, just as it did to music, publishing and so many other industries during the 1990s and 2000s. It’s incumbent upon existing businesses to evaluate this fast-evolving landscape so they can position themselves for change.

Trust is an essential element in unlocking the potential of this ecosystem. Next, let’s take a look at how Circle is optimizing for trust through our operations, regulatory relationships and more.

Trust: The Ultimate Currency

Written By

Elisabeth Carpenter

Chief Operating Officer


Bridging traditional business to the blockchain-based future

So far in this series, my Circle colleagues Li Fan and Nikhil Chandhok have given a deeper look at the cutting edge infrastructure we’re building to help businesses and developers harness the power of a new global, dollar-based operating system for money.

Their articles expand on previous pieces from our CFO Jeremy Fox-Geen and CBO Kash Razzaghi on the incredible opportunities created by the convergence of money and the internet, and how this new technology layer can help shape a more inclusive economic future. 

While these insights look ahead, I want to spend some time exploring another critical element that’s always been a prerequisite for creating financial value dating back to the earliest forms of value exchange – trust.

As long as money has existed, trust has been essential. Without trust, money cannot fulfill any of its historical functions as a store of value, a medium of exchange or a unit of account. 

Now that blockchains have made it possible to represent dollars as data on the internet, it’s possible to think about how these three historical functions of money can begin to evolve. But as we start to expand our conception of what money can do, trust must remain at the forefront of everything. 

When Circle was founded in 2013, we began exploring ways to scale digital currency for mainstream use with a singular focus on trust. Ten years into our journey, trust has never been more important, especially after a challenging 2022 that soured the perception of digital assets among the broader public and even some industry veterans. 

Despite a few bad actors, the core promise of digital currency remains intact – and arguably more relevant than ever. The Forbes Blockchain 50 for 2023 highlights the myriad ways that many of the world’s most sophisticated enterprises are building with blockchain to make their businesses operate better, faster and with less expense.1

Goldman Sachs, Mastercard and other traditional finance mainstays are deepening their blockchain involvement as they seek to solve real-world problems.2 This aligns with what we are seeing here at Circle, where our level of engagement with enterprises has been substantial and continues to increase. 

All of this indicates that more business leaders grasp the magnitude of the opportunity and are deeply interested in working with enterprise-grade providers to take advantage.

Share of the top 100 companies by market cap that are using blockchain

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-06In many ways, last year’s events have made it easier for these forward-thinking traditional businesses to plan and execute their digital asset strategies. With the end of the boom-and-bust speculative era and the disappearance of many shoddy projects, it’s easier to identify the providers that are well built and organized around sustainable business models.

Increasingly, these well-run providers are bringing the benefits of digital currency to real-world uses. Here’s a deeper look at why businesses find this so compelling, and why Circle is uniquely positioned to help them fulfill the promise of this new internet layer.


Why enterprises are exploring the blockchain3

As my colleagues Li and Nikhil have laid out, this new internet layer is based on the cloud and poised to potentially change the world as much as the original internet in the 1990s through open-source financial “building blocks.” 

These building blocks are helping to turn dollars into a programmable operating system for money, where companies and developers can build new financial apps and services that can be accessed globally by anyone with an internet-connected device.

Other types of non-financial data — houses, cars, event tickets, customer loyalty points, medical records and even content rights – can also migrate onto the blockchain where they can be stored with immutable proof of ownership and greater transparency. 

For enterprises, this transparency is also paving the way toward greater supply chain visibility. Diverse companies including DeBeers, Estee Lauder, Genentech and McCormick & Company are using blockchain to track shipments, verify the authenticity of sourced materials and fight counterfeiting.4

While enterprises are aligned around the goals of greater operational efficiency, less cost and more data visibility, there are some things they don’t want from blockchain, starting with volatility. This is the chief reason why stablecoins have gained so much attraction as perhaps the best way for enterprises to reap the benefits of blockchain without unpredictable, uncontrollable price swings. Circle’s digital currencies – USDC and EURC – are custom built for exactly this purpose. 

