To be sure, digital currency markets have had their ups and downs. A recent study by Gallup shows that only 2 percent of investors are currently purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but one in four is intrigued. With major banks betting on the space, however, that math may be about to change.

Whether or not your company accepts cryptocurrency as a payment method, it would do well to pay attention to the surprising ways the business world is already using digital currency:

1. Investing in customer loyalty.

Loyalty programs have long struggled to find the right incentive structure. According to the 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census, more than half of loyalty memberships in the U.S. are inactive. The report says approximately 30 percent of surveyed U.S. and Canadian consumers have left loyalty programs without ever redeeming a point or a mile.

Could cryptocurrencies reignite customer loyalty? Cryptocurrency gives customers want they want — cash — without the security and logistics challenges of doling out cash.

In Zurich, for example, Caffe Lattesso encourages purchasers to redeem codes found on its bottles for loyalty rewards in the form of digital coins, which can be exchanged within a few months for other digital tokens or traditional currency. EZ Rent-A-Car is following suit with a program that allows customers to exchange their loyalty points for digital coins.

2. Banking on accessory technologies.

Rather than re-invigorate their existing customer base, other entrepreneurs could look at building a new one around the cryptocurrency market. Investors may start focusing less on initial coin offerings and more on building the technological ecosystem around cryptocurrencies.

Demand is growing quickly for digital currency point-of-sale systems, for example. Although most of the demand is currently in South Korea, at least one company plans to distribute some 100,000 point-of-sale machines by 2021. Vendors that accept cryptocurrencies will also need accounting and reporting software to support the payment method.

3. Making change with ease.

But cryptocurrencies are good for more than spending money; they’re also great for giving back. Eric Tippetts, co-founder of NASGO pointed out at the United Nations’ Media for Social Change Summit, cryptocurrency’s digital nature makes set-it-and-forget-it philanthropy possible.

“Instead of voicing a commitment to philanthropy, the blockchain makes it possible to program giving into the operation itself,” Tippetts explained in a Cheddar interview. NASGO’s financial systems, he noted, direct every seventeenth revenue cycle into an account for humanitarian contributions.

Creatives, too, are using cryptocurrency to spread their message.

In the Cheddar interview, Tippetts and Jaafar Jackson, son of Jermaine Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson, discussed plans to tokenize upcoming musical releases as a way to raise awareness, gather contributions and donate part of their earnings to humanitarian causes. Ashton Kutcher, in fact, recently donated $4 million in XRP tokens, a digital currency introduced by fintech startup Ripple, to the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund during his appearance on DeGeneres’s show.

Far from the fad its detractors thought it would be, digital currency is become a staple of the business world sooner than anyone expected. If it can soup up tired loyalty programs, open new opportunities in software and streamline charitable giving, then what’s next? Entrepreneurs can’t buy an answer to that question — but they can build it.

*This post is credited to Entrepreneur

A number of the crypto industry’s biggest firms have been included in this year’s CB Insights Fintech 250 list. Compiled annually, the list ranks 250 of the most promising businesses in the Fintech space ranging from capital markets to insurance to wealth management and digital banking.

Drawn from a global pool of almost 4,000 applicants and nominees, inclusion on the list is based on a number of factors including data submitted by the firms, market viability and business models.  The company’s Mosaic Score, a holistic algorithm developed by CB Insights that measures the overall health and growth potential of private companies.

“Insurgent Startups”

Referencing the increasing importance of crypto startups within the space, this year’s announcement speaks of the transformation of the financial services space by “insurgent startups”, which is borne out by the number of new companies on this year’s list.

In total, there are 113 new companies on this year’s list. Coins.ph, BitPesa, Revolut, Robinhood, Xapo, Ripple labs, Coinbase and BitFlyer are among the most noticeable blockchain and cryptocurrency firms that feature prominently on the list following a year of continued, and in some cases record-breaking growth in spite of a general and sustained crypto market downturn.

In January, CCN reported that Philippine bitcoin wallet app Coins.ph achieved a milestone of 5 million customers, in the process becoming one of Asia’s hottest financial companies making serious headway into the $400 billion overseas remittance market with crypto.

Data from CB Insights show that the 2018 Fintech 250 raised nearly $53 billion in funding in the past five years. Listed among the 30 unicorns, companies that have reached a valuation of $1 billion are United States based Robinhood valued at $5.6 and Coinbase at $1.6. Robinhood is also featured as 2018 top most well-funded Retail Investing & Secondary Markets company.

In total, no fewer than 15 blockchain and cryptocurrency-related companies are represented on the list including bitPesa, Ripple Labs, Polychain Capital, Digital Asset Holdings, Coinbase, Chain, Brave Software, bitFlyer, Factom, Juzhen Financials and Blockstream among others.

