4 Months Ago

There has been considerable interest in the potential that Blockchain technology offers the property sector, in being able to tokenise Real Estate and so enable smaller investors to get access to an asset class that has typically been the preserve of institutions and only the very wealthy. 

Instead of offering exposure to the rise and fall of property valuations, a German company called Fundament has received permission from BaFin (the German Financial Market Supervisory Authority) to issue €250 million of bonds, run on the Ethereum Blockchain. The Fundament bonds will be issued in digital form as a token backed by property. This could lead to more property-backed bonds being issued by other firms.


Meanwhile, in Luxemburg, one can now get access to Real Estate from as little as €1,000, via Property Token SA. This is a digital token which uses Smart Contracts whereby rental income from the property will be automatically distributed to investors.


One of the challenges for institutions owning tokens, whether it be giving exposure to direct property or bonds backed by property, is custody. It was therefore intriguing to see that The Royal Mint (the UK Government-owned organisation which is responsible for making coins) was reported to be going to offer custody services for a new type of Blockchain, called Temtum. Although this may be “fake news”, as the source for this is Coin Telegraph whose website states it has removed this story “due to its lack of compliance with our standards of journalistic quality and integrity”

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Financial Services
Real Estate
Token

6 Months Ago

Bank of New York Mellon (BNY) is the largest custodian in the world, with assets in its custody of $34.5 trillion, and has been experimenting with Blockchain technology since 2016.

However, the first firm it has agreed to look after it’s Digital Assets on a public Blockchain is Bakkt. Bakkt is a company backed by International Clearing Exchange (ICE) which, in turn, owns and runs over a dozen regulated stock exchanges around the world. BNY is keen to emphasise that it is currently providing “safekeeping of Digital Assets for Bakkt” and not providing a custody service for them, partly because BNY feels the need to have far more regulatory clarity before it can offer full custody services.

One of BNY’s bigger custody competitors, Northern Trust, is also looking at offering custody for Digital Assets (according to Forbes) as it realises it, too, needs to keep ‘up to speed’ with how it may be able to offer services for those that wish to deal with this fast developing new asset class – Digital Assets. However, it is not just both the massive and traditional existing custodians who are looking at offering custody services for Digital Assets. Anchorage is a newly launched, crypto-custody firm backed by Silicon-valley based and highly successful VC investors, Andreessen Horowitz.

Bank Frick is a private bank based in Liechtenstein which now has a range of Blockchain-banking services, including Digital Asset custody. BitGo, from California, has been offering for Bitcoins a qualified custodian service since 2018. The California-based company is using its six years of experience as a ‘security-as-a-service provider’ to provide financial institutions and fund managers with Digital Asset custodianship. Also from California, San Francisco-based Digital Asset exchange and wallet provider, Coinbase, added a crypto custody service to its offering in 2018. Coinbase Custody is a qualified custodian which enables institutional investors to store over 30 different Digital Assets securely with a regulated and insured third-party storage solutions provider. Regulated Digital Asset exchange, Gemini, launched its qualified custodian service for institutional investors also in 2018.

Fidelity Digital Assets is the recently launched crypto-venture by Fidelity Investments Inc, which has $7.2 trillion of clients assets. The New York-based asset manager launched its crypto custody service in March 2018. Also in New York, Digital Asset exchange itBit launched a crypto-custody service last year to complement its exchange and Over The Counter (OTC) business. As a regulated New York State Trust Company, itBit ensures that all customer assets and funds are fully backed by mandatory capital reserves.

Alternative asset custodian Kingdom Trust, launched in 2017, was one of the first custodians to provide Digital Asset storage solutions. Currently, the Kentucky-based company has become a market-leading qualified Digital Asset custody service, with insurance provided by Lloyd’s of London. Koine, launched in June 2019, offers Digital Asset custody and settlement for institutional clients. The London-based start-up is targeting trading venues, institutional investors, Digital Asset issuers, and market infrastructure providers.

Prime Trust is a Las Vegas-based qualified Digital Asset custodian which supports Bitcoin, ETH, and ERC20 tokens. Finally, Xapo is one of the longest-standing Bitcoin storage solution providers. In the past five years, the Hong Kong-based company has grown its assets in storage to over 700,000...