Enterprises also want to make sure their blockchain practices align with their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals. All of the blockchains on which USDC and Euro Coin travel are free from emissions-heavy “mining.” Further, blockchains are emerging as a crucial innovation lab where companies can track – and reduce – their carbon footprints.5

Lastly on ESG, in part 4 of this series, I talk about why digital currency’s potential to transform financial inclusion globally is perhaps its most meaningful facet. The ability to put dollars in the hands of anyone, anywhere, with an internet connected device could help businesses build a fairer society and extend opportunity to marginalized populations around the world. 


How Circle is operationalizing trust

Since the launch of USDC in 2018, we’ve been laser-focused on one thing – turning it and its larger ecosystem into trusted building blocks for this new internet of money. At the same time, while we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with finance and tech, we never forget that people trust us with their money. 

In a lot of ways, our business is very straightforward. Our customers give us dollars, and these dollars stay within the U.S. regulatory perimeter while we equip them with the internet’s cost, speed and scale superpowers, along with the programmability benefits of internet data. When customers want their dollars back, they are redeemed 1:1 for USDC. 

Following multiple recent bank failures, Circle has taken steps to reduce risk from the banking system by now holding substantially all of the cash portion of the reserve at one of the world’s 30 global systemically important banks, also known as a GSIB. GSIBs are widely recognized as the safest banks, with the highest capital, liquidity and supervisory requirements in the world. We also hold modest funds at our transaction banking partners in support of USDC liquidity operations.

As of December 31, 2022, Circle customers had redeemed more than $213 billion of USDC.6

Here’s a look at our multi-pronged approach to building trust in USDC and our company.

  1. Structural safety

    The USDC reserve is held ~80% in short-dated U.S. Treasuries and ~20% in cash deposits within the U.S. banking system. The reserve is fully transparent and subject to third party assurance that there are sufficient assets to meet liabilities. It does not contain any other assets of different risk profiles. 

    The USDC reserves are held in segregated accounts, for the benefit of USDC holders, all entirely separate from Circle’s operations. The USDC reserves are bankruptcy remote – they are afforded protections under U.S. laws and would not form part of the creditor’s estate in the unlikely event of a Circle bankruptcy. 

  2. Regulation

    Circle is regulated and licensed under U.S. state money transmission licenses, the state regimes that govern the likes of major U.S. payments entities, including Apple, PayPal, and Stripe. We are also registered as a money services business (MSB) with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which means we adhere to know your customer (KYC), anti-money laundering (AML), and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) requirements, including sanctions compliance. 

    We also have an E-Money Issuer License from the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA); a Bermuda Digital Asset Business License from the Bermuda Monetary Authority; and recently received In-Principle Approval as a Major Payments Institution License holder from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

  3. Independent oversight

    We have published monthly attestations from Grant Thornton– a leading global accounting firm – to provide independent confirmation that we hold at least as much in dollar-denominated reserves as the amount of USDC in circulation. They are all publicly available on our website going back to the launch of USDC in 2018.7

    We are committed to continually enhancing our disclosures regarding the USDC reserve. The Circle Reserve Fund, an SEC registered 2a-7 government money market fund, wholly owned by Circle, offers daily disclosure of the fund's holdings of U.S. Treasuries comprising the USDC reserves, subject to the independent oversight of BlackRock and the fund of the Board.

  4. World-class risk management

    Circle has implemented a comprehensive, industry-leading enterprise risk management framework across all aspects of the company. We have created a robust, risk-intelligent operating environment by embedding proactive and holistic identification, assessment, mitigation, monitoring, internal audit, ethics, and reporting of risks and controls within all our business and product lines, functions, and processes.

Internally, we instill a culture of continuous learning with mandatory “Circle University” training for employees, which includes a robust curriculum of regulatory compliance courses. Our company performance is guided by the Objectives & Key Results (OKR) goal-setting framework.

Taken together, these measures show how we’ve built slowly, step by step, without deviating from our objective to build a sustainable company that enterprises can partner with for the long term. 

Along the way, we’ve always been focused on making decisions that keep us on the right side of law and ethics. While avoiding shortcuts can cause some pain in the short term, we are confident this is the right approach as more enterprises are poised to shift meaningful business to the blockchain. 

Next, let’s take a look at how this new, open-source infrastructure can help enable new levels of financial inclusion.