The report reveals that among them, the fintech 250 companies have raised $31.85B from 373 deals in one year. Ribbit Capital is tagged top venture capital investor company on the 2018 Fintech 250 list; it invested in Robinhood, Wealthfront, Gusto, Coinbase, Cross River Bank, and Upgrade. The current year’s list has recorded more equity investments and venture funding than that of the preceding year- 2017 with  Ant Financial raising an unequaled  $14B.in the second quarter of 2018. The Top Acquisition for the year is PayPal’s takeover of iZettle in the second quarter for $2.2 billion, double the amount the company sought to raise with an IPO.

*This post is credited to CCN

Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, has recently stated he believes blockchain technology has “huge potential,” and that embracing the technology is essential for the organization’s goals.

His words came during the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Banks’ Annual Meetings in Bali, and were filmed by CNBC. They came as he mentioned the World Bank’s mission is to end poverty and boost prosperity.

Kim noted there are innovations in the world that can “help us leapfrog generations of bad practice,” and that it could take “forever in terms of reducing corruption.” He added:

We talked about cryptocurrencies but we think distributed ledger [technology] has huge potential and we issued the first blockchain bond in August, where we created, allocated, transferred and managed the entire bond through blockchain technology.

Adding to this, Kim said using blockchain technology not only helped reduce the amount of paperwork the World Bank had to deal with after launching the world’s first blockchain bond, but also helped it reduce costs.

Distributed ledger technology, he added, can be extremely helpful in the future. In his words, the World Bank Group hasn’t been keeping up with the latest developments and is not “doing it in a way that would help our clients take advantages of the great things that are coming out.”

Kim added that universal access to financial services by 2020 is one of the World Bank’s goals, after restating the organization thinks there’s “huge potential” in this type of technology and, presumably, fintech in general.

Things in the tech space, he said, are moving incredibly quickly. Since the organization deals with countries that don’t have tech centers like Silicon Valley, he noted it’s “absolutely” the organization’s responsibility to keep up with these new technologies.

As CryptoGlobe reported various organizations have been looking into the crypto and fintech space and its potential impact on the global financial scene. The Financial Stability Board (FSB), an “international body that monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system,” published a report arguing the growing popularity of cryptoasset could affect financial stability.

In its World Economic Outlook: Challenges to Steady Growth report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mentioned that cryptoassets could create “new vulnerabilities” in the global financial system.

*This post is credited to CryptoGlobe

While China continues to eye cryptocurrencies with a healthy dose of suspicion, acceptance, and popularity in the rest of Asia is on the increase. In fact, a Hong Kong-based firm is hope’s its investment will help pave the way for a cryptocurrency bank.

According to a recent report, the firm in question has bought a stake in a cryptocurrency company, a start-up with a goal to become a licensed and authorized cryptocurrency investment bank.

The platform, which is based in the crypto hub of Zug in Switzerland is, however, still awaiting approval from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to trade as a banking and securities dealer.

This approval will allow the start-up to extend to Asia and assist blockchain-based platforms to gain access to traditional banking systems. The spokesperson for the investment capital firm explained their support of the start-up by saying that the firm believes it can support the cryptocurrency start-up’s plan to expand into Asia, a region where cryptocurrency trading and blockchain projects have been flourishing.

This support could extend to the start-up’s ICO, which is scheduled for some time in the third quarter of next year, where the investment firm could make a contribution.

While the capital firm manages over HK$7.83 billion ($1 billion) and has interests in FinTech and logistics, this is the company’s first foray into blockchain.

Both the investing firm’s investment amount, as well as the contribution of the U.S.-based asset management firm, have not been disclosed.

The start-up’s CEO stated that the bank’s first focus will be on transaction banking. It was explained that it has been tough for blockchain start-ups to grow their businesses as they are unable to access the traditional banking system.

The start-up, thus, is building infrastructure to allow companies to pay salaries in cryptocurrencies, and bridging the disconnect between fiat and cryptocurrency payment.

Another reporting agency previously reported that a few surveys show that there is indeed an interest in people having parts or even all of their salaries paid in virtual currency.

The company’s CEO also added that the start-up should receive the required regulatory approval in the first half of next year.

They will also eventually offer digital asset custody services to their institutional clients. In addition, the crypto bank will offer liquidity services to exchanges.

This growth in services will extend to staff numbers as the platform plans to double its number of employees by the beginning of next year.

As reported earlier, Hong Kong has been named the eighth-best city for tech enterprises, like the aforementioned start-up.

