Bullion bulls: This mobile app turns gold into a digital currency

  • Written by MarketWatch
  • Published in Economics

Chances are you’re not lugging a heavy, gold brick into a coffee shop to buy your daily cup of joe. But one financial technology company based in London is making it possible to satisfy your caffeine fix, or purchase countless other goods, by using the yellow metal in digital form.

Glint runs a free-to-download mobile app of the same name. The app allows users to buy fractions of a physical bar of gold digitally, then use that gold to electronically buy items using an accompanying, multicurrency Mastercard Inc. MA, -0.89%[1]   debit card.

“We’re reintroducing gold as money,” said Ben Davies, Glint’s co-founder and chief operating officer, who, with Glint’s co-founder and Chief Executive Jason Cozens, demonstrated their marriage of old and new — gold and tech — at MarketWatch’s London office.

“It was once money, it will be money again and it already is now under this application,” said Davies, whose more than 20 years of working in financial markets includes co-founding investment firm Hinde Capital and running the Hinde Gold Fund, which has a long bias on gold bullion.

Gold’s allure for use in everyday life is essentially timeless, with historians tracing the use of gold coins as far back as 550 B.C. in what’s now modern-day Turkey, according to the World Gold Council.

No coins need to change hands with Glint. “Let’s just do it: I’m going to now buy two grams of gold,” said Cozens, demonstrating on his phone. “It’s going to cost me £61. I review that, that’s the [spot] rate ... confirm it ... done. Now, I have some more gold,” he said. “We got a taxi on the way here and I used 0.21 grams of gold to pay for it.”

That cab ride to MarketWatch’s office, breakfast at The Ned — a high-end hot spot nestled near the Bank of England — a visit to the Bombay Canteen in Mumbai and various places in Tokyo are some of the Glint transactions that Cozens displayed, and purchases of coffee and tea with MarketWatch at a nearby Pret-A-Manger elicited a “Wow!” when the gold-based transaction is shown to the cashier.

“I don’t have to worry about whether the pound has dropped against the yen or the rupee or not,” said Cozens. “I have a certain order that transfers my wage into my Glint account every month and I just spend in gold because I know it’s going to be inflation-hedged. If anything happens to the system, it’s going to be OK, and wherever I fly in the world I don’t have to worry about ‘Did I buy enough euros in time? Did I get it at a good rate?’”

Affinity for gold

Davies, 46, and Cozens, 48, are bringing...

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