How Internet Dollars Can Power Financial Inclusion

Written By

Elisabeth Carpenter

Chief Operating Officer


Enabling easier access to dollars around the world

Earlier in this series, Circle CTO Li Fan and CPO Nikhil Chandhok explored the cloud-based infrastructure we’re building to help turn dollars and euros into open-source, programmable internet data, and to digitize many types of non-financial assets. I also outlined how businesses and developers rely on us for compliant, enterprise-grade access to this transformative internet infrastructure.

These articles build on broader insights into how digital currency is accelerating the evolution of money, and how dollars and euros on public blockchains can catalyze significant improvements in payments, commerce and financial markets

Now, we want to focus on what might be the single most important aspect of this transformation – financial inclusion. Simply stated, shifting dollars and commerce to the internet has the potential to boost access to financial services on a global scale in a way that’s never been possible. 

Just as the internet long ago made it possible to send email, text and video across the world in seconds at very little cost to practically anyone, blockchains now enable money to travel with this same speed, scale, cost efficiency and reach. 

Turning this financial inclusion potential into reality is core to Circle’s mission to raise global economic prosperity through the frictionless exchange of value. From a personal standpoint, it’s also what attracted us to work on blockchain in the first place, after careers at traditional corporations including News Corporation, Brightcove, Google, Meta and Paramount.

Let’s take a look at why this matters, and what we’re doing to make this infrastructure available globally.


Finance as a basic human right

At Circle, we think that access to finance is something that everyone, everywhere deserves. Yet financial friction and exclusion are still major hurdles for people all over the world, exacerbating global economic inequality and exposing people who can least afford it to the devastating effects of soaring inflation and slowing economic growth. 

This situation is being compounded in real time by increasing geopolitical instability and growing macroeconomic uncertainty. Instead of flowing freely, financial and intellectual capital is grinding to a standstill in a growing number of places. 

In the U.S., the world’s wealthiest country, there are still significant gaps in wealth and access. As an example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates 12 million Americans take out payday loans each year.1 Most of these borrowers earn less than $30,000 per year and pay an average of more than $500 in fees to borrow $375 for 5 months.2

U.S. payday loan data 

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-07In many emerging markets, where economies are underdeveloped and traditional banking infrastructure is either not widely accessible or not present at all, the situation is even more dire. Increasingly, people and families in these countries are reliant on migrant workers remitting value home from developed economies. 

According to the United Nations, around 1 in 9 people globally is supported by funds sent home by migrant workers.3 By 2030, it’s estimated that remittance flows from migrant workers could top $5 trillion.4 

Yet the World Bank reports that the average remittance cost is a staggering 6.3% of the amount sent,5 depriving some of the world’s neediest people of funds that are critical to obtaining daily necessities like food and healthcare.

Global remittance data

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-08Financial access also takes on outsized importance in active conflict zones. According to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), increasing humanitarian crises around the world have forcibly displaced 103 million people. For their 2023 outlook, the United Nations estimates that 339 million people worldwide are in need of humanitarian assistance. Only a year ago, it was 274 million people.6 Conflicts, the climate crisis and COVID are leading to growing hardship.

Taken together, these exorbitant costs and the rising number of people living in precarious circumstances are creating urgency around the need for new solutions. At Circle, our business is organized around using the internet and mobile devices to build a faster, better, fairer, more accessible way to move value around the world.

Although 1.7 billion globally are underbanked, two-thirds of these people own a smartphone.7  Smartphone-enabled digital currencies and public blockchains are perhaps uniquely positioned to shore up these gaps in the traditional financial system and make a lasting difference. 

Our digital dollars and euros help extend the strength and stability of government-issued currencies to this new internet layer, where they are accessible for anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection.  

The digital inclusion opportunity7

TheNewGlobalOperatingSystem-09How Circle and USDC foster inclusion 

While we’re just getting started, here are some examples of how our approach is already bringing real-world payment utility to people and places that are underserved by the existing system.

Powering humanitarian aid and disaster relief

Collecting funds to support displaced people around the world is only half the battle. The other half is delivering it to people in need – no matter where they are. UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency are turning to USDC, running on the Stellar blockchain to eliminate the need for those fleeing instability to carry cash, credit or debit cards. Aid recipients can access vital support via a Vibrant digital wallet and exchange their USDC for local currency at any MoneyGram location.

