We Should Not ‘Scurry to Keep Pace’ With Fintech, Says CFTC Commissioner

A new commissioner at U.S. regulator the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) repeated called for handling fintech – including blockchain and cryptocurrency – with an “open mind” in a speech Thursday, Oct. 25.

Speaking at the 2018 International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) Annual Japan Conference in Tokyo, Rostin Behnam, who has now held the post for a year, revealed he had spent much of that time focusing on issues related to disruptive fintech.

“I am surprised by the amount of time I spent examining issues related to bitcoin, crypto assets, distributed ledger technology (DLT), artificial intelligence, and cloud-based programming,” he told the audience.

Behnam also spoke to the variety of potential use cases for DLT, such as blockchain, listing the range “from agriculture to healthcare, finance to art, CryptoKitties to Dogecoin.”

Calls for fair handling of disruptive technology have also come from regulators of other spaces. As Cointelegraph reported this week, the chairman of the U.S. telecoms regulator defended the need for a “level playing field” for phenomena such as blockchain going forward.

Preempting the importance of such phenomena marks a further key focus for Behnam, who added about his engagement with the crypto, DLT and AI sectors:

“I had no single goal in mind, just a desire to avoid being the typical regulator on the tail end of technological advancement, scurrying to keep pace with swift innovations that capture market efficiencies, open markets to new products and participants, and often reward those willing to take risk.”

Both the CFTC and fellow U.S. regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have increasingly found themselves in the spotlight regarding the cryptocurrency industry this year.

The latter, having rejected a raft of Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) applications in August, is now communicating with prospective operators who are attempting to iron out the agency’s concerns about their offerings.

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China Should Consider Launching its Own Stablecoin, Central Bank Expert Says in Op-Ed

The Chinese government should consider launching its own yuan-backed stablecoin despite the current ban on cryptocurrencies, an op-ed in Chinese financial journal CN Finance reports Tuesday, Oct. 9.

An expert from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), Li Liangsong, and professor of Fudan University Wang Huaqing wrote an article called “Analysis of Digital Stable Coins” for CN Finance — a bimonthly journal affiliated with the PBoC.

In the opinion piece, the authors provide a brief review of USD-backed coins, such as Tether, the Gemini dollar, and Paxos Standard. The researchers expect them to increase the role of dollar on a global stage and to suppress other fiats, with the yuan among them.

The authors suggested that China should analyze other companies’ experience and “double its efforts” to create a local stablecoin. However, other digital currencies have to stay prohibited in China, they stated.

Stablecoins have recently seen a boom with two USD-backed coins launching in the U.S. in September.

The Winklevoss twins, founders of crypto trading platform Gemini, acquired permission from New York regulators to release their own stablecoin, the Gemini dollar. Later, Circle — through a consortium that includes Bitmain — announced it is launching a USD-backed digital token dubbed the “USD Coin.”

Shortly after, the audit giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with decentralized lending platform Cred to offer their expertise in launching its USD-backed coin, especially in terms of transparency and “substantiation,”

The Chinese government first started its anti-crypto campaign in 2017 by closing all of the country’s cryptocurrency exchanges and banning Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). Following the move, the PBoC has repeatedly warned citizens about the risks of crypto trading.

Despite the crypto ban, the country has actively been exploring blockchain solutions. Earlier this autumn, the PBoC announced that its blockchain trading and finance platform is launching in Shenzhen. The ecosystem is also being tested in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and the Macau Bay Area and is being developed for cross-border trading. Later, the country’s official blockchain pilot zone was established in the Hainan province within a dedicated tech park.

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NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be in Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

News

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owner of arguably the most important stock exchange in the world, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is introducing a new company, Bakkt. The idea is to weave bitcoin into 401(k)s, credit cards, and retail. The project is getting a lot of hype due in large measure to two very powerful backers: Microsoft and Starbucks. Is this the mainstreaming ecosystem enthusiasts have been urging?

Also read: Bitcoiners Hope to Have a Friend in Top US Regulator Jay Clayton

NYSE Wants Bitcoin in 401(k)s, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

ICE’s digital assets head, turned CEO of the new project Bakkt, Kelly Loeffler, explained in a company blog, “Formed by Intercontinental Exchange — an operator of global exchanges, clearing houses, data and listings services — Bakkt will work with companies that include BCG, Starbucks, Microsoft and others, to create an open ecosystem that supports growing needs in the ~$270 billion digital asset marketplace.”

ICE quietly owns and operates two dozen regulated markets and exchanges, from the United States and Canada to Europe. It also holds clearing houses in the Netherlands, Singapore, greater Europe, the US, and Canada as well. It has revenues well in excess of $5.5 billion. It’s also the parent company for the NYSE, an exchange with great prestige among traditional finance: the NYSE is 226 years old, and is easily the globe’s biggest exchange by market cap, some $21.3 trillion as of last summer.

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail StoresMs. Loeffler told Fortune how for over a year ICE built Bakkt in secrecy. The company name is a twist on asset backed securities, Bakkt, which by design is to engender trust. And trust is everything in the legacy marketplace, but it has a decidedly different meaning in the cryptocurrency world. Trust on Wall Street usually means regulations, and lots of them.