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Banking
Blockchain
Financial Services
Digital Assets
In the UK, Digital payments overtook cash payments for the first time last year, and the trend of using less cash when shopping looks set to continue, with now over 63% of UK consumers using contactless payment.

Contactless technology was invented by Nikola Tesla in 1898, using radio signals to control a model boat in New York. However, it took until 1995 for contactless tickets to be first used in Seoul in Korea to replace bus and rail paper tickets. Finally, in 1997, Mobil petroleum launched “Speedpass” to enable customers to pay for fuel at petrol stations in the US.

However, while cashless payments are proving ever popular, the costs of using even a debit card can be nearly 3%, especially if used overseas. It is estimated that soon credit card costs in the US are projected to exceed $110 billion, although this is largely as a result of the $1 trillion of debt that is held on credit cards.

We are seeing more merchants i
ncreasingly accepting Digital currencies as a form of payment, as illustrated by Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Office Depot, Nordstrom, Jamba Juice, Barnes and Nobel, all announcing that they will allow customers to pay for goods using Flexa’s Spedn. The Spedn App creates a quick response, “QR” code, which you can then scan at the check-out, automatically transferring in the local currency, and taking the equivalent amount from your selected cryptocurrency from your Spedn digital wallet.

Spedn potentially is a much cheaper way to buy goods and services when overseas. If it can also accommodate Digital Assets that are given to customers as part of loyalty and incentive schemes, hopefully, we can all start using those old Airmiles, Avios, Nectar, Starbucks points, etc., provided such firms also digitise their platforms.
Meanwhile, last week at Consensus, a Blockchain conference in NYC, the banners above were displayed.

Once we see the likes of eBay accepting Cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, how long will it be before we see Amazon also do the same?

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Cryptocurrency
Digital Currency
Financial Services

8 Months Ago

Western Union, with 500,000 branches globally and revenues of over $5.5 Billion, is a significant player in the international remittance market - charging 5% to 9.5% to process transactions.

The Global remittance market was valued by the World bank at over $613 Billion in 2018, an increase of  7% since 2017.

This means the very poorest workers i.e. cleaners, nurses, security guards, etc. in more developed countries who are sending money back to loved ones are paying up to $60 Billion in banking and foreign exchange costs p.a.
It is hoped that  Blockchain technology will enable the same money transfers at a much lower cost.

Western Union has just announced a venture with TransferTo, which itself saw tremendous growth of over 900% in 2018, processing over $2 Billion of transactions. TransferTo has been using the Stellar Blockchain (as used by IBM). This venture allows Western Union to start digitising its remittance business,  which ought to allow it to compete with many of the FinTech firms we are seeing being established, using Blockchain technology, offering similar services.

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Blockchain
Financial Services
https://bitnewstoday.com/news/western-union-par...lockchain/
Sometimes when you look beyond a headline you discover some interesting relationships that may not be obvious initially.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, also co-founded Square who offer payment services for small businesses and mobile payments solutions. Square Payments in 2017 invested $25m into Eventbrite, which itself did an IPO last year. Square are now hiring crypto engineers. Jack Dorsey’s co-founder at Square is Jim McKelevy, who is, incidentally, an independent director of the St Louis Federal reserve.

Meanwhile,
Jack Dorsey is increasingly vocal about his support and interest in Digital Assets, admitting to buying $10,000 of Bitcoin a week, and believes that we are not far from seeing mass adoption of Cryptocurrencies by the public.
So it is not too big a leap to see Twitter and possibly Eventbrite in the not too distant future both licensing, using, being involved in Square’s Crypto payment offering - and follow Facebooks foray into Digital Assets?

More evidence of West Coast US firms looking to target the lucrative banking and financial services world that east coast American companies have dominated for decades?

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Bitcoin
Financial Services
Digital Assets
A judge in Israel has ruled that Union bank, the sixth largest in Israel, that closed the bank account of a crypto mining company was unreasonable.

“I believe that the sweeping policy, which does not distinguish between different types of activity, scope of activity and different types of customers — in the field of digital currencies — is unreasonable.” – Judge Bibi said.

This highlights the challenge for business that are involved with Cryptocurrencies obtaining a bank account, yet governments, including Israel’s, are talking and in some cases actually offering Digital Currencies, so will using these state-backed Digital currencies also trigger banks to close customers’ accounts?