It was found that, with a score of 59%,  while Hong Kong is not typically viewed as an innovation hub for tech occupiers, it is becoming more appealing for several reasons which include connectivity with Shenzhen and South China, recent expansion in Hong Kong by big tech firms such as the world’s largest social media platform and one of China’s largest multinational conglomerates, which specialises in e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology.

Moreover, tech occupiers are attracted to the accelerating investment in fintech in the city.

Moreover, the city is working to facilitate the introduction of virtual banking as another model of service delivery, with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority stating that it welcomes the establishment of virtual banks in Hong Kong, in early September 2018.

The development of virtual banks, according to the HKMA, will promote the application of financial technology [Fintech] and innovation in Hong Kong and offer a new kind of customer experience. In addition, virtual banks can help promote financial inclusion as they normally target the retail segment, including the small and medium-sized enterprises.

If Hong Kong keeps up this pace of manifestation (of the goals/objectives in the Smart City Blueprint), it will move up the ranks of the report.

*This post is credited to OpenGovAsia

Southeast Asia’s financial services industry is rapidly evolving as a result of disruption from new-age fintech companies and the rapid adoption of fintech solutions.

The rise of fintech in the region has been fueled by Southeast Asia’s expanding economies, young-urban-digitally-savvy populations and rising mobile and Internet penetration. Since the past years, several homegrown fintech players have risen to notable size and gained international traction.

The followings are 15 fintech startups founders in Southeast Asia to know:

Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO at ADDO AI  (Singapore)

Ayesha Khanna is the co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI, an AI advisory firm and incubator. She has been a strategic advisor on AI, smart cities and fintech to clients such as SMRT, Singapore’s largest public transport company; Singtel, Singapore’s largest telco; SOMPO, Japan’s largest insurance firm; Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest bank; and Smart Dubai, the government agency tasked to transform Dubai into a leading smart city. She is also the Founder of 21C GIRLS, a charity that delivers free coding and artificial intelligence classes to girls in Singapore. In 2018, Khanna was named one of Southeast Asia’s groundbreaking female entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine.

Mikko Perez Founder & CEO at Ayannah (Philippines)

Mikko leads growth-stage fintech startup Ayannah, which caters mostly to OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) by offering digital remittances, payments and business solutions through its own platforms: Sendah, Sendah Direct, and Sendah Remit. He has a successful track record investing in and operating innovative technology, new media, and telecom-related ventures.

Some of his previous positions were director of finance and business development at Chikka, investment manager at Next Century Partners, as well as investment banker at JP Morgan Chase (Hambrecht & Quist) in San Francisco where he advised technology, media, and telecom ventures. Mikko serves on the board of several companies and foundations.

Leo Shimada, Co-Founder and CEO at Crowdo (Singapore)

Leo Shimada is the co-founder and CEO of Crowdo, a regional fintech startup running an artificial intelligence (AI) driven online marketplace for debt (P2B lending) and equity (crowdfunding). Crowdo is present and registered with the OJK in Indonesia, licensed by MAS in Singapore, and registered with the SCM in Malaysia. Shimada is a capital market service license representative with MAS and a responsible person (RP) registered with the SCM. He is a recognized thought leader and pioneer within the fintech space and a prolific speaker on how fintech is changing the financing landscape in emerging Asia and impacting conventional finance, businesses and investors. Prior to Crowdo, Shimada worked at McKinsey & Company for close to 9 years, followed by a senior strategy role with a multinational company.

Tanmai Sharma, Founder and CEO at Canopy Pte Ltd (Singapore)

Tanmai Sharma is the founder and CEO of Canopy Pte Ltd, an anonymous account aggregation and analytics platform for financial institutions, wealth management professionals, and high net worth individuals. Formerly known as Mesitis Pte Ltd., Canopy is based in Singapore with additional offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The startup struck a partnership with Credit Suisse in 2017.

Kelvin Teo, Co-Founder of Funding Societies and Modalku (Singapore)

Kelvin Teo is the co-founder of Funding Societies and Modalku, leading peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms for SMEs in Singapore and Indonesia respectively. The platforms offer loans to SMEs in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, crowdfunded by individual and institutional investors globally. Prior to Funding Societies, Teo served as a consulting professional at KKR Capstone, McKinsey and Accenture. Teo comes from Harvard Business School and National University of Singapore. He is a certified chartered accountant and serves on the advisory committee of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

Aldi Haryopratomo, CEO at GO-PAY (Indonesia)

Aldi Haryopratomo is the CEO of GO-PAY Group. He joined GO-JEK with a vision to accelerate the adoption of financial services for the unbanked and underbanked, particularly in rural areas where financial services are yet widely available. Haryopratomo is also the founder of MAPAN, an Indonesian lending network recently acquired by GO-JEK Group along with two other local fintech startups.