Indeed, by late Fall this year, Bakkt hopes to have a fully federally regulated space for all things bitcoin. Fortune notes how “ICE aims to transform Bitcoin into a trusted global currency with broad usage.” That’s an interesting admission for enthusiasts wondering what Wall Street is ultimately up to with this enormous announcement and marketing/public relations campaign. Trust in the Bitcoin ecosystem is established through mathematics, voluntary adoption, by completely bypassing third party fragility, frictions, and gatekeepers for which legacy finance is famous.   

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

Speculation and Coffee

“By combining regulated infrastructure with institutional and consumer applications,” Ms. Loeffler continues, “we’ll apply our track record of bringing transparency and trust to previously unregulated markets. In this way, we intend to play a key role in boosting institutional, merchant and consumer participation in digital assets.” Investment, also according to Fortune, includes Boston Consulting Group, Fortress Investment Group, Eagle Seven, and Susquehanna International Group in addition to better known brands Starbucks and Microsoft.

No doubt, ICE’s endorsement of Bitcoin lends a great deal of credence for other Wall Street investors to start exploring the cryptosphere. A futures market appears immediately in the works. Ms. Loeffler’s blog post details, “As an initial component of the Bakkt offering, Intercontinental Exchange’s U.S.-based futures exchange and clearing house plan to launch a 1-day physically delivered Bitcoin contract along with physical warehousing in November 2018, subject to CFTC review and approval. These regulated venues will establish new protocols for managing the specific security and settlement requirements of digital currencies. In addition, the clearing house plans to create a separate guarantee fund that will be funded by Bakkt.”

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail StoresFortune believes the bigger move Bakkt is proposing involves everyday retail ventures. “Using Bitcoin to streamline and disrupt the world of retail payments,” the magazine stressed, “by moving consumers from swiping credit cards to scanning their Bitcoin apps. The market opportunity is gigantic: Consumers worldwide are paying lofty credit card or online-shopping fees on $25 trillion a year in annual purchases.” Both Microsoft customers and Starbucks customers are very familiar with digital, smartphone related transactions. Transitioning over to bitcoin, with institutional blessing, should be a snap, ICE is assuming.

Starbucks’ Vice President of Partnerships and Payments, Maria Smith, was quoted in the press release, noting, “As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted, and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks.” That also appears to fly directly in the face of Bitcoin’s ultimate point. To nearly everyone familiar with its power, bitcoin as a currency is an end in-and-of-itself, it is the value, and was meant to leave fiat — not to be simply a keen transfer mechanism to government paper. Nevertheless, Bakkt’s CEO, Ms. Loeffler, concludes, “We’re excited about the opportunity to help unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets. Bakkt is preparing for launch in upcoming weeks, and we look forward to keeping you updated.”

Is bringing Wall Street into crypto a good thing? Let us know in the comments section below. 


Images via Pixabay, ICE, NYSE. 


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Vietnam’s Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should Be Banned

Regulation

According to regional reports, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has agreed with a proposal to ban imported cryptocurrency mining machines in order to keep the digital currency economy tethered tightly to the government’s regulatory frameworks. The proposal was introduced by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) after the SBV announced that cryptocurrency use within Vietnam was not a “lawful means of payment” this past October.

Also read: Bitcoin Vietnam Faces Losing its Domain from Government

The State Bank of Vietnam Agrees Cryptocurrency Miners Should be Banned

Vietnam's Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should be BannedLately, Vietnam’s government and regulatory bodies haven’t been too friendly towards the cryptocurrency industry. Last October the country’s central bank detailed in a letter to the public that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were not a “lawful means of payment.” Furthermore, if Vietnam residents decided to use “bitcoin and other similar virtual currency they may be subject to prosecution.” Then, this past June, news.Bitcoin.com reported on Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance initiating the idea that the country’s governing authorities should ban cryptocurrency mining device imports.

Now the local Việt Nam News reports that the central bank agrees with a proposal written by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) which calls for the banning of these mining machines. Vietnam’s MoIT and the SBV believe that letting these devices come into the country makes it harder for the government to regulate bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Many Vietnamese officials have been deliberating on how to handle the cryptocurrency industry and in April the country’s Prime Minister, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, signed an initiative to tighten regulatory guidelines.

Crypto-Fraud Sparked the Regulatory Crackdown

Vietnam's Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should be BannedThe Ministry of Finance and MoIT have explained the reason for the current regulatory proposals towards mining rigs is because they want to protect Vietnamese consumers from scams in the future. All of the latest regulatory announcements towards cryptos have followed the recent Vietnamese law enforcement bust that dealt with the largest cryptocurrency fraud case that claimed more than 32,000 victims. The officials think that banning cryptocurrency mining machine imports will further help protect local consumers until virtual currency regulations are more solidified.

Việt Nam News also details that the General Department of Customs estimates that the country has imported 15,600 mining devices from 2017 to April 2018. The state administration of customs says that a great majority of machines were imported to areas such as Đà Nẵng, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hà Nội.

What do you think about Vietnam’s state administrations attempting to ban cryptocurrency miners in the country? Let us know your thoughts on this subject in the comment section below.


Images via Shutterstock, Central Bank photo taken by Xita, and Pixabay. 


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