Financial group sees Bitcoin companies maturing

Bitcoin is growing up, according to the head of a financial trade group.

Electronic Transactions Association CEO Jason Oxman told The Hill in an interview on Wednesday that some companies using the virtual currency have begun to mature and join the ranks of traditional financial firms. 

A string of bad publicity for Bitcoin and similar digital currencies requires “a lot of extra effort on the part of those legitimate and strong players in the digital currency world to overcome a lot of perception issues that were created by a few bad actors,” Oxman said.

“But I think they’re making great progress.”

As an example, he pointed to two Bitcoin companies that have recently jointed the group's ranks alongside Visa, American Express and other firms: Circle and Bitpay.

The fact that those two companies have joined the association “shows you ... where they’re headed with their business, which is to play alongside established industry companies and continue to demonstrate that they take very seriously their entry into the market and their desire to be legitimate players,” he said.

Bitcoins only exist virtually and can be exchanged for cash or used as money at a growing number of companies.

In recent months, the currency has suffered a string of bad publicity, after a major online exchange went bust, taking hundreds of millions of dollars with it, and an early Bitcoin evangelist was arrested for money laundering.

Critics of the money including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have pointed to such incidents and called for a federal ban.

Supporters have countered that the technology can be as revolutionary as the Internet, and shouldn’t be strangled in its infancy.

Oxman said that his trade group has not been lobbying on any Bitcoin-specific issues, despite the appearance of new companies on its roster.

“They are just like any other members,” he said.

“We are certainly welcoming Bitcoin members, but as far as pursuing a particular policy agenda on behalf of Bitcoin companies, we’re not currently doing that.”