Siew Yuen Tuck , Co-Founder and Executive Director at Jirnexu (Malaysia)

Yuen Tuck is the founder and CEO of Jirnexu, but on the consumers-side, they are known to run the comparison platform RinggitPlus, KreditGoGo. These platforms allow consumers find and compare various financial and consumer products like credit cards, mortgages, fixed deposit, internet , and insurance policies.

They also provide content around finances. Behind the scenes though, Jirnexu’s business lies in helping banks to digitise and simplify their application process, via the XpressApply software.  Jirnexu is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur with operations in five other countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Prior to starting Jirnexu, Yuen Tuck spent his working years in London as an analyst for Citi, and Axia/Kynkos.

Loi Luu, CEO and Co-Founder at KyberNetwork (Vietnam/Singapore)

Loi Luu is the co-founder and CEO of Kyber network, an on-chain liquidity protocol that powers decentralized applications, including exchanges, funds, lending protocols, payments wallets and so on. Luu is also researcher working on cryptocurrencies, smart contract security and distributed consensus algorithms. His research focuses on several problems of cryptocurrencies from improving security to enhancing scalability and usability of public cryptocurrencies. He holds a PhD in computer science from National University of Singapore, where he worked on blockchain securities.

Richard Koh, Founder and CEO at M-Daq (Singapore)

Richard Koh is the CEO and founder of M-Daq, a company that operates a platform that prices and trades exchange-traded products in a multitude of currencies by blending ‘executable’ foreign exchange (FX) rates into equities and futures products. It provides static or dynamic lock-in FX rates to price foreign goods in local currencies, serving merchants against FX risk. Koh has over 30 years of industry experience in Infocomm, Treasury (Forex) and eCommerce covering the Asia Pacific markets.

Nguyen Ba Diep, Executive Vice Chairman at MoMo (Vietnam)

Nguyen Ba Diep is the executive vice chairman of MoMo, a leading mobile payment company in Vietnam. MoMo offers customer a different way to make payment for both online (MoMo mobile e-wallet) and offline (MoMo Agent). MoMo is one of Vietnam’s most successful fintech platforms and is backed by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered.

Jun Hasegawa Founder at Omise (Thailand)

Jun Hasegawa founded Omise in early 2013 along with his co-founder Ezra Don Harinsut. Omise is among of Thai’s most known fintech success stories. To date they’ve raised up to US$ 50 Million from investors like East Ventures, Ascend Group and Golden Gate Ventures.

Currently Omise is operating out of 4 countries namely; Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. In recent times the company has seen over 1000% transaction growth.

Val Ji-hsuan Yap, Founder and CEO at PolicyPal  (Singapore)

Val Ji-hsuan Yap is the founder and CEO of PolicyPal, a free app that allows users to organize, and track, all their insurance products in one dashboard, and the PAL Network, a dual-layered protocol for financial assets. Founded in 2016, PolicyPal aims to help customers understand their insurance coverage better. The startup was the first graduate from MAS’ fintech regulatory sandbox. Prior to PolicyPal, Yap worked at Allianz, PwC in London, and OCBC Bank in Singapore. She was recently named to Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list for Finance and Venture Capital, and is a frequent speaker at universities and conferences.

Walter de Oude, Founder and CEO at Singapore Life (Singapore)

Walter de Oude is the founder and CEO of Singapore Life, a company founded in 2014 to provide customers with easy access to quality life and wealth management services. Singapore Life is a life insurance company fully licensed by MAS. It also offers protection solutions made available both digitally and through financial advisers to the retail segment. Singapore Life incorporates multiple insurtech solutions to improve customer experience. Prior to establishing Singapore Life, de Oude was CEO at HSBC Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. and was a board member of HSBC Asset Management Singapore.

Ketki Sen, Co-Founder and Adviser at Spinta Global Accelerator (Singapore)

Ketki Sen is the co-founder and an adviser at Spinta Global Accelerator, managing the operations in Singapore. Sen is a fintech exponent with cross-industry experience in BFSI and ITES/BPO working with large-scale corporations and startups. She has experience in transformation and scaling of businesses through innovative use of technology at organizations such as Citibank and MphasiS. She has managed large change management programs, P&Ls, led cross-cultural global teams, opened new geographies, turned around a loss making region, worked with clients across the world, helped in building successful products, processes, partnerships and businesses from concept to market.

Zac Cheah, Founder and CEO at Pundi X (Indonesia)

Zac Cheah, is the founder and CEO of Pundi X, an Indonesian based startup focused on bringing cryptocurrency payments to the mainstream. Pundi X operates globally with physical offices in Jakarta, London, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, Shenzhen and Singapore.

They are most known for their POS systems which supports both conventional cards payments and payments from cryptocurrency wallets. In their ICO, they’ve raised US$ 35 Million, making them one of the most successful cases of ICOs in Indonesia

*This post is credited to :Fintechnews Singapore

A number of draft bills aimed at encouraging a burgeoning tech industry in Wyoming moved forward earlier this week during a Wyoming Blockchain Task Force meeting in Jackson.

The half-dozen proposals include an effort to create a place for blockchain companies to keep money; a change to business filings in the Secretary of State’s Office; and an effort to reduce regulations for tech startups that might want to come to the Cowboy State.

Task force members were especially excited about an idea that would allow blockchain or other large-scale companies to join a “special depository institution” — similar to a bank or credit union — that would store money without the hassle of bank discretion.

Right now, banks sometimes turn blockchain or cryptocurrency companies away due to uncertainty about the source of the income, and some startups have already gone out of business because they lost access to a bank account, task force member Caitlin Long said.

While it’s unclear who would join the bank, proponents say it’s a needed service for the types of companies they want to attract to the state.

“This is a big deal,” task force member David Pope said. “It provides the ability for companies that operate within the blockchain development space to have bank accounts, which has been a problem for developers.”

Members also said the financial institution wouldn’t lend any money.

“It would be required to hold 100 percent of reserves, and I think that brings a little peace of mind to your traditional banks because they’re not going to be lending,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance. “That puts them right out of competition.”

The bank may be one of the first of its kind in the country, allowing companies to form a communal bank owned and funded exclusively by members, Pope said.

The appeal could expand to other organizations, such as big gun and oil and gas associations, which may also be discriminated against while trying to bank, Lindholm said.

Despite concerns from the banking industry, it’s completely legal for banks to work with blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.

“There are a number of industries that may not be politically correct, and Wyoming has had experience with banks pulling out of various industries (referring to oil and gas) because they’re deemed to be a higher risk,” Long said.

The Wyoming Bankers Association said allowing uninsured banks in Wyoming is a reputational risk to the banking industry, noting the bill is unnecessary. Representatives from the organization voiced these concerns during the Jackson meeting.

“The bill says they have to comply with all federal laws,” said Michael Geesey, executive director at Wyoming Bankers Association. “That’s what we are already doing. When a customer comes in with a company that deals with blockchain, we have to ask a bunch of questions because we’re collecting data for the federal government. There are blockchain companies being banked in Wyoming right now and, if they follow all the federal laws, we can bank them. So, there’s no need for this legislation.”

Another bill would establish a financial technology, or “FinTech,” sandbox in the state, allowing financial products and services to be tested with greater regulatory relief. Wyoming would be only the second state in the country to pass such legislation.

It’s modeled after a similar Arizona law, passed this year, allowing companies to test products for up to two years and serve as many as 10,000 customers before applying for a formal license.

“If someone has an innovative financial product that they want to pursue, they can make an application with the state in order to exempt it for a certain period of time from some of the regulatory structure,” Pope said.

A draft bill requiring the Secretary of State’s Office to implement a new system for business entity filings also remains uncertain.

The business registries bill would create a backend interface that tracks changes to registration information.

Lindholm said it would be a “large appeal” for big companies who might be vulnerable to lawsuits over changes to data, adding it would put Wyoming on a more “competitive ground” with states like Delaware and Nevada, which he said are Wyoming’s “largest competitors” for business registrations.

Over the previous two- year fiscal years, the state’s Business, Compliance, Administration and Election Divisions generated $49 million combined, according to Will Dinneen, public information officer for the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office.

Pope said the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

“What I would like to see is registrations being filed on a blockchain to allow a faster, easier online portal,” he said. “So it’s date-stamped, time-stamped and immutable.”

But the change would not happen overnight, Dinneen said, and would come at a significant cost, which the office is still working to assess.

“Our current system is not software simply purchased off the shelf,” he said in an email. “Rather, it is a complex, state-of-the-art system developed by our office. The business services system is built to conform to Wyoming’s business laws and to service Wyoming’s 13 different statutory entity types.”

He said the current system has grown to serve all businesses, community groups, trusts and entrepreneurs in the state. It also provides for the necessary and legally required statutory checks, such as name availability and registered agent, with safeguards that combat fraud and abuse with regular audits and close contact with law enforcement.

“Modifications to this complex and intertwined system must be undertaken very carefully as to not jeopardize our existing customers,” he said.

Lindholm said Wyoming Hackathon participants already developed the software earlier this month, so it wouldn’t cost anything.