Bypassing a dictatorship to deliver aid to millions

In the height of the pandemic, front-line medical workers in Venezuela lacked access to critical medical supplies and equipment while suffering from the impacts of hyperinflation, international isolation and sanctions and economic collapse.

In collaboration with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and U.S.-based fintech innovator Airtm, and in coordination with the U.S. government, Circle was able to put in place an aid disbursement pipeline that leveraged the power of USDC to bypass the controls imposed by Maduro over the domestic financial system, and put millions of dollars of funds into the hands of healthcare workers fighting for the health and safety of the people of Venezuela.

Simplifying peer-to-peer payments between U.S. and Mexico

For millions of individuals and families, the ability to send and receive money between the U.S. and Mexico is a lifeline. In 2020 alone, cross-border remittances increased 10% – reaching over $40B. Yet despite the vital importance of remittances, traditional methods of sending and receiving money are slow and expensive. Circle’s USDC and Bitso (the largest crypto exchange in Latin America) are making it easier, faster and more secure for Mexican residents to send and receive cross-border payments using blockchain technology.

Boosting digital financial literacy with Circle University

Circle University is a crypto education course available to academic institutions and partner organizations interested in catalyzing crypto literacy. Circle Impact partnered with select Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and other academic institutions as part of their Fall 2022 curriculum. A wider rollout to more organizations is in process now.

Bringing wider dollar access to Africa

Africa is rapidly proving how financial technology and digital infrastructure can scale and thrive to serve potentially billions of people. Since the launch of M-Pesa in 2007, people and businesses from across the continent have been at the forefront of using technology to move and manage value. Today, they are increasingly turning to digital currency and public blockchains to efficiently connect to global capital flows. 

For the past 10 years, AZA Finance has helped businesses and institutions manage treasury, payments and FX into, throughout, and out of Africa. Many of AZA’s institutional clients are adopting dollar digital currencies like Circle’s USDC for wholesale commercial flows that can move across borders outside of traditional banking hours.

Expanding digital finance to African developers

The Mara Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth, communities, marginalized populations, and problem solvers to build solutions that drive long-term positive social, economic and environmental change in Africa. Mara has partnered with Circle to help provide developers based in Africa with critical opportunities, tools and access needed to build Dapps and blockchain solutions. Through this first-of-its-kind strategic partnership, Circle and Mara aim to jointly increase awareness for USDC, champion blockchain adoption and train one million developers with the intent to positively impact Africa’s growing population of one billion people over the next five years.

These examples show not just that the infrastructure works, but that it is highly effective and that people globally want access to portable internet dollars.


The role of Circle’s culture

Doing all of this well — creating new internet infrastructure that makes the world better, fairer and more inclusive — requires more than just building new products and infrastructure. Our solutions are themselves products of Circle’s broader culture that’s centered on building a company that looks like the communities we serve.

This means diverse hires here in the US, driven by an authentic laser-like focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). DEI is woven into Circle’s DNA from a first-principles standpoint, and we’re making it happen at the board level, the executive leadership level and broadly throughout the company.

We’re building our company this way not just because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because it makes tremendous business sense that our talent base reflects our customer base. Even beyond this obvious reason, there are significant studies showing that companies with greater board8 and employee diversity9 outperform their peers on a financial basis.

Everyone can win when we build our products and culture in this way – our customers, employees, shareholders and society as a whole. It’s better for our business, and it’s better for the world.


Li Fan

Chief Technology Officer

Li Fan leads Circle’s engineering team, and has served as CTO and interim CPO at Lime, SVP of engineering at Pinterest, Senior Director of Engineering at Google Inc., and Vice President of Engineering at Baidu, China.


Nikhil Chandhok

Chief Product Officer

Nikhil is responsible for developing accessible and easy-to-use products for new and existing Circle customers. He has experience developing tech-forward products and software that advanced mobile devices, streaming video, AI, and Augmented Reality at companies, including Meta, Google, YouTube, and Microsoft.

