The day has come: Banks can’t ignore Bitcoin anymore. Not even the biggest of the big.

First up is Citigroup, the New York City-based global banking giant recently revealed to the International Business Times that it is developing its own version of Bitcoin. Predictably branded ‘Citicoin,’ the virtual currency was coded by Citigroup’s research and design arm, Citi Innovation. Still in the early testing phase, a patent has not been filed for the mainly open-source cryptocurrency, which is based off of Bitcoin and its core blockchain ledger technology, a chronological public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever taken place. This approach will allow for less complicated and less costly cross-border payments and other transactions.

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Citigroup, which has eyed distributed ledger tech over “the last few years,” also admitted to the Times that it has developed three internal blockchains to test its fledgling digital coins on.

While the company’s inaugural foray into virtual currency is promising -- and certainly a pioneering move within the traditional financial services industry -- it’s still a ways away from being the real deal.

“They [Citigroup’s blockchains] are all within the labs just now, so there is no real money passing through these systems yet,” Ken Moore, head of Citi Innovation Labs, told the Times. “They are at a pre-production level, to be clear.”

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So far, the focus of Citigroup’s digital currency system has been on cross-border payments, with trade likely up next, Moore said.

He described Citicoin, as “an equivalent to Bitcoin,” and said it’s “up and running” within company labs in an effort to give Citigroup a head start. “It’s in the labs, but it’s to make sure we are at the leading edge of this technology and that we can exploit the opportunities within it.”

Citigroup has thrown down the virtual gauntlet. Which big bank is up next?

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