The remaining bills would establish blockchain tokens as intangible personal property not subject to securities exemptions, allow blockchain records to be used as evidence in civil actions and authorize trust companies to hold personal information on a blockchain-based archive.

Lindholm said these bills would compound on multiple laws passed this year related to blockchain.

“I think, ultimately, it’s creating a regulatory environment folks want to play in,” he said.

“If this even helps a little bit, it’s a win.”

*This post is credited to GilletteNewsRecord

The government of Austria, like almost every other on the planet, is sinking deeper into debt. The country is planning to raise 1.15 billion euros in an auction next Tuesday.


In an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the bonds will be issued and authenticated using the Ethereum blockchain.

Austrian finance minister Hartwig Löger said the following in a statement:

For us, blockchain technology is an important part of economic policy. With the establishment of the Fintech Council in the Ministry of Finance, we are developing strategies so that Austria can profit from these developments as much as possible.

TOKENIZING GOVERNMENT BONDS

Two bonds will be issued — one maturing in 5 years, and the other in 10 years. The high yielding 10-year bond will yield a whopping 0.78% interest, which investors will (hopefully) be able to collect 10 years from now.

For those readers who aren’t familiar with how government financing works, it’s essentially like an ICO, except instead of a startup offering promises of revolutionary technology, governments sell bonds (complicated paper tokens) based on the promise of being able to extract taxes from their citizens.

The bonds will be issued by the OeKB (Oesterreichische Kontrollbank) on behalf of the Austrian treasury, but it’s not exactly a token sale. The debt itself is only being recorded on the blockchain and will not be tradeable, but it is a major step towards potential future tokenization.

 

BULLISH NEWS FOR CRYPTOCURRENCY

This is good news for cryptocurrency prices. It means publicity for the actual value of the technology. Austria is known for being relatively conservative. If the country is able to find uses for the Ethereum blockchain, other governments are likely to follow suit. This means big potential increases in demand.

Furthermore, the move is a major step toward more regulatory clarity for tokenized assets, which is one more step towards blockchain-based assets going mainstream. As both the technology and the regulatory procedures have their kinks worked out, the barriers to entry for other players seeking to enter the market will be lowered.

This is not the first time bonds have been issued using a public blockchain. Sberbank in Russia issued bonds in May using the Hyperledge Fabric framework, and Australia recently partnered with the World Bank to issue bonds on a blockchain.

This announcement is a major development, however, due to the choice of the Ethereum blockchain. It’s the first time the major public blockchain has been chosen for a task usually reserved for established but highly bureaucratic and inefficient high finance institutions.

If this is a sign of what’s to come, the trickle of institutional money coming into the blockchain space could turn into a flood.

*This post is credited to Bitcoinist

Singapore Blockchain Week happened this past week. While there have been a few announcements from companies, some of the most interesting updates have come from regulators, and specifically, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The financial regulator openly discussed its views on cryptocurrency and plans to develop blockchain technology locally.

For those who are unfamiliar, Singapore historically has been a financial hub in Southeast Asia, but now has also gradually become the crypto hub of Asia. Compared to the rest of Asia and the rest of the world, the regulators in Singapore are well-informed and more transparent about their views on blockchain and cryptocurrency. While regulatory uncertainties still loom over Korea and Japan, in Southeast Asia, the MAS has already released its opinion “A Guide to Digital Token Offering” that illustrates the application of securities laws to digital token offerings and issuances. Singaporean regulators have arguably been pioneering economic and regulatory standards in Asia since the early days of the country’s founding by Lee Kuan Yew in 1965.

Singapore is the first stop for foreign companies in crypto

In the past, I’ve said that Thailand is one of the most interesting countries in crypto in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, for any Western or foreign company looking to establish a footing in Asia, or even for any local company in any Asian country looking to establish a presence outside of their own country, Singapore should be the first stop. It has become the go-to crypto sandbox of Asia.

There are a number of companies all over Asia, as well as in the West, that have already made moves into the country. And the types of cryptocurrency projects and exchanges that go to Singapore vary widely.

A few months ago, a Korean team called MVL introduced Tada, or the equivalent of “Uber” on the blockchain, in Singapore. Tada is an on-demand car sharing service that utilizes MVL’s technology. The Tada app is built on MVL’s blockchain ecosystem, which is specifically designed to serve the automotive industry, adjacent service industries, and their customers. In this case, MVL was looking to test out its blockchain projects in a progressive, friendly jurisdiction outside of Korea, but still close enough to its headquarters. Singapore fulfilled most of these requirements.