Elisabeth Carpenter

Chief Operating Officer

Elisabeth leads global Revenue and Marketing, overseeing the complete go-to-market experience, and runs global business operations, including Talent. She brings decades of experience leading companies revolutionizing industries ranging from financial services to nonprofit fundraising to media as COO of Evertrue, SVP at Brightcove, and SVP at News Corporation and BSkyB.


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From the Cloud to the Blockchain

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  2. “34 amazing cloud computing stats (2023).” Exploding Topics. Josh Howarth. November 24, 2022. Retrieved from:
  3. “Forbes Blockchain 50 2023.” Forbes. Retrieved from:
  4. “Internet Crushes Traditional Media: From Print to Digital.” U.S. Census Bureau. Adam Grundy, June 7, 2022. Retrieved from:,and%20the%20Pew%20Research%20Center. 
  5. “Amazon Web Services Users Can Now Launch Avalanche Blockchain Nodes.” Yahoo! Finance. Kate Irwin. January 11, 2023. Retrieved from:
  6. “3 cloud providers accounting for over two-thirds of Ethereum nodes: Data.” Cointelegraph. Brayden Lindrea. August 18, 2022. Retrieved from:
  7. “Google Cloud Just Became a Solana Validator.” Decrypt. Stephen Graves. November 5, 2022. Retrieved from:
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  9. “Top 3 Global Law Firm Seizes First Mover Advantage to Tokenize Almost Everything with Blockchain.” Blockchain Journal. David Berlind. January 22, 2023. Retrieved from:
  10.  “Wall Street Giant DTCC Launches Private Blockchain in Big Crypto-Milestone for TradFi.” CoinDesk. Oliver Knight, August 22 2022. Retrieved from:
  11. “California DMV puts car titles on Tezos blockchain, consumer applications on the way.” Fortune. Leo Schwartz. January 26, 2023. Retrieved from:

The Building Blocks of the Internet of Money

  1. Web3 Developer Report, Alchemy. Retrieved from:
  2. “Stablecoin settlements can surpass all major card networks in 2023: Data.” Cointelegraph. Prashant Jha. December 22, 2022. Retrieved from:
  3. “Global Open Banking Market Size Expected to Grow to USD 128.12 Billion by 2030, at 26.8% CAGR: Polaris Market Research.” Yahoo!. November 21, 2022. Retrieved from:
  4. Web3 Developer Report, Alchemy. Retrieved from:

Trust: The Ultimate Currency

  1. “Forbes Blockchain 50 2023.” Forbes. Retrieved from:
  2. “How Mastercard, Goldman Sachs And Other ‘TradFi’ Titans Are Using Blockchain to Rewire Global Finance.” Forbes. Nina Bambysheva and Michael del Castillo. Retrieved from:
  3. “44% of the top 100 public companies use blockchain amid growing institutional adoption.” Finbold. Anna Nicenko. October 13, 2022. Retrieved from:
  4. “Forbes Blockchain 50 2023.” Forbes. Retrieved from:
  5. “World Bank's IFC taps blockchain for carbon offsets.” Reuters. Simon Jessop, Shadia Nasrella and Cole Horton. August 17, 2022. Retrieved from:
  6. Circle internal analysis
  7. See to learn more.

How Internet Dollars Can Power Financial Inclusion

  1. “Innovating Against Predatory Lending Products.” Financial Health Network. July 12, 2022. Retrieved from:,same%20%24375%20over%20five%20months.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Remittances matter: 8 facts you don’t know about the money migrants send back home.” United Nations. June 17, 2019. Retrieved from:
  4. “Global remittances flows expected to reach US$5.4 trillion by 2030 spurred on by digitalization.” International Fund for Agricultural Development. June 16, 2022. Retrieved from:
  5. “Remittance Prices Worldwide Quarterly.” The World Bank. September 2022. Retrieved from:
  6. UNHCR
  7. “Financial Inclusion on the Rise, But Gaps Remain, Global Findex Database Shows.” The World Bank. April 19, 2018.
  8. “New Report: Companies With Diverse Boards Out Performed Their Peers During the Pandemic.” Inc. Anna Meyer. July 13, 2021. Retrieved from:
  9. “Opinion: The numbers don’t lie: Diverse workforces make businesses more money.” MarketWatch. Jack Myers. August 1, 2020. Retrieved from: