Regulations Roundup: Industry Leaders Want Clarity, Alliance Capitals Earns FINMA Warning

Regulations Roundup: Industry Leaders Want Clarity, Alliance Capitals Earns FINMA Warning

In recent news pertaining to cryptocurrency regulations, industry leaders have urged U.S. lawmakers to provide regulatory clarity or risk a crypto firm exodus, a Greek representative to the European Parliament has advocated for a lightweight cryptocurrency apparatus to avoid stifling innovation across the distributed ledger technologies industries, and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority has issued a warning regarding purported cryptocurrency company, Alliance Capitals.

Also Read: North Dakota Issues Orders Against Bitconnect, Magma, Pension Rewards

Industry Leaders Warn U.S. Lawmakers to Provide Clarity or Risk Crypto Exodus

Regulations Roundup: Industry Leaders Want Clarity, Alliance Capitals Earns FINMA WarningAt a recent regulatory round-table held at Capitol Hill and hosted by congressman Warren Davidson, a number of cryptocurrency industry leaders warned lawmakers that a continued lack of regulatory clarity could lead to an exodus of firms seeking clear legislative guidelines in other jurisdictions.

Kraken co-founder and CEO Jesse Powell emphasized the disadvantaged position U.S.-based cryptocurrency firms and investors are in as a result of the current regulatory ambiguity, stating “Foreign companies are able to outraise their U.S. competitors and often whoever raises the most money is who wins. Not only are U.S. companies not able to raise enough to compete globally, U.S. investors are not able to invest in these global companies.”

Joyce Lai, a lawyer for Consensys, stated: “The competition around the world is real. But there is still time and opportunity for the U.S. to be a leader here.”

Congressman Davidson echoed the call for regulators to work toward providing clarity as quickly as possible, stating: “Legitimate players in the industry have a desire for some sort of certainty so we can prevent and prosecute fraud. I’m confident we can move forward and make this a flourishing market in the U.S. It’s an imperative for us to do, we did it well with the internet.”

Eva Kaili Advocates Minimal Regulation for DLT Industries

Regulations Roundup: Industry Leaders Want Clarity, Alliance Capitals Earns FINMA WarningEva Kaili, a member of the European Council representing the Greek Panhellenic Socialist Movement, recently argued in favor of light regulation of the distributed ledger (DLT) industries at last week’s Concordia Summit in New York.

Mrs. Kaili insisted that regulations are a barrier to the speed of innovation that the DLT industries are capable of producing, stating: “One thing that we have in the E.U. and the U.K. — we have too many regulations that can at least delay the innovation. In blockchain, we tend to move very fast.”

“If it’s a fraud, it’s a fraud. If it’s not a fraud but it’s not following the rules, we gotta change the rules […] we don’t have an excuse not to explore the opportunities this technology gives us to solve global problems,” she added.

FINMA Issues Public Warning Regarding Alliance Capitals

Switzerland’s financial regulatory body, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), has added Alliance Capitals, a firm purporting to offer a number of cryptocurrency services, to its warning list of “companies and individuals who may be carrying out unauthorized services and are not supervised by FINMA.”

Despite claiming to offer a trading platform, binary options, a venture investment fund focused on initial coin offerings, and a mining investment scheme, the services offered are hosted on third-party websites that prompt malicious content warnings.

Do you think that U.S. regulators will soon act to provide clear legislative guidelines for the cryptocurrency and DLT industries? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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New Stablecoins: From Cryptopound and Metal-Backed Swiss Coin to Mongolian ‘Candy’

New Stablecoins: From Cryptopound and Metal-Backed Swiss Coin to Mongolian ‘Candy’

Following some notable premiers in the genre recently, the next batch of stablecoins is on the way. A British startup is partnering with a bank to launch a GBP-pegged crypto, a Swiss commodities trader wants to mint a coin backed by metals, and a Mongolian telecom has been licensed to issue the country’s first digital currency with the same value as the national fiat.

Also read: European Regulator Renews Restrictions on Crypto-Based Derivatives  

Pound-Pegged Stablecoin on the Horizon in the UK

The last couple weeks saw the arrival of new stablecoins in the crypto space. The US dollar-pegged Tether (USDT) will have to compete against two alternative cryptocurrencies boasting similar features to those that made Tether popular among traders and speculators. Gemini Dollar (GUSD) and Paxos Standard (PAX), both approved by the New York State Department of Financial Services, are ERC20 tokens backed one-to-one with US fiat currency. And both, like Tether, sparked controversy almost immediately with allegations that the authorized issuers, Gemini Trust and Paxos Trust, can freeze accounts and funds if required by the law.

New Stablecoins: From Cryptopound and Metal-Backed Swiss Coin to Mongolian ‘Candy’Several new announcements related to stablecoin projects were made this week. UK-based OTC crypto-trader and exchange operator LBX, London Block Exchange, intends to launch a cryptocurrency pegged to the British pound. The platform revealed yesterday it had reached an agreement with a banking partner to issue the new digital currency called Lbxpeg which will be backed by reserves of British fiat money. The participating financial institution has not been revealed yet. Quoted by Business Insider, LBX CEO Benjamin Dives said, “We would be ready for the first cryptopound to be minted in the next 10 days.” He added that the reserves underpinning the coin will be audited by a leading accountancy firm on a regular basis.

According to details released by LBX itself, their stablecoin will be tied to the value of the pound sterling (GBP) and held in a UK bank account on a 1:1 basis. The exchange noted that Lbxpeg will allow users to transfer the digital equivalent of GBP “quickly, easily and on a global scale.” The company said this will be happening on a decentralized network – initially, the project will be utilizing the Ethereum blockchain to develop, distribute and manage the crypto. “Lbxpeg will be an ERC-621 token – building upon the ERC-20 standard – which will grant the required flexibility in the total supply to match the quantity of GBP held in the segregated bank account. Lbxpeg will also be issued on other blockchains where compliance controls can also be maintained,” the team of the London-headquartered startup explained.

Metal-Backed Crypto to Be Launched in Switzerland

New Stablecoins: From Cryptopound and Metal-Backed Swiss Coin to Mongolian ‘Candy’Asset manager and commodities trader Tiberius Group is creating a digital currency backed by precious metals like gold, platinum, and also tin, copper, nickel, aluminum, and cobalt. According to media reports, the cryptocurrency will be launched on the first day of October by Tiberius Technology Ventures which is based in Switzerland, one of Europe’s leading crypto-friendly jurisdictions. “Instead of underlying the digital currency with only one commodity, we have chosen a mix of technology metals, stability metals and electric vehicle metals,” the chief executive officer of the subsidiary, Giuseppe Rapallo, told Bloomberg. He believes this will make the crypto more stable and attractive for investors.

Rapallo further detailed that Tiberius Coin will be sold at around $0.70 USD under Swiss law and not as an unregulated token issued through an initial coin offering (ICO). He stressed that its supply will depend on the demand and will be limited by the availability of the metals included in the basket of commodities used to back the crypto. The company official added that the coin will be listed on a regulated trading platform, Estonian-based cryptocurrency exchange Latoken. Chief scientist and security officer at Tiberius Technology Ventures is Philip Zimmermann, the creator of PGP, the popular email encryption software.

Mongolian Central Bank Authorizes a Digital Coin

New Stablecoins: From Cryptopound and Metal-Backed Swiss Coin to Mongolian ‘Candy’Mobifinance, a non-bank financial subsidiary of the largest telecom company in Mongolia, Mobicom Corporation, has acquired a certificate to issue the first digital currency under the country’s new fintech regulations. The “Electronic cash” license has been granted by the Bank of Mongolia, which has developed a regulatory framework for the digital space following the adoption of the bill “On the national payment system” earlier this year. The bank’s president, Erenhiylegch Bayartsaikhan, handed the certificate to the general director of Mobicom, Tatsuyaa Hamadad, during an official ceremony.

According to a press release, the new coin is called “Candy” and is already in circulation, offering its users the opportunity to pay bills, shop online, transfer funds, and take micro loans using their mobile phones. Its webpage describes Candy as an alternative payment instrument with the same value as the national fiat, the Tugrik. The electronic money is currently available to Mobicom subscribers but the digital payment system will be offered to other operators and their customers across Mongolia from October 1.

What are your expectations about the future of stablecoins? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Candy.


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Swiss Bankers Association Acts to Prevent Crypto Firm Exodus

Swiss Bankers Association Acts to Prevent Crypto Firm Exodus

The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) has released a set of guidelines intended to bolster the availability of financial services to cryptocurrency companies. They are in response to the stubbornness of many banks to provide financial services to crypto-related businesses.

Also Read: Markets Update: Despite Negative Headlines – Crypto-Prices Continue to Rise

Swiss Bankers Association Publishes Guidelines Intended to Stem Crypto Exodus

Swiss Bankers Association Acts to Prevent Crypto Firm ExodusThe Swiss Bankers Association has published guidelines aimed at financial institutions who are willing to partner to cryptocurrency and DLT businesses.

The guidelines are a response to growing concerns that an unwillingness on the part of many banks to provide financial services to cryptocurrency companies may drive an exodus of crypto start-ups from Switzerland.

Adrian Schatzmann, strategic adviser of the SBA, stated: “We believe that with these guidelines, we’ll be able to establish a basis for discussion between banks and innovative startups, making the dialogue simpler and facilitating the opening of accounts.”

Guidelines Recommend Different Procedures for Crypto Companies Conducting ICOs

Swiss Bankers Association Acts to Prevent Crypto Firm ExodusThe guidelines outline a number of operational recommendations for banks partnering with cryptocurrency firms.

The SBA makes specific recommendations for firms that are conducting initial coin offerings (ICOs), also suggesting separate know-your-customer and anti-money laundering (AML) procedures for firms that raise funds through ICOs in the form fiat currencies and ICOs generating funds in the form of cryptocurrencies.

“This provides more clarity not only to banks, but also to startups,” Oliver Bussmann, head of the Crypto Valley Association said.

Swiss Banks Restrict Services to Crypto Companies Amid ICO AML concerns

Swiss Bankers Association Acts to Prevent Crypto Firm ExodusThe guidelines have been issued in response to increased trepidation among Swiss financial institutions with regard to partnering with crypto firms, with Reuters citing sources as asserting that “banks are worried because some of the companies that carried out ICOs did not do AML checks on their contributors, meaning the banks themselves could fall foul of AML rules.”

With Mr. Bussmann estimating that 530 crypto and DLT companies have established operations in Zurich and Zug, it is imperative for the survival of the local industry that firms are able to access basic financial services.

Deputy chief executive officer of the SBA, August Benz, indicated that while the initial discussion between the SBA and local financial institutions has been positive thus far, it will take time to assess the impact of the new guidelines.

Do you think that the Switzerland will can retain its position as a leading crypto hub despite trepidation on the part of local banks in partnering with virtual currency firms? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Swissbanking.org


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The Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram Alternative

The Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram Alternative

Digital bank Revolut is planning to expand its operations in America and Russia. Also, payment card provider Fuzex signs an agreement with Dash, a US-based startup offers an alternative to Telegram, and crypto firm Smart Valor receives approval as a financial operator in Switzerland.

Also read: Robinhood Aiming for IPO, Dodgers to Give Away Crypto Tokens

Revolut Enters Markets in America, Canada, Russia

The Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram AlternativeUK-based online bank Revolut has some serious plans for expansion this year which include North America and the Russian Federation. Its cofounder and CEO Nikolay Storonsky recently revealed that the waiting list in the US now numbers 60,000 potential customers. Storonsky announced the plans to launch in the United States and Canada during the Techcrunch Disrupt conference noting that his company intends to start issuing its cards no later than December.

Besides the debit card, Revolut offers through its app a checking account and the ability to transfer and spend fiat money globally using an exchange rate excluding forex fees. The service also features a crypto wallet and supports buying, holding and selling cryptocurrencies. The company claims the assets are kept offline, in a cold storage. In August, the digital bank launched a contactless card, Revolut Metal, which comes with higher withdrawal limits and offers cryptocurrency cash back on purchases.

Earlier this summer, this British startup with Russian roots announced its intentions to enter the Russian market, promising to issue multicurrency cards and offer low-cost, bank-free services by the end of 2018. The company plans to use the platform of the Russian payments processor Qiwi and abide by the local law which requires implementing identity verification procedures (KYC). According to media reports, Revolut’s Russian card will support payments and transfers in 130 currencies and worldwide ATM withdrawals.

Fuzex to Add Support for Dash

FuzexThe Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram Alternative, the payment card project which chose bitcoin cash (BCH) as its base currency, has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dash Core Group that will lead to the integration of the coin into its platform. The new Fuzex card supporting dash payments is expected in the fourth quarter of this year. Commenting on the agreement, the chief executive of Fuzex Jae-Hun Bae said:

Our goal is to grow the Fuzex ecosystem by adding various kinds of cryptocurrency, especially those with the most consistent usability as a currency. By partnering with Dash, we are pleased to offer benefits to the users of the Fuzex card and ecosystem.

Fuzex cards will come equipped with a chip, a magnetic strip, and will also feature an e-paper screen that allows holders to check their balances and switch between up to 30 credit, debit, reward and cryptocurrency accounts. The platform supports a mobile application as well, which allows users to move funds between various accounts.

American Startup Offers Telegram Analogue

The Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram AlternativeA US-based company has presented a new messaging service that offers an alternative to the popular app Telegram. The new messenger is called Stealthy and it was announced during the Disrupt SF 2018 conference in San Francisco. It’s based on the blockchain platform Blockstack. Its users are offered the opportunity to choose the cloud hosting service they want to use to store their encoded messages which are decrypted by the software installed on their devices.

According to its developers, besides allowing encrypted communication, the product can also serve as a platform for decentralized apps. The free application is already available for iOS and Android users. A paid version of the messenger will be offered in the future. It’s worth noting that the Stealthy logo, depicting a white paper plane on a light blue background, strongly resembles that of Telegram.

Crypto Firm Smart Valor Approved as Financial Operator in Switzerland

The Daily: Revolut to Launch in North America, US Startup Presents Telegram AlternativeSmart Valor, a Switzerland-based crypto and blockchain startup, has received approval from the country’s regulators to operate in the Swiss financial market, Reuters reported. The decision will allow the company to launch its own online platform supporting investments in tokenized digital assets by the end of this year. The firm also intends to apply for a banking license in early 2019 as part of plans to expand its offerings to include securities investments.

The approval of Smart Valor as a financial intermediary means the group will be supervised for compliance with Switzerland’s anti-money laundering (AML) rules and regulations. However, it will not be directly supervised by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) but by the Financial Services Standards Association (VQF), a self-regulatory organization approved by the watchdog to deal with AML compliance. Smart Valor is already a member of the association.

What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits? Tell us in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Revolut, Stealthy.


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Swissquote Reports 44% Increase in Profit After Adding Crypto Services

Swissquote Reports 44% Increase in Profit After Adding Crypto Services

Swiss online banking group, Swissquote, has benefited greatly from the addition of cryptocurrency investing to the set of services it offers, reporting a significant increase in its H1 2018 profits. The news comes while Switzerland is debating over how to keep crypto businesses in the country when the majority of Swiss banks refuse to provide services to the growing crypto sector.

Also read: Check Which Coins You Can Spend With Debit Cards and Why Upcoming Fuzex Chooses BCH

Swissquote Posts Profit of 25.7 Million Francs in H1 2018

While many traditional financial institutions in Switzerland are still shying away from dealing in cryptocurrencies and working with crypto companies, those who have ventured into the space are already harvesting the fruits of their decisions. Swiss online banking firm, Swissquote, has reported soaring profits attributed largely to the offering of investing opportunities related to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and a steep rise in both the number of customers and the volume of trading.

Swissquote Group posted a profit of 25.7 million CHF (~$26.1million USD) from the first half of this year, which represents an increase of 44 percent over the same period of the previous year, the local outlet Finews reported, quoting an announcement released by the company on Tuesday. The profit margin exceeds the predictions of financial experts by about 2.5 million CHF (~$2.52 million). They expected a profit of 23.2 million Swiss francs.

Swissquote Reports 44% Increase in Profit After Adding Crypto Services

At the same time, the number of customer accounts in the commercial sector has increased by 16,278. The same trend is valid for the activity of the clients, too. According to the report, Swissquote clients have made an average of 11.8 transactions in the first half of 2018, compared to only one transaction during the same period of 2017.

The cited data shows that client assets have increased by about 20 percent to 25.5 billion CHF (~$25.2 billion) as of mid-2018. Net new money inflows were also up – by 60 percent over the previous year, at 2.4 billion CHF (~$2.42 billion). Swissquote also said it expects both income and profit for the whole year to increase by about 15 percent. The company has benefited from the high demand for crypto products earlier this year which is not expected in H2, despite the recent market gains.

Swiss Financial Institutions Slowly Opening Up to Crypto

Swissquote has been hailed by many in the crypto industry as the first European online bank to launch and offer bitcoin services to its clients. Last summer, it partnered with Bitstamp to add bitcoin core (BTC) to its online trading platform in pairs against both EUR and USD. In December, Swissquote added bitcoin cash (BCH), ethereum (ETH), litecoin (LTC), and ripple (XRP).

Swissquote is not the only financial company from the Alpine nation to take advantage of the great potential for growth in the crypto space. In July, last year, Switzerland-based private bank Falcon announced its decision to offer bitcoin asset management and other crypto-related products to its clients through a partnership with Bitcoin Suisse AG.

Swissquote Reports 44% Increase in Profit After Adding Crypto ServicesThis past July, Switzerland’s main stock exchange, SIX Swiss Exchange, said it is building a platform for trading, settlement, and custody of digital assets. And in June, one of the country’s oldest legacy banks, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, announced it is accepting crypto businesses as account holders. Two other banks, Neuchâtel Cantonal Bank and Neue Helvetische Bank, are also working with blockchain and crypto firms.

Nevertheless, the number of legacy financial institutions in Switzerland which have so far declared readiness to offer services to the hundreds of startups in the Swiss Crypto Valley remains limited. The restricted access the traditional financial system has been recognized as a major threat for Switzerland’s leadership in the European crypto space where destinations like Malta and Gibraltar are also competing for attention.

Zug-based companies are complaining about the inaccessibility of local banking services and many of them have been opening accounts in neighboring Liechtenstein, for example, where banks like Frick and Alpinum are working with Swiss startups. Authorities in Switzerland are now considering ways to grant crypto businesses access to banking services in the country.

Do you think more Swiss financial institutions will soon enter the crypto space? Share your expectations in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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FINMA Launches Proceedings Against $100 Million ICO Envion AG

FINMA Launches Proceedings Against $100 Million ICO Envion AG

Switzerland’s financial regulator, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), has announced that it has launched proceedings against initial coin offering (ICO) issuer, Envion AG.

Also Read: Bolivar ‘Anchored’ to the Petro to Be Issued in August, Maduro Says

FINMA Launches Proceeding Against $100 Million ICO

FINMA Launches Proceedings Against $100 Million ICO Envion AGA press release published by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority has revealed that the regulator has initiated enforcement proceedings against Envion AG.

Finma states that it has “evidence that the company may have breached financial market law in relation to an ICO.” The press release states that the proceedings will focus “in particular on possible breaches of banking law resulting from the potentially unauthorized acceptance of public deposits in connection with the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for the EVN token.”

“Investigations carried out by FINMA to date indicate that, in the context of its ICO, Envion AG accepted funds amounting to approximately one hundred million francs [approximately $100.6 million USD] from more than 30,000 investors in return for issuing EVN tokens in a bond-like form,” the release continues.

Envion Makes Headlines for the Second Time This Year

FINMA Launches Proceedings Against $100 Million ICO Envion AGEnvion AG’s whitepaper opens with a legal disclaimer stating that “Neither the Swiss FINMA nor the United States Securities and Exchange Commission nor any other foreign regulatory authority has approved an investment in the tokens.”

The disclaimer adds that “The EVN token can be categorized as a security as it entitles token holders to receive the profits from mining operations. The token is, as such, subject to certain restrictions under US security laws. The Envion ICO is compliant with these rules and restricts access for US-citizens, greencard holders and residents of the US to the category of “accredited investors”, pursuant to the US Security Act Regulation D Rule 506 (4).”

In May, The New York Times published an article claiming that Envion was “melting down, with its creators accusing one another of fraud” following the apparent loss of control over the company on the part of its founders.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority added that it “will make no further comment on the proceedings until they are concluded.”

What are your thoughts on FINMA’s decision to launch proceedings against Envion? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, finma.ch


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FINMA Seeks to Stem Exodus of Swiss Cryptocurrency Firms

FINMA Seeks to Stem Exodus of Swiss Cryptocurrency Firms

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has met with representatives of the country’s banking sector in the hopes of stemming a nascent exodus among cryptocurrency companies from Switzerland. The companies’ departures have been attributed to two Swiss banks’ decisions to no longer provide financial services to businesses dealing with virtual currencies.

Also Read: India Exchange Unocoin Suspends Withdrawals Following Central Bank Demands

FINMA Acts to Prevent Crypto Exodus

FINMA Seeks to Stem Exodus of Swiss Cryptocurrency FirmsSwitzerland’s financial regulators are taking steps intended to stem the perceived exodus of cryptocurrency companies from the nation, recently holding discussions with the Swiss National Bank and bankers’ association on how to increase the accessibility of financial services to cryptocurrency ventures.

As it stands, many analysts have predicted that many companies operating with virtual currencies will continue to leave Switzerland in favor of jurisdictions whose financial institutions are more amenable to crypto companies, including Liechtenstein, Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands.

Officials Seek to Preserve Swiss Crypto Industry

Despite cryptocurrency-related activities comprising a small portion of Switzerland’s financial industries, Swiss officials are viewing the country’s virtual currency as a valuable asset that should be preserved.

The finance director of Zug – a Swiss canton has been dubbed “Crypto Valley” following the establishment of between 200 and 300 virtual currency companies in the jurisdiction during recent years – Heinz Taennler, has warned that the crypto exodus may continue should the government fail to take action to guarantee the provision of financial services firms operating with virtual currencies.

“All their banking relationships are going to Liechtenstein,” Mr. Taennler stated. “There are hundreds of jobs that have been created, and every job is important.”

Virtual Currency Firms Appeal to Central Bank

According to Thomas Moser, an alternate member of the governing board of the Swiss National Bank, several cryptocurrency companies appealed to the country’s central bank regarding concerns pertaining to the provision of financial services to the sector.

Mr. Moser stated that “They raised concerns about problems with opening bank accounts, which was a worry for them, and asked for help. I said this was not something the [Swiss National Bank] dealt with, but they should speak with FINMA.”

“We would not want to close the door on the opportunities that such innovation (cryptocurrencies) might bring,” Moser added.

Do you think that Swiss crypto firms will continue to seek alternative jurisdictions? Join the discussion in the comments section below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock


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Switzerland’s Main Stock Exchange Dives Deep Into Crypto

Switzerland’s Main Stock Exchange Dives Deep Into Crypto

Switzerland’s principal stock exchange has announced that it is building a platform for the trading, settlement, and custody of digital assets. This announcement follows reports of government officials working on giving crypto businesses access to banking services.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

SIX Launching Digital Exchange

SIX, the operator of Switzerland’s principal stock exchange, SIX Swiss Exchange, announced Friday that it “is building a fully integrated trading, settlement and custody infrastructure for digital assets.”

Switzerland’s Main Stock Exchange Dives Deep Into Crypto

The SIX exchange is fully regulated by Swiss Authorities, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) and the Swiss National Bank, as a Financial Market Infrastructure operator. The company plans for its new platform, called Swiss Digital Exchange (SDX), to “enjoy the same standard of oversight and regulation.”

Citing that SDX will bridge “the gap between traditional financial services and digital communities,” the company claims:

SIX Digital Exchange will be the first market infrastructure in the world to offer a fully integrated end to end trading, settlement and custody service for digital assets. The service will provide a safe environment for issuing and trading digital assets, and enable the tokenization of existing securities and non-bankable assets to make previously untradeable assets tradeable.

SIX CEO Jos Dijsselhof commented, “this is the beginning of a new era for capital markets infrastructures. For us it is abundantly clear that much of what is going on in the digital space is here to stay and will define the future of our industry.”

Switzerland’s Main Stock Exchange Dives Deep Into Crypto

Will the Platform Trade Bitcoin Directly?

While the official announcement by SIX does not mention whether the platform will support the direct trading of cryptocurrencies, a few publications indicated that it will trade bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Business Insider wrote, “SIX’s new platform, set to launch in the first half of next year, will offer end-to-end trading, settlement, and custody service for digital assets such as bitcoin and ICO [Initial Coin Offering] tokens.” The Financial Times wrote, “The platform being built by the Six exchange is designed to be used for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and will be based mainly on Blockchain distributed ledger technology.”

However, SIX clarified in a tweet:

First we will enable the tokenization of bankable assets like stocks or bonds and, potentially, at a later stage non-bankable assets. Whether we will also make cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or existing ‘ICO tokens’ available, is still open.

Meanwhile, SIX has been maintaining Crypto Market Index 10. Its objective “is to reliably measure the performance of the largest and most liquid crypto assets and tokens and provide an investable benchmark for this asset class,” its website describes. “The prices for the crypto assets and tokens are obtained from multiple exchanges.”

Switzerland Wants to Become Crypto Nation

Switzerland’s Main Stock Exchange Dives Deep Into CryptoRecently, news.Bitcoin.com reported on government officials and bankers working on giving crypto businesses access to banking services since Swiss banks have reportedly been refusing accounts to crypto firms.

The country’s economic minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, said earlier this year that his country wants to become the “crypto nation.” So far, the canton of Zug, promoting itself as the heart of “crypto valley”, has been attracting crypto startups with favorable tax and regulatory environment.

In February, Finma published guidelines for ICOs after seeing a sharp increase in the number tokens planned or executed in the country and a corresponding increase in the number of inquiries about the applicability of regulation.

What do you think of SIX launching a digital exchange? Do you think they will start trading bitcoin soon? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, and the SIX Group.


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The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts Off US Investors, Analysis Confirms – ICOs Spike

The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts off US Investors, Analysis Confirms - ICOs Spike

Some potential investors find the process of acquiring cryptocurrencies rather complicated, according to a new survey conducted among US residents. Despite that finding, and other obstacles, another study confirms the recently reported increase in capital raised through coin offerings this year. Also in today’s Bitcoin in Brief, the Swiss city of Zug concludes successfully its experimental vote on blockchain.  

Also read: Coinbase Custody Opens, Hitbtc Hits Back at McAfee, BTCC Relaunches

Purchasing Process Deemed a Hurdle for New Crypto Investors

The complicated process of purchasing cryptocurrencies is the biggest obstacle for new investors entering the crypto space, according to a recently released study. The authors polled 1,000 US residents to profile crypto holders and better understand how they are using their digital coins. The poll also attempted to gauge the cultural perceptions surrounding cryptocurrency ownership.

According to the compiled data, almost 40 percent of millennials have confirmed owning cryptocurrency, 48 percent of males and 26 percent among females. At the same time, 24 percent of polled Generation X Americans and 15 percent of Baby Boomers also admitted owning bitcoin or any of its alternatives.

The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts off US Investors, Analysis Confirms - ICOs Spike

The survey, conducted by Creditcoin, made other interesting findings regarding a possible connection between cryptocurrencies and personal relationships. Three-quarters of the questioned stated they would be more likely to date someone who is knowledgeable about cryptocurrency. Many of them, however, remain reserved about dating someone who is obsessed with cryptos. The majority said they would date a divorced person rather than someone who keeps all their savings in cryptocurrency.

Nevertheless, over half of the respondents believe they would have about 10 percent of their savings in cryptocurrency in the next decade. When asked what they would do if given $10,000, almost 40 percent said they would buy cryptocurrency than invest in a down payment on a house, 33 percent, or a car – 28 percent.

Investors Still Bullish on ICOs, Despite Issues

Despite regulatory pressures and other issues like bad publicity due to fraudulent or unsuccessful projects, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have raised $11.8 billion through May 2018, according to a new analysis released by The Wall Street Journal. The estimate covers nearly 900 token sales listed on ICObench.com. The authors point out that this year’s total is more than double the amount collected by coin offerings for the whole 2017, ~$5.5 billion.

The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts off US Investors, Analysis Confirms - ICOs SpikeThe researchers claim that the problems around ICOs have not deterred big tech-oriented investors. Some of the notable token sales this year include the coin offering conducted by the company operating the popular messaging service Telegram, which raised $1.7 billion USD,

and that of Block.one, which attracted an estimated $4 billion for its EOS network in June.

The study found that the number of ICOs has increased as well, with around 490 token sales raising an average of $24 million in the first five months of 2018, compared to $14 million collected on average by 300 startups in the last five months of 2017.

According to another report, authored by the Swiss Crypto Valley Association (CVA) and PwC’s consulting division, Strategy&, the capital raised through ICOs has reached $13.7 billion USD in the first five months of this year. Both studies conclude that the US remains a major destination for initial coin offerings, while countries like Switzerland are catching up.

Zug Concludes ‘Successful’ Test Blockchain Vote

Authorities in the city of Zug, home of the Swiss Crypto Valley, announced that the country’s first experimental municipal blockchain-based vote has been conducted successfully. The trial started on June 25 and was completed on July 2. Voters were able to participate via an app they had to download and install on their mobile devices. The small scale consultative vote also utilized the city’s eID system introduced in November.

The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts off US Investors, Analysis Confirms - ICOs SpikeThe residents of Zug were asked if they were in favor of setting alight fireworks during the annual Lakeside Festival, and whether they thought digital IDs should be used to borrow books, pay parking fees, and for identification on regular referendums. The city has been issuing its residents with digital identity documents since the winter, and is currently examining various possible applications for the blockchain technology.

What sets the Zug referendum apart is that the voting did not take place via a single central server, but was distributed using blockchain across many computers, Swissinfo reports. “The premiere was a success”, Dieter Müller, Head of Communications for the city, told the Swiss News Agency. He added that the technical details of the test will be evaluated over the coming months to estimate the level of protection of privacy and voting secrecy. Authorities will also focus on ensuring that voting results are verifiable and immutable.

Israeli Startup Launches Vegancoin

While establishing a chain of vegan restaurants in the US, American entrepreneur Isaac Thomas and his Israeli partners, Nati Giat, Shenor Shapira, and Yossi Raybi, realized that the millions of vegans and vegetarians around the world need more than that. Their Tel Aviv based company, Vegannation, is now building a global vegan-friendly decentralized community platform.

The Daily: Complicated Crypto Purchasing Puts off US Investors, Analysis Confirms - ICOs Spike

The idea behind the project is to create an ecosystem where vegans can find food products, other vegan commerce and share content like recipes, news and blogs in one place, The Jerusalem Post reports. The platform will have its own crypto, Vegancoin, and joining members will be provided with a Vegannation digital wallet. According to the entrepreneurs, all affiliated businesses are “vegan and cruelty-free.”

“We are moving toward a world where people can see everything and can be responsible for the way they consume. So bringing cryptocurrency to the vegan community brings it full circle,” said Vegannation CEO and co-founder Isaac Thomas. In his words, veganism, cryptocurrency and blockchain go hand in hand toward a world of transparency and awareness.

What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits in Bitcoin in Brief? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Report: 2018 Token Sales Almost Double Last Year’s Results

Report: 2018 Token Sales Almost Double Last Year’s Results

Initial Coin Offerings in the first half of 2018 have attracted nearly double the amount of funds raised last year, a new report reveals. Researchers point out, however, that the majority of ICOs have largely failed, with only a third of the projects closed successfully. According to the study, the US remains the major destination for coin offerings while Switzerland has established itself as a European ‘standard bearer’ in regulation.  

Also read: Why 70% of ICO Tokens Are Not Exchange Listed and Probably Never Will Be

$13.7 Billion Raised in Coin Offerings This Year

Report: 2018 Token Sales Almost Double Last Year’s ResultsThe capital raised through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) has reached $13.7 billion USD in the first five months of this year, twice the total for the whole of 2017. The data comes from a newly released report authored by the Swiss Crypto Valley Association (CVA) and Strategy&, the consulting division of one of its members, PwC. The study aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the global ICO activity and explore key changes in the space since last year.

The numbers in the second edition of the quarterly Global ICO Report are in sharp contrast with this year’s bearish trend that has taken over crypto markets. According to Daniel Diemers, Head of Blockchain EMEA at PwC Strategy&, the report “highlights the continued growth and popularity of ICOs globally in 2018, with over 537 ICOs conducted in the first five months of this year, raising a combined total of $13.7 billion USD – more than all ICOs which took place before 2018 combined.” According to data quoted by Reuters, around $7.0 billion have been raised by token sales last year. Daniel Diemers also said:

After all the hype of 2017, this year has seen the ICO sector becoming more mature and established, with an improved focus on best business and legal practice, investor relations and fundraising. Hybrid models of combined Venture Capital and ICO financing are increasingly bringing together the best of what both have to offer, so that the soundness of a business is validated while it realizes its market potential by receiving crowd support.

However, the paper also notes that the majority of crowdfunding projects have failed to achieve their goals. Only about 30 percent of the 3,470 ICOs announced since 2013, the report details, have closed successfully, while many have been delayed or lost momentum during the token sale process.

America a Major ICO Destination, Switzerland a Leader in Regulation

Report: 2018 Token Sales Almost Double Last Year’s ResultsAccording to the research, the US remains a major destination for Initial Coin Offerings. In the first five months of the year, 56 US-registered token sales have raised a total of $1.1 billion USD. The authors believe this is due to the clear and firm regulatory requirements put in place there and the growing number of crowdfunding projects that choose to register with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They also point to an increase in the number of coin offerings conducted in the United Kingdom as well as the volume of capital raised there. According to the provided statistics, 48 UK-registered ICO projects have attracted more than $500 million in 2018.

Another conclusion is that Switzerland has affirmed itself as a leading hub for ICO and blockchain business in Europe and remains attractive to crypto entrepreneurs, while smaller jurisdictions like Liechtenstein, Gibraltar and Malta are following in its footsteps. “Switzerland is the standard bearer in terms of establishing a regulatory environment for the digital economy. The Crypto Valley in Switzerland offers a unique environment that embraces blockchain technologies and the potential of ICOs while always embodying Swiss values, such as privacy protection and confidentiality,” said Oliver Bussmann, President of the Crypto Valley Association.

ICO Destinations and Trends

The findings confirm some previous observations and detect new trends regarding Initial Coin Offerings. According to an earlier report, covering 370 ICOs, US-based crowdfunding projects have raised $1.03 billion – so no surprise there. The study placed China (including Hong Kong) second with $452 million, followed by Russia with $310 million USD. What’s surprising is the development of the ICO market in the UK, where financial authorities and regulators have generally demonstrated lukewarm attitude towards cryptocurrencies and the crypto space.

Report: 2018 Token Sales Almost Double Last Year’s ResultsSwitzerland, whose crypto-friendly jurisdiction has attracted a number of crypto and blockchain businesses, is trying hard to catch up with the leading ICO destinations. Representatives of the country’s crypto community have joined a multinational effort to challenge the ban on crypto-related advertisements imposed by the largest IT corporations. The restrictions introduced by companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, hit hard crowdfunding projects and are likely to be targeted soon in a class action lawsuit.

At the same time, the achievements of far less conspicuous European countries have made the headlines of ICO-related articles and publications. Lithuania is a good example – the tiny Baltic state has reportedly attracted around 10 percent of all coin offerings last year. An estimated €500 million has been raised through ICOs and blockchain projects over the last 12 months. Authorities in Vilnius have recently issued comprehensive regulatory guidelines for initial coin offerings. According to a recent report by Politico, the country’s economy is expected to grow by more than 3 percent this year and the digital cash flow is part of the reasons.

Do you expect the ICO sector to grow, despite the continuing downward trend on crypto markets? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and Digital IDs

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The city of Zug, home of the Swiss Crypto Valley, will invite its residents to take part in an experimental blockchain-based vote. They are expected to share opinions on several questions of local importance, including the fireworks display during the annual Lakeside Festival and the use of digital IDs to borrow books and pay parking fees. This and other fintech and crypto-related stories from the Alpine nation and other corners of Europe are featured in today’s edition of Bitcoin in Brief.   

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Tuesday: POT Saves World, Coinbase Pumps ETC, Binance Wants EUR

Zug Experiments with Blockchain-Based Vote

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAuthorities in the Swiss city of Zug plan to ask local residents to participate in a consultative blockchain-based vote this month utilizing the city’s electronic ID system. They will be able to vote via their smartphones by downloading and installing an app. The experimental vote will be held between June 25 and July 1. Citizens will be asked if they are in favor of setting alight fireworks during the annual Lakeside Festival, and whether they think digital IDs should be used to borrow books from the library, pay parking fees, and for identification on regular referendums.

According to Swissinfo, the results of the vote will be non-binding. Nevertheless, the initiative, which aims to test whether blockchain can be used on a broader scale, highlights again the positive attitude of Swiss authorities towards cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology. The canton of Zug, dubbed Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, has become home to many fintech startups and even established crypto companies like the Chinese giant Bitmain, which has opened an office there.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsFor some time now, Zug has been accepting cryptocurrency payments for municipal services, including company registrations using bitcoin and ether. The city introduced its eID system to provide citizens with digital access to council services. The pilot phase of the project started last fall. The system is based on blockchain technology.

New Swiss Body to Simplify Capital Markets

In another example of Switzerland’s serious approach to fintech innovations, leading representatives of the country’s financial, technological, academic and legal sectors have recently formed the new Capital Markets and Technology Association (CMTA) to facilitate the use of blockchain in financial markets. In a press release, they noted that “the blockchain technology has the potential to reduce the complexity of the capital markets system and lower the barrier of entry for startups.”

According to CMTA’s founders, the lack of legal certainty is slowing and can potentially compromise development in the field. They hope to facilitate access to funding for new businesses by defining a set of industry-supported open standards. These should ultimately contribute to value creation throughout the economy said Jacques Iffland, CMTA’s chair and partner at Lenz & Staehelin, the largest Swiss law firm.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

Swissquote Bank Ltd, a leader in online banking, and Temenos, which specializes in banking software, are also behind the initiative. CMTA promises to work to create toolkits that can be used by new or established companies, businesses and startups to access funding and raise capital securely and efficiently, using new technologies and leveraging digitalization. The association is based in Geneva.

Irish Blockchain Startup Delivering Aid to Refugees Raises €1m

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAn Irish startup, using blockchain to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, has raised an estimated €1 million from investors, according to industry sources quoted by The Irish Times. The Dublin-based Aid:tech is working in refugee camps, often in hotspots like the Middle East. On Wednesday, Enterprise Ireland and SGInnovate, the venture capital arm of the Singaporean development authority, announced simultaneous investments in the Irish company. This is the first time both state-backed organizations have allocated funds to support a blockchain business, the Irish daily notes. Amsterdam-based Blue Parasol Investments and Tin Fu Fund, a closed private equity fund managed by Shenzhen Capital Group, also took part in the funding round.

Aid:tech aims to increase transparency in the distribution of aid, welfare, remittances, donations, and healthcare services through digitizing their delivery using blockchain technology on its platform. According to the company, only a fraction of the estimated €306 billion (~$360 billion) transferred each year by non-governmental aid organizations is currently delivered via transparent systems which, the startup claims, are extremely expensive to administer. The blockchain technology employed by the Irish firm would allow all international aid to be accounted for, including the distribution of medicine, food and other essentials, the publication details.

Government-Backed Platform to Promote Ireland as a Blockchain Hub

In an attempt to highlight Ireland’s capabilities in the blockchain ecosystem, authorities in Dublin have launched a new government-backed platform. Blockchain Ireland, founded in partnership with a young company called Consensys, aims to create conditions for greater cooperation between startups working in the sector, both on national and international level. The platform was launched by the Irish Blockchain Expert Group and backed by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Department of Finance, leading members of the country’s blockchain industry and representatives from a number of academic institutions.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The online platform is a source of useful information about the Irish blockchain ecosystem. It will be used to promote the country as a blockchain hub by highlighting the Irish technology sector and business environment which turn Ireland into an ideal location for blockchain-enabled business, Silicon Republic reports. The services it will be offering include providing information on setting up a new company and support for blockchain projects in Ireland. Its activities, however, will stretch beyond Irish borders. Blockchain Ireland will be working to develop the European and international blockchain ecosystem as well.

What are your thoughts on today’s topics in Bitcoin in Brief? Let us know in the comments below.


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The Daily: Swiss Vote on “Sovereign Money”, Russian Banker Against Crypto Ban

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

Swiss voters will decide this Sunday whether to turn back on fractional-reserve banking and support a “sovereign money” concept for the nation’s finances. Proponents of the initiative prescribe deeper centralization to remedy the shortcomings of the traditional financial system – a vision quite different from the decentralization that came with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, following the 2008 global financial crisis. In today’s Bitcoin in Brief, we also cover a statement by a prominent Russian banker who warns that tight crypto regulations would hamper the development of blockchain technologies.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Friday: Bitpanda Offers New Coins, Microsoft Dips Data Center in the Sea

Switzerland Decides Fate of Fractional-Reserve Banking

Decentralization vs deeper centralization – the two alternative visions on how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis have been competing for attention and support in the past decade. The first strategy has been at the core of the crypto revolution. It is the remedy prescribed by both the growing global bitcoin community and the supporters of the small government/low taxes concept, like the followers of the Tea Party movement in the U.S. The proponents of the second approach have advocated granting more power and even greater responsibility to centralized financial authorities.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

On Sunday, June 10, Swiss voters will be asked to support “Vollgeld,” a radical reform aimed at further centralizing financial authority in the hands of the country’s central bank. On the “sovereign money” referendum, the Alpine nation will decide whether to ditch the fractional-reserve banking system, which allows banks to create money by lending far more than what they hold in deposits, Quartz reports. The proposal is to give the Swiss National Bank a monopoly over this function, while commercial banks will be required to lend only what they have.

The initiative would centralize money creation at the central bank, but also concentrate there the corresponding profits and the decisions on who should or shouldn’t receive loans. Its opponents claim that the referendum is a populist response to the previous financial crisis and warn that if it succeeds, that will lead to a new crisis and even spark Brexit-like panic in the country’s huge banking sector. This, however, is an unlikely result. The predominant expectations are that Swiss citizens will vote for more of the same, until the next crisis.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

In recent years, Switzerland has become a crypto-friendly jurisdiction, where many crypto businesses are headquartered or represented. The Chinese mining giant Bitmain opened a branch there, and one of Russia’s largest banks, Gazprombank, announced plans to test cryptocurrency deals in the Alpine confederation. The country has established a crypto valley in the canton of Zug and has been formally considering the possibility to issue a state-backed cryptocurrency.

Banker Warns, Tighter Crypto Regulations Will Hurt Blockchain Development

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban
German Gref (right)

A ban on cryptocurrencies on state level would endanger the development of blockchain technologies and prevent the disclosure of the full potential of digital currencies, according to German Gref, a prominent banker and former minister of economy and trade of the Russian Federation. Although he admits he does not use cryptocurrencies, Gref notes that he considers them a source of financing for the blockchain development. In April, he said the technology was still “unripe and overvalued.”

German Gref is the president of Sberbank, which is the largest bank in Russia and among the biggest in Europe. Earlier this year, reports suggested that Russia’s “savings bank” was planning to circumvent local regulations and offer clients overseas crypto-trading services.

Gref also shared his opinion that the majority of countries do not recognize cryptocurrency because of its decentralization. “No state will part with the monopoly on money issuance. Most governments believe that cryptocurrency is a property and, like any other property, must be taxable,” he said, quoted by Kommersant, a leading Russian business daily. The banker also cautioned that investing in digital assets is associated with high risks.

New Telegram Trading Bots Announced

The Intelligent Trading Foundation (ITF), a developer of an artificial intelligence-powered crypto trading assistant, has announced two new trading bots for Telegram. They will provide users with important trading signals and notifications about market opportunities.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban The Intelligent Trading Bot, which comes with both free and premium subscriptions, sends users trading signals and suggest strategies based on technical analysis signals such as Simple Moving Average, Relative Strength Index and Ichimoku Cloud Breakout. The data covers hundreds of cryptocurrencies, offering traders valuable insight.

The other free option displays brief information about a specific cryptocurrency on request from the members of a Telegram Group that has enabled the service. The Intelligent Trading Infobot can be added to any group in the messenger, and will offer current price and trading volume data, as well as the latest trading alerts for hundreds of coins and pairs on three crypto exchanges.

What are your thoughts on today’s Bitcoin in Brief topics? Tells in the comments section below.


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Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly

A well-known bank in Belarus will begin offering a bitcoin contract for difference (CFD) product through its platform, a joint project with a Swiss bank. Meanwhile, Belarus is growing less crypto friendly, reportedly amending its decree to impose strict KYC rules.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

New Bitcoin CFD Product

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto FriendlyMtbankfx is an accredited FX dealer and the first banking forex platform in Belarus. Launched in July 2016, it is a joint project between Minsk Transit Bank (Mtbank), one of the most well-known banks in Belarus, and Swiss Dukascopy Bank SA.

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto FriendlyThe platform will start offering a bitcoin CFD product next week, according to local media. It has already added information and updated its terms of service to reflect this new offering.

Mtbankfx explains in its terms of service that its tools, including the BTC/USD tool with 1:3 leverage, are “available for transactions around the clock – from the opening of the market on Sundays at 21:00 GMT in the summer (22:00 GMT in the winter) until the market closes on Fridays at 20:00 GMT in summer/winter time.” For the bitcoin CFD specifically, the company wrote:

All open positions as of 20:00 GMT Fridays will be forcibly closed.

While the platform offers CFDs for many underlying assets, the bitcoin CFD is the only one that will be forcibly closed.

On March 29, Switzerland’s Dukascopy Bank SA launched its own BTC/USD CFD product for European clients. “Bitcoin to US Dollar (BTC/USD) with leverage 1:3 has been added for live trading,” the company stated.

Belarus Becoming Less Crypto Friendly

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly
Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko signed the decree “On the development of the digital economy” in January that legalized cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, and smart contracts. The decree went into effect in March.

However, local media reported this week that amendments to that decree are already being prepared to obligate cryptocurrency exchanges operating within the High-Tech Park (HTP) to disclose their data and identify customers.

Ria Novosti’s source explained that “beneficiaries must meet the requirements for reputation” such as having no criminal record and no bankruptcy proceedings against them, in whole or part. “They should [also] show the availability of funds in accounts of at least $5 million and confirm the sources of their origin.” Additionally, Forklog elaborated:

Operators are required to identify the clients of the exchanges, as well as record and store all types of communications with them. In certain cases, exchange-residents of the HTP will be required to conduct customer verification procedures.

The news outlet added, “information about customers and their transactions should be stored at crypto exchanges for at least five years.”

Do you think Belarus will become even less crypto friendly? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away

Ever since ICO mania exploded in early 2017, Switzerland has served as Europe’s de facto crowdsale launchpad. Financial authorities have welcomed crypto startups, and the likes of Tezos, Mysterium, and Arcblock have all heeded that call. Guidelines laid out by Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) in February were meant to add clarity for ICOs. Instead, they’ve had the opposite effect.

Also read: Switzerland Enacts ICO Guidelines

FINMA Guidelines Are Causing Concern

In February, news.Bitcoin.com reported how FINMA had published guidelines with the intention of “creating clarity for market participants”. Among the risks addressed by the 11-page document was the concern that money could be laundered through crowdsales. Under section 3.7 (Compliance with AMLA), the document states:

Anti-money laundering regulation gives rise to a range of due diligence requirements including the requirement to establish the identity of the beneficial owner and the obligation either to affiliate to a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) or to be subject directly to FINMA supervision. These requirements can be fulfilled by having the funds accepted via a financial intermediary who is already subject to the AMLA in Switzerland and who exercises on behalf of the organiser the corresponding due diligence requirements.

In plain English, this means that ICOs must use a Swiss company to perform KYC on all ICO participants, which is where the problems have started. With only a handful of companies in a position to perform such checks, these entities effectively hold a monopoly. The average cost for a KYC check ranges from between $0.6 to $2 within the ICO space – but Switzerland is an exception. Accredited bodies are charging up to $25 per check, leaving projects that have already made the decision to host their crowdsale in Switzerland in an awkward position.

Grain Counts the Cost of Following FINMA

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs AwayGrain is an infrastructure solution seeking to host work agreements and contracts on the blockchain. In February, it announced that it would be postponing its ICO for a month to accord to the new guidelines FINMA has introduced, writing: “Although there is no ICO specific regulation or consistent legal doctrine, we’ve decided to “better be safe than sorry”. We want Grain to be a sustainable, long-term success story and avoid potential compliance issues that might disturb that trajectory.”

One consequence of electing to follow FINMA’s guidelines to the letter was that Grain had to raise its minimum crowdsale contribution, which had been set at 0.1 ETH, in order to cover the increased costs of Swiss KYC. Anywhere else in the world, a typical crowdsale can conduct KYC on all participants for around $30,000. In Switzerland, companies such as ICO Engine charge 5% of all ethereum raised, which means they stand to pocket $200,000 or more simply for administering basic verification.

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away
Dorado’s KYC comprises nothing more than a checkbox

Because FINMA’s guidelines aren’t legally binding, there is an alternative option – disregard them altogether and don’t conduct any sort of due diligence. This is a strategy that’s fraught with risk, but which some projects have chosen to follow. While the likes of Grain has chosen to do things by the book, other Swiss-based ICOs such as Dorado have skipped KYC altogether. Investors need only a Facebook or Gmail ID to login and contribute funds in fiat or crypto. Dorado’s sole means of ensuring that investors aren’t from the U.S., for example, is a checkbox. So long as FINMA’s guidelines remain unbinding and unamended, they risk driving ethical ICOs away and allowing the more gung-ho projects to proliferate.

Do you think ICOs should simply ignore FINMA’s guidelines, or is their best option to avoid Switzerland altogether? Let us know in the comments section below.


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“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker Says

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker Says

Private digital currencies are better than any state-issued version, admitted a high-ranking representative of the Swiss National Bank. Cryptocurrencies are also less risky, according to Andrea Maechler, member of the central bank’s governing board. Her comments indicate that Switzerland has no intentions to emit a state-sponsored crypto.  

Also read: Centralized Cryptoruble Not Possible, Minister Tells Putin

Digital Central Bank Money Brings Risks

“Private-sector digital currencies” are better and less risky than any version that might be offered by a central bank, the representative of the Swiss National Bank’s management thinks. “Digital central bank money for the general public is not necessary to ensure an efficient system for cashless retail payments”, Andrea Maechler said during an event in Zurich. She went on to explain why a crypto issued by a central bank could increase the risk of bank runs.

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker SaysA government-backed cryptocurrency would make it easier for people to transfer money out of their accounts, if they felt a bank was in difficulties. “It would deliver scarcely any advantages, but would give rise to incalculable risks with regard to financial stability,” Maechler said, quoted by Reuters. In her option, a state-issued cryptocurrency would be calling into question the „tried and tested two-tier system” in which the SNB acts as a bank to commercial banks, which in turn deal with end customers.

Not all of Mrs. Maechler’s remarks were positive about cryptos. She thinks “cryptocurrencies are not true competitors to conventional currencies”, despite the soaring interest in bitcoin. The hype has outweighed their actual use, the banker says. SNB’s representative also pointed out that money must be a viable medium of exchange, a stable unit of account and a long-term store of value – functions that, in her words, cryptos don’t perform. Digital coins are also highly volatile, and a speculative investment instrument rather than a means of payment, she added.

However, neither the unexpected recognition of cryptos, nor the usual talking points against them, are what makes Andrea Maechler’s speech important. What deserves attention is the indication that the central bank and the government of Switzerland have no immediate plans, or even desire, to launch a state-sponsored cryptocurrency.

Cryptos Have What Swiss Banks Used to Offer

With an “e-franc” project, Bern could join a club of governments tempted to control at least one “crypto”. The leader in this competition, Venezuela, became the first country with a state-issued digital coin. The ”oil-backed” petro comes to partially replace the hyperinflated fiat bolivar. Russia has been mulling over a cryptoruble but the idea has been put on the backburner for now. Its central bank thinks it is “not appropriate”, and the finance ministry informed Putin a centralized crypto is not even possible. Sweden has been thinking about an “e-krona”, and Poland is reportedly developing an “e-złoty”.

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker SaysSwitzerland, however, has never been eager to join clubs of any kind, it takes pride in its independence. Swiss banking practices have been a good example of that for many years, before pressures from tax authorities, both American and European, increased. The attitude towards cryptocurrencies may become another proof of Switzerland’s independence.

The Alpine confederation is already regarded as a crypto-friendly jurisdiction, where many crypto businesses are headquartered or represented. It has become one of the first countries to establish a crypto valley, in the Canton of Zug. The Chinese mining giant Bitmain opened a branch there, and one of Russia’s largest banks, Gazprombank, announced plans to test cryptocurrency deals in Switzerland.

Decentralized, unregulated cryptocurrencies offer what the country provided to Swiss bank account holders for a very long time – security and anonymity. Sometimes it looks as if Switzerland is wondering whether it can do it again in a crypto environment.

Do you think Switzerland will continue to embrace cryptocurrencies? Share your expectations in the comments section below.


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Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Gazprombank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, is planning to perform some cryptocurrency deals by the end of the year. According to one of its top managers, the bank is responding to demand from “substantial clients”. The pilot transactions will be conducted through its subsidiary in Switzerland.

Also read: New Bill Aims to Allow Crypto Payments in Russia

Working on Procedures, Looking into Options

The state-owned Gazprombank may try to conduct some cryptocurrency transactions on behalf of its customers as early as this year, Russian media reported. They will be channeled through its Swiss-based subsidiary, Deputy CEO Alexander Sobol told Interfax news agency.

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland“These will be pilot deals, not on a large scale. Some substantial private clients have asked for this kind of services,” Sobol explained. The bank is currently looking into different options to meet that demand. Gazprom’s subsidiary in Switzerland is studying the opportunities there. The alpine country has implemented more liberal regulations, he noted.

According to the high-ranking representative, the Russian bank has not yet developed crypto-related procedures. No decision has been taken to offer the new services to regular customers. However, Alexander Sobol stressed that the bank’s management is actively following [crypto] developments.

Gazprombank is the third-largest bank in the Russian Federation. It offers retail, corporate, investment and depositary services, as well as clearing and settlement products. It also deals with securities and forex instruments. Gazprombank owns shares in three other Russian banks and is operating in Belarus and Switzerland through subsidiaries.

Breaching AML Rules in Switzerland

About a month ago the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) banned Gazprombank (Switzerland) from attracting new private customers. The regulator found deficiencies in its anti-money laundering procedures. The agency inspected more than 30 banks within an investigation which began in 2016 after the Panama Papers revelations. FINMA said that the bank had breached its own AML requirements between 2006 and 2016.

The Swiss subsidiary was founded as Russische Kommerzial Bank AG in 1992. It was renamed after its acquisition by Gazprombank in 2009. The bank specializes in financial operations related to the bilateral trade between Russia and Switzerland. It also provides services to Swiss companies investing in the Russian Federation and the CIS countries.

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Cryptocurrency deals are not yet regulated in the Russian Federation. However, two draft laws aimed to change the status quo have been introduced in the State Duma this month. The bill  “On Digital Financial Assets” is going to legalize blockchain technologies, mining operations and initial coin offerings. The other draft is supposed to amend Russia’s Civil Code in order to regulate the use of “digital money” and protect the investors. The bills should be adopted in June or July.

Earlier in March, a working group proposed tax exemptions on profits from crypto-related transactions after a meeting at the Ministry of Economic Development in Moscow. It gathered representatives of several government institutions and the private sector. Gazprombank also took part in the consultations.

Do you expect more Russian banks to enter the crypto sector after its legalization? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ Zug

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ Zug

Cryptocurrency foundations, community organizations, and entrepreneurs have helped put the lightly populated Swiss canton of Zug on the business world’s map. While the local administration has created one of the most welcoming environments for the industry, some voices fear possible negative repercussions such as bad press and an American regulatory backlash.

Also Read: Survey Says 8% of the American Population Now Own Cryptocurrency

Lamborghini Robin Hoods

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ ZugA new report from Zug, Switzerland by the Financial Times showcases that despite the success ‘Crypto Valley’ has had in attracting businesses, there are still those that fear it might bring unwanted attention as well. A Swiss finance specialist commented: “I’m just waiting for Washington to call Bern and ask ‘what are you doing down there in Zug?’.” Another local insider said: “They say they are different to banks, that they are Robin Hoods — but we have Robin Hoods driving around in Lamborghinis.”

Besides flashy displays of wealth, critics also echo other familiar complaints. “My big worry is that the whole intransparency will lower Zug’s standing worldwide,” said Andreas Hürlimann, a local Green party councillor. “You don’t know from where to where the money is flowing, whether it is drug money for instance.” He also added that the council accepting bitcoin payments was “clearly a marketing gag”.

For their part, the entrepreneurs appear to be pleased with the region’s politicians and  regulations. The only issue they raised in the FT report was reluctant cooperation by the local banks, something that they can bypass by turning to other places such as Liechtenstein.

Black Sheep

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ ZugThe main concern that rises from the report is that some ICO could mess up in a way that will bring foreign pressure to harshen the local legal framework for all others. “Switzerland remains under pressure to follow a ‘clean money’ strategy. It was hard work to get Switzerland off the blacklists — and there is of course no appetite for it to be back on them,” explained Jan Seffinga, blockchain expert at Deloitte.

“These ICOs require blind trust in the founders. You can’t do much if the raised funds are misappropriated,” commented Luzius Meisser, founder of the Bitcoin Association Switzerland. Heinz Tännler, Zug canton’s finance director, said: “The risk is when you have ‘black sheep’. We have our eyes open. But there is never an opportunity without risks.”

Still others seem to be overwhelmed by the fast development of ‘Crypto Valley’. Dolfi Müller, Zug town council president, said: “We play the background music . . . We don’t have great plans — we don’t want to be a ‘smart city’ like Dubai. It’s step by step. It’s Asterix against Rome.”

Should the people of Zug be grateful for ICOs bringing business to their community or cautious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National Cryptocurrency

The chairman of Switzerland’s stock exchange, Romeo Lacher, has spoken in favor of developing a Swiss national cryptocurrency. Mr. Lacher suggested that the proposed “e-franc” would provide a boost to the Swiss economy, in addition to comprising a payment system offering benefits over traditional systems.

Also Read: Chinese Entrepreneur Warns Against Mining and ICO Bans 

Swiss Stock Exchange Head Advocates Development of “E-Franc”

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyRobert Lacher, the head of Switzerland’s stock exchange, has spoken in favor of the development of a Swiss national cryptocurrency backed by the country’s central bank.

Mr. Lacher stated his belief that “there would be a lot of upsides” to developing a state-administered cryptocurrency, adding that the stock exchange “would be strongly supportive” of any initiative in favor of such.

“An e-franc under the control of the central bank would create a lot of synergies — so it would be good for the economy,” Mr. Lacher said, adding “I don’t like cash.”

Swiss Central Bank Sees “No Need” for National Cryptocurrency

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyThe chairman described the hypothetical development of a national cryptocurrency as an excellent opportunity for Switzerland to extend its position as a leader in virtual currency innovation and adoption.

In response to Mr. Lacher’s comments, the Swiss National Bank issued a statement asserting that the bank sees “no need” to develop a national cryptocurrency, adding that existing cashless and cash-based payment systems are working smoothly.

Despite Mr. Lacher’s enthusiasm for a state-administered cryptocurrency, the chairman reasserted that the stock exchange and its owners, SIX Group, will not allow trading in cryptocurrency tokens. “We have actually no plans to admit trading of cryptocurrencies or ICOs. But we see a lot of advantages for blockchain across our businesses,” he said.

Switzerland Positions Itself as International Leader in Distributed Ledger Technology

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyMr. Lacher also spoke in favor of the Swiss government’s policies designed to position the nation as a global leader in distributed ledger technology, however, acknowledged the risks associated with being a pioneering adopter of a disruptive phenomenon.

“I think the strategic direction is good, but it’s like going into fog,” Mr. Lacher said. “You don’t know what you will see on the other side. Many mistakes will be made, but we will also learn a lot and I am sure, we will be successful.”

Last month, The Swiss Economics Minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, said that Switzerland should strive to “become the crypto-nation” whilst speaking at the Crypto Finance Conference in St. Moritz. During the conference, Mr. Schneider-Ammann described virtual currencies as comprising “part of the fourth industrial revolution,” but added that “It is too early” to determine if cryptocurrencies require regulatory oversight.

Are you for or against national cryptocurrencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto

Russia’s largest bank, the state-controlled Sberbank, has reiterated that it is not mining cryptocurrencies. However, the bank says that it has often caught its employees crypto mining using the bank’s equipment.

Also read: Japan’s DMM Bitcoin Exchange Opens for Business With 7 Cryptocurrencies

Sberbank Claims It’s Not Mining Crypto

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For CryptoThe state-controlled Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia and the third largest in Europe. The bank is in possession of a large quantity of graphics cards that can be used for cryptocurrency mining. The bank’s senior vice president, Alexander Vedyakhin, apologized publicly in November of last year for causing a shortage of these cards in the Russian market, as news.Bitcoin.com previously reported.

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto
Herman Gref.

Since admitting to scooping up most of the graphics cards on the domestic market, Sberbank has maintained that it is not mining cryptocurrencies with them. Instead, Vedyakhin claimed these cards are for the bank’s “laboratory for the development of artificial intelligence,” Tass quoted him.

On Wednesday, Chairman of the bank’s Board, Herman Gref, reiterated at the “Leaders of Russia” forum that Sberbank is not mining cryptocurrencies on a corporate level. However, the publication quoted him proclaiming:

We bought [graphics] cards of a slightly different configuration. Sberbank is not engaged in mining, but we often catch employees who are engaged in mining on the bank’s equipment.

Gref elaborated that he believes the bank is not interested in mining because it is a “primitive business,” adding that “I can tell you a dozen other investment objects with higher yields,” RBC detailed.

Sberbank’s Engagement with Cryptocurrencies

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For CryptoAt the end of January, Sberbank announced that its subsidiary in Switzerland will start offering cryptocurrency trading. This Swiss part of the plan is to “avoid violating domestic rules,” Reuters explained. Meanwhile, Russian regulators are working on finalizing the legal framework for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In addition, the bank opened a blockchain laboratory last month for researching the latest technology in this area. “The laboratory will cooperate with start-ups, associations and various communities,” RBC conveyed, adding that the bank will introduce “educational programs in this area.”

Gref also recently stated that he “opposes the ban on cryptocurrency and calls for tolerance and patience in their regulation,” Tass described and quoted him saying:

Before trying to regulate, you do not need to rush, but you do need to maintain a normal background around the technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Do you think Sberbank is mining cryptocurrencies? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurrencies Overseas

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies Overseas

The largest bank in Russia, the state-owned Sberbank, has reportedly announced its plans to bypass the Russian cryptocurrency regulations and offer crypto trading to customers overseas. The bank is looking at trading pairs of the most liquid and well-known cryptocurrencies.

Also read: Japan’s DMM Bitcoin Exchange Opens for Business With 7 Cryptocurrencies

Bypassing Russian Regulations

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies OverseasAt a news briefing on Tuesday, Sberbank’s Head of Global Markets Andrey Shemetov said that the bank “plans to start trading cryptocurrencies outside Russia in order to avoid violating domestic rules,” Reuters reported. Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia and third largest in Europe. It is majority-owned by the Russian government.

According to Shemetov, “Russian laws bar Sberbank from trading cryptocurrencies.” However, “the state-controlled bank wants to be able to serve clients in what is a popular market for some investors,” the news outlet explained. “That’s why we think that we need to have a strategic access to these products,” he told reporters. Tass then quoted him emphasizing:

In Russia, we cannot trade [cryptocurrency], but we want to satisfy the interests of clients, and we believe that we must have access to a wide range of products.

The Russian finance ministry recently published the draft law on the regulation of digital assets in Russia including cryptocurrencies. This bill is expected to enter into force in September.

The Swiss Operation

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies OverseasSberbank’s solution for crypto trading is its branch in Switzerland called Sberbank (Switzerland) AG, headquartered in Zurich. Shemetov revealed that the bank’s Swiss subsidiary is creating “an infrastructure for trading in cryptocurrencies,” Tass reported. He clarified, “We completely build the trading infrastructure so that we can open our own positions and give customers service, that is, buy and sell for clients,” reiterating:

Swiss laws allow cryptocurrency trading, and we are working on infrastructure to start offering these services through our Swiss subsidiary.

Initially, “The product will be available only to legal entities,” Ria Novosti detailed. Shemetov noted, “The product is very risky, the volatility is very high, so we will not provide these services to a large number of customers,” adding:

We are looking at all of the cryptocurrency pairs that are the most liquid, [and] their names are known. We will see what’s interesting to the clients, where is some liquidity…Obviously, we will not go into a low-liquidity crypto.

In November of last year, Sberbank bought up a lot of graphics cards that can be used for cryptocurrency mining, causing a shortage of these products on the Russian market. The bank said at the time that these cards were for its “laboratory of artificial intelligence.”

The president and chairman of the board of Sberbank, Herman Gref, said earlier this month at the annual Gaidar forum, as reported by local media, “Cryptocurrencies cannot be banned, it’s a wonderful new technology which has not yet been fully captured and studied.”

What do you think of Sberbank offering cryptocurrency trading outside of Russia? Let us know in the comments section below.


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