Relatedly, Didi, China’s ride-sharing company, has also looked to build out its own blockchain-based ride-sharing program, called VVgo. VVgo’s launch is pending, and its home is intended to be in Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong or San Francisco. Given Singapore’s geographic proximity and the transparency of its regulators, it would likely be a good testing ground for Didi as well.

This week, exchanges such as Binance and Upbit from Korea have also announced their plans to enter the Singaporean market. A few days ago, Changpeng ZhaoCEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, announced the launch of a fiat currency exchange that will be based in Singapore. He also mentioned his company’s plan to launch five to ten fiat-to-crypto exchanges in the next year, with ideally two per continent. Dunamu, the parent company of South Korea’s largest crypto exchange Upbit, also just announced the launch of Upbit Singapore, which will be fully operational by October.

The team at Dunamu mentions how they are encouraged by MAS’s attitude towards cryptocurrency regulation and the vision of the country’s government to establish a strong crypto and blockchain sector. They also believe Singapore could be a bridge between Korea and the global cryptocurrency exchange market.

From a high level, the supply of crypto projects and trading volume in Singapore is certainly strong, and the demand also appears abundant. Following China’s ICO ban in late 2017, Singapore has become home to many financial institutions that can serve as potential investors for ICOs.

As recently featured on the China Money Network, Li Dongmei wrote that:

What is supporting such optimism is the quiet preparation of capital on a massive scale getting ready to act the “All In Crypto” mantra. “In recent months, there have been over a thousand foundations being established in Singapore by Chinese nationals,” said Chen Xianhui, an agent specialized in helping Chinese clients to register foundations in Singapore. Most of these newly established foundations are used setting up various token investments funds.

Singapore has become the first choice when crypto companies from both the West and the East are initially scoping out their market strategies in Asia, and companies want an overarching idea of what’s going on in the cryptocurrency world in the region.

In fact, it’s often the case that Southeast Asian crypto companies and leaders gather in Singapore before they go off and do crypto businesses in their own countries. It’s the place for one wants to tap all of the Asian crypto markets in one single physical location. The proof is in the data: in 2017, Singapore ascended to the number three market for ICO issuance based on the number of funds raised, trailing the United States and Switzerland.

Crypto is thriving due to regulator openness

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) takes a very practical approach to crypto. Currently, MAS divides digital tokens into utility tokens, payments tokens, and securities. In Asia, only Singapore and Thailand currently have such detailed classifications.

While speaking at Consensus Singapore this week, Damien Pang, Singapore’s Technology Infrastructure Office under the FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG), said that “[MAS does] not regulate technology itself but purpose,” when in conversation discussing ICOs in Singapore. “The MAS takes a close look at the characteristics of the tokens, in the past, at the present, and in the future, instead of just the technology built on”.

Additionally, Pang mentioned that MAS does not intend to regulate utility tokens. Nevertheless, they are looking to regulate payment tokens that have a store of value and payment properties by passing a service bill by the end of the year. They are also paying attention to any utility or payment tokens with security features (i.e. a promise of future earnings, which will be regulated as such).

On the technology front, since 2017, Singapore authorities have been looking to use distributed ledger technology to boost the efficiency of settling cross-bank financial transactions. They believe that blockchain technology offers the potential to make trade finance safer and more efficient.

When compared to other Asia crypto hubs like Hong Kong, Seoul, or Shanghai, Singapore can expose one to the Southeast Asia market significantly more. I believe market activity will likely continue to thrive in the region as the country continues to act as the springboard for cryptocurrency companies and investors, and until countries like Korea and Japan establish a clear regulatory stance.

*This post is credited to TechCrunch

Hong Kong Fintech Week (HKFTW) 2018 will mark a milestone for the Greater Bay area — as the world’s first cross-border fintech event straddling two cities, Fintech Week will demonstrate the growing economic synergy between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Organized by InvestHK, Finnovasia and Finovate, the event will highlight recent fintech developments in Hong Kong including virtual banking licenses, enterprise blockchain, digital payments, artificial intelligence, regtech, insurtech, wealthtech, cybersecurity, and the pending common QR code, among other themes.

In addition to hosting a panel of esteemed speakers addressing key topics across innovation and finance, Fintech Week will also provide various networking activities for startups and investors. Government representatives and mature companies such as WeBank, Tencent and Zhong An will also be participating in the event.

With Chief Executive Carrie Lam officiating the launch ceremony, there’s no mistaking what Fintech Week says about Hong Kong — a contemporary financial hub that intends to look to the future and become a global leader. Indeed, the event tagline reads ‘Launch. Leap. Lead.’

Expect Fintech Week to be rich, informative, and full of opportunity.

HKFTW will take place in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center from October 29 to November 1, with ‘Shenzhen Day’ completing the programme on November 2.

