Can blockchain technology disrupt the global payments system? Does Bitcoin represent the future of money? And if so, how can we position ourselves to profit from these trends?

These are questions that powerful companies including Mastercard (MA -1.20%) and Square (SQ -4.53%) appear to be asking themselves. Moreover, these financial innovators are taking action to prepare their businesses to compete and win in a crypto-based world. Read on to learn more about some significant steps they're taking in this regard.

A person pointing to a digital map of the world

Mastercard is building a blockchain-based cross-border payments network. Image source: Getty Images.

Mastercard announces a strategic partnership with R3 

Digital payments titan Mastercard is partnering with enterprise blockchain technology company R3 to develop a new cross-border payment system. The blockchain-based solution will connect faster payment infrastructure with banks supported by Mastercard's clearing and settlement network. 

"All institutions -- large or small -- rely on the ability to send and receive payments, but all too often the technology they rely upon is cumbersome and expensive," R3 CEO David Rutter said in a press release.

Mastercard and R3 hope to alleviate these pain points and "deliver a single frictionless real-time payments proposition."

"Developing a new and better cross-border B2B [business-to-business] payments solution by improving worldwide connectivity in the account-to-account space is central to Mastercard's ambition," Mastercard executive Peter Klein said.

Mastercard will process, clear, and settle the international payments conducted on the network. R3, meanwhile, will connect its Corda Enterprise blockchain platform to Mastercard's payment infrastructure. R3 says that "more than 300 of the world's leading financial services firms, technology companies, central banks, regulators, and trade associations" have already joined its Corda ecosystem.

"Corda was designed specifically for enterprise use cases such as this, and we look forward to supporting Mastercard in bringing blockchain-enabled payments to businesses across the globe," Rutter said.

A person standing in a dark cave with an opening shaped like a bitcoin logo

Square sees bitcoin's potential. Image source: Getty Images.

Square strengthens its crypto team

Square wants to help build Bitcoin's ecosystem. To do so, the financial services company created Square Crypto, a small, elite team of crypto developers tasked with completing projects that help to improve Bitcoin's software and strengthen its network.

On Sept. 19, the company announced it had hired three new team members: Valentine Wallace, Jeffrey Czyz, and Arik Sosman. Wallace has worked at Lightning Labs, a blockchain technology company focused on developing scaling solutions for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Czyz previously worked at Google. And Sosman contributed to Facebook's Libra digital currency project. Square said that the hires complete its "inaugural developer team," though it's still looking to hire a senior designer.

Square is excited to put its crack crypto team to work. The company is actively soliciting project ideas from the crypto community. "In the spirit of open-sourcing, we want to hear from you," the company said on Twitter. "There's no project we won't consider, as long as it improves or proliferates Bitcoin."