The road to recovery for crypto may be long. And making meaningful headway may require more than a few instances of taking one step back in order to take two steps forward.
Case in point is the latest hurdle faced by BlackRock as the company seeks to launch a spot bitcoin ETF. On Monday, we learned that the Nasdaq refiled the ETF application with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the regulator highlighted a number of concerns with regard to the original petition. Among the chief concerns was the fact that the Nasdaq did not indicate which crypto trading platforms would participate in “surveillance-sharing” to help combat fraud in the underlying bitcoin markets.
BlackRock was not the only asset manager to hit this regulatory snag en route to the launch of its bitcoin ETF. The SEC also criticized filings from the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) with regards to a handful of bitcoin ETF petitions from the likes of Fidelity, WisdomTree, VanEck, and a joint project from Invesco and Galaxy – based on similar grounds.
The beneficiary of this hiccup, ironically, appears to be Coinbase, the SEC’s crypto bête noire. In response to the regulator’s concerns, both the Nasdaq and the CBOE indicated in their refilings that they would rely on Coinbase to serve as their “surveillance-sharing” partner. This move both answers one of the primary regulatory concerns vis-a-vis bitcoin ETFs and puts the cryptocurrency innovator back at the center of crypto’s comeback – all this despite the SEC’s antagonistic attitude toward the fintech it filed a lawsuit against in June.
Revolut announced this week that its customers in the U.S. will no longer be able to trade three tokens – Solana (SOL), Cardano (ADA), and Polygon (MATIC). The decision stems from the SEC’s categorization of the three tokens as unregistered securities and the subsequent move by Revolut’s provider, digital asset platform Bakkt, to delist the assets. The delisting will be effective as of September 18th.
Revolut is not the only platform to announced an end to the availability of these tokens for U.S. crypto traders and investors. Both Robinhood and eToro also have either delisted or restricted access to SOL, ADA, and MATIC for U.S. customers. In the case of eToro, tokens such as Algorand (ALGO), Decentraland (MANA), Filecoin (FIL), and Sandbox (SAND) have also been made off-limits for U.S. customers.
Holders of SOL, ADA, and/or MATIC outside the jurisdiction of the SEC will continue to have access to the tokens.
Speaking of “outside the jurisdiction of the SEC,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced a new set of guidelines designed to help cryptocurrency companies separate customer crypto assets from their own. The new rules insist that digital asset companies that are licensed in Singapore separate customer crypto assets from their own, as well as maintain a separate set of blockchain addresses for customer assets. Companies in the digital payment token business additionally will be required to do daily reconciliation of customers’ digital assets, and maintain accurate records of those assets, as well as access and operational control of customer’s DPTs in Singapore.
The move comes as regulators have become increasingly concerned that cryptocurrency firms have not done enough to “ring-fence” customer crypto assets and keep them segregated from company assets. This problem can be especially acute in the event that a cryptocurrency firm becomes insolvent, making it harder to recover customer funds. The new regulations require cryptocurrency firms to hold customer crypto in trust – though the relative lack of independent, third-party custodians has forced the MAS to offer crypto firms some leniency when it comes to relying on independent custodians at this time. To this end, firms are only required to ensure that crypto custody functions are independent from the firms’ other business operations and divisions.
The new regulations are expected to come online later this year.
A study from Juniper Research from earlier this year indicated that the value of all payment transactions made via stablecoins will top $187 billion by 2028. This represents nearly a 3x gain from 2023 levels. The report, titled CBDCs & Stablecoins: Key Opportunities, Regional Analysis & Market Forecasts 2023-2030, notes the growing use of stablecoins in cross-border transactions, the benefits in terms of speed and traceability that stablecoins offer relative to existing, cross-border rails, and the nature of the competition between stablecoins and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that derive their value from a given fiat currency or commodity. CBDCs are actual digital currencies issued by central banks.
What will it take for stablecoins to reach the transaction levels suggested in the Juniper Research study? Report author Nick Maynard underscored the role of payment platforms and money transfer operators in supporting broader adoption of these digital assets.
“Stablecoins have vast potential to unlock the flow of money across borders, but payment platforms need to roll out acceptance strategies for this to progress,” Maynard observed. “MTOs (Money Transfer Operators) can leverage stablecoins in a wholesale manner, but this will need networks to be built across wide geographic footprints.”
Our last 5 Tales from the Crypto column looked at reasons why the so-called “crypto winter” could see a thaw sooner than many observers think. In a recent column, fintech thought leader and author Chris Skinner shared his thoughts on the resurgent mainstream interest in digital assets.
“Something has changed,” Skinner wrote this week at The Finanser, “and maybe the biggest change is that treasury managers want to use cryptocurrencies. If the customer wants it, then the big banks have to service it and there’s the rub. The big banks have stirred and incorporated digital assets, and specifically cryptocurrencies, into their remit.”
Skinner cited an article at Decrypt.co – Wall Street is coming for crypto, whether early believers like it or not – as well as a June report from S&P Global Ratings titled How DeFi’s Operational Risks Could Influence Credit Quality, that have contributed to his thinking on the topic of late.
“You know that cryptocurrencies are going mainstream when Standard and Poor’s (S&P) start to rate them,” Skinner noted. “They don’t do that today, but they are moving that way.”
Check out the full conversation – as well as the Decrypt.co article and S&P Global Ratings report.