For more information, visit www.fintechweek.hk.

For a couple of years now it has appeared as if the Chinese government is seeking to “have its cake and eat it too” when it comes to crypto assets and blockchain technology. The simple phrase “blockchain not Bitcoin” has become the country’s defining strategy when it comes to the space, and the difference in approaches that the government has taken regarding closed v. open ledgers and assets is a study in contrast.

Consider the following – all of which happened in the last month:

  • The Chinese Communist Party website released a primer on blockchain technology that included discussion points on its key features, use cases, and challenges
  • China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), is supporting the development of a blockchain-based trade finance platform that will streamline interbank payments and help SMBs get access to a wider range of financing tools
  • China’s Supreme People’s Court released new rules stating that blockchain technology is an approved method for storing and authenticating digital evidence
  • The Bank of China, not to be confused with the PBoC, revealed plans to aggressively invest in the development of fintech and blockchain technology

At the same time, the CPC has been overtly hostile to any and all activities related to crypto assets. Last September the government banned all ICOs in the country, regardless of whether or not they are securities, and in the same month local Chinese exchanges were ordered to cease operations. The end result, in the last 12 months 90 different cryptocurrency exchanges and about 85 ICOs have closed in China. Now the government extended this ban to over 100 international exchanges that served the Chinese market, ending one of the last options that crypto traders had without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Furthermore, the government is blocking crypto-related accounts on the country’s predominant social media platforms such as WeChat.

This leads to two critical questions:

  1. Why is the government taking such a Jekyll and Hyde approach?
  2. Is this strategy sustainable?

A small anecdote and an example can help shed some light on the Chinese mentality.

10 years ago, a senior official within the George W. Bush administration gave a speech in New York City on America’s foreign policy. The discussion eventually turned to the U.S.-Chinese relationship, and the official shared a conversation that he had with a counterpart in Beijing. The American began discussing what kept him up at night, mentioning the invasion of Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, and future attack in the U.S. as key concerns. He then candidly asked the Chinese representative the same question, expecting an answer along the lines of controlling Tibetan unrest or maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait. Instead, he got a one-word answer, the number 8. Upon being asked for clarification, the gentleman said he was referring to a need to maintain at least 8% GDP growth on an annual basis to keep unemployment low and the country stable. He made it clear that nothing less than the stability and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) was at stake. 

The takeaway from this conversation: the Chinese government focuses on domestic stability above all else, and economic growth is the key enabler. Therefore, officials in Beijing will not let crypto, or any other technology, threaten its authority or legitimacy to rule.

As a sign of the government’s commitment, it is important to note that this is not the first time that China has retrofitted a breakthrough technology for its own market. While most enthusiasts praise the business models and success of leading Chinese technology firms such as Alibaba and Tencent, they exist in their current state today largely because of the protection provided by China’s “Great Internet Firewall” as well as protectionist regulatory measures that delayed or outright prevented American companies like Facebook from accessing the market. Additionally, these firms all enjoy close ties to officials in Beijing and collaborate with Internet monitors to ban speech and content that is contrary to domestic stability, showing that censorship and success are not mutually exclusive.

That said, the stakes are higher this time around and taking this same approach to blockchain technology is nothing less than a double-down of its strategy vis-à-vis Google and Facebook. Firstly, blockchain technology is naturally distributed, which is a significant complicating factor, but not insurmountable. However, never before has the government had to deal with cryptoassets and cryptocurrencies that cannot be banned or sanctioned without blocking the Internet as a whole. Monetary policy plays a key role in China’s economic strategy, and if Bitcoin or another crypto asset or crypto currency was to gain widespread acceptance, it would limit Beijing’s ability to steward the country forward in continued prosperity in more ways than one.

For instance, if Bitcoin or a stablecoin became a medium for exchange, especially for international trade, it would limit the efficacy of China’s exchange rate policies that have historically supporting its export industry. Additionally, crypto assets are extremely volatile, and investors in the space often hear the common disclaimer that they need to be prepared to lose all of their holdings. China has almost 1.4 billion citizens, and if even a small percentage of those individuals lost 90% of their holdings, as many investors in the U.S. did last year, it would cause a significant strain on their social service programs.

Therefore, while it is easy to advocate for open policies, there also need to be emergency breaks in the system.

Looking ahead, it is clear that China will continue to rely on strategies that have worked for it in the past. However, it remains to be seen if government officials in Beijing will see the same results. Even with these restrictions in place the country will continue to be one of the most critical hotbeds of innovation in the space. Over time as the industry develops, the government may be more amenable to crypto assets as well.

*This post is credited to Forbes