There is still a perception that while dealing in Cryptos is not illegal as it is largely unregulated it attracts the criminal fraternity. However, is there a deeper reason for this reluctance to be involved with Cryptos in that Banks are genuinely worried about the potential threat posed by Cryptos. Does this explain why Bitpay which processed over $3Billion of transactions in 2018, and Kraken, one of the largest exchanges in the world, both had their bank accounts closed last year?
It is not all gloom and doom Signature Bank in the U.S., Bank Frick in Europe and Clearbank in the UK all offer Crypto banking facilities. There are also FCA regulated companies in the UK, like Baanx and Global Block who will accept Crypto exchange them into Fiat and then transfer the Fiat proceeds to firms.

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Financial Services
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03...ccounts
The Basel Committee, who act as a global watchdog for banks, has issued a statement about the potential disruptive effect that Crypto currencies could have on banks.

Interestingly, JP Morgan said that "cryptos could be more of a partner than a threat to banks". It is difficult to see how Stablecoins, like the JPM Coin will make money for JP Morgan, although potentially the bank’s new Quorum platform could be licensed to third parties as an alternative to other blockchains. This is because Quorum does not have transaction fees, and third parties i.e. miners do not have access to trades prior to them being publicly available which is a major problem for public Blockchains like Ethereum, Wave, Stellar etc.

Meanwhile, we are seeing more retailers in different countries accepting Cryptos as a way to purchase goods and services. In Switzerland, the online retailers Digitec and Galaxu are now allowing customers to use Bitcoin for purchases and  Birks Group, Canada’s largest and oldest jewellery stores, announced that it had begun accepting Bitcoin at eight of its 30 stores. In Japan Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce website has intimated it will begin accepting Cryptos soon.

Starbucks however could prove to be an inflection point once they start to accept Cryptos which is rumoured to be in Q3 in 2019. In Australia, Binanace has established a venture with 1,300 newsagents to enable one to buy Bitcoin and closer to home in France you have for a while been able buy Bitcoin via a chain of tobacco shops.

A recent report from Finer, see below, found that 8% of Americans own Cryptocurrencies but discovered there multiple reasons why the other 92% do not own a Crypto.

The whole user experience on engaging and using Digital Assets needs to be made much easier and simpler to ensure more people start using them on a day today basis.

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Financial Services
https://www.watson.ch/digital/schweiz/801431165...rev=search
Specialist financial instruments exchange, Drive, has announced they are now offering institutional clients access to spot prices, CFDs and Futures in a selection of Cryptocurrencies.

This ought to help provide greater liquidity and acceptance among institutional investors as it enables them to easily go long or short of a variety of Cryptocurrencies via a platform that they are already using, so gain exposure to Digital Assets by osmosis.

The pronouncement from SEC Chair Clayton has confirmed that certain cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum and Bitcoin, are not securities and has provided the clarity many have been seeking. Which ought to assist lawyers, insurance underwriters and compliance departments at asset management firms as to where and how these Digital Assets can be used.

Meanwhile, back in main street in the US, or as some would say in the UK for ‘Joe Public’, of those that own Digital Assets like Bitcoin less than 40% said they were happy to use Cryptos for payments. So while adoption of Digital Assets is increasing there is still a long way to go before we see cryptos replacing cash…

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Cryptocurrency
Financial Services
Digital Assets
https://www.leaprate.com/forex/institutional/dr...th-gold-i/

9 Months Ago

BlockFi, who raised over $54million last year has launched a high-interest account paying 6% p.a. if they hold your Bitcoin or Ethereum assets.

The reason they can pay such high-interest rates is because they lend out your Crypto to other institutions but more importantly, your Digital Assets are held by a custodian independent of BlockFi called Gemini Trust Company. Gemini was co-founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and is regulated by the New York Department of Financial Services.

This new way to hold Cryptocurrencies is another example of how the traditional and the Digital worlds are converging, as BlockFi are offering in effect an instant-access, high-interest account to depositors while providing institutional asset lending facilities. Because the transactions are stored on a Blockchain there are fewer intermediaries involved, it is secured using military-grade security and not reliant on one company’s server/computer as the records will be distributed thus reducing concerns over disaster recovery.

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Banking
Bitcoin
Blockchain
Cryptocurrency
Financial Services
https://www.newsbtc.com/2019/03/06/highest-yiel...-interest/