By Anndy Lian
Recently, there have been reports indicating that cryptocurrency companies are facing challenges when finding banking partners. This issue has arisen following the collapse of two prominent US-based banks, namely Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital. As a result, many cryptocurrency firms struggle to secure banking services, causing significant problems for their operations.
Some cryptocurrency companies have turned to Cross River Bank as their preferred banking partner to address this issue. In particular, Circle Internet Financial Ltd. has moved its business to Cross River Bank from Silicon Valley Bank, where it had held $3.3 billion in assets. This move highlights the importance of finding a reliable banking partner for cryptocurrency companies, as they require access to banking services to conduct their business effectively.
The struggle to find banking partners for cryptocurrency companies underscores the challenges that these firms face as they navigate the fast changing landscape of digital currencies. While some banks are starting to embrace cryptocurrencies and offer banking services to these companies, many are still hesitant to do so. As a result, finding a banking partner that is willing to work with cryptocurrency companies is crucial to their success in the long run.
Where are some feasible countries? What are some challenges that we can foresee?
The collapse has forced the crypto industry to seek new banking partners, with some turning to offshore financial companies like Jewel and others looking to transfer their funds overseas. This has led several digital currency companies to turn to Swiss banks, as Switzerland has established a “Crypto Valley” in the region of Zug, which has favourable regulations and a supportive environment for blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.
Swiss banks are known for their confidentiality and discretion, which is important for the privacy-conscious crypto industry. Swiss banking services also offer a range of products and services that can be customised to the specific needs of crypto firms. This can include access to multiple currencies, secure digital storage, and international transactions.
Swiss banks have a strong reputation for stability and reliability, and the Swiss government has a long history of promoting the country as a financial hub. These factors make Switzerland a popular destination for businesses seeking secure and trustworthy banking partners. The combination of favourable regulations, a supportive environment, and a strong reputation for reliability and confidentiality make Swiss banking a good option for crypto firms.
In addition to Switzerland, several other countries are emerging as favourable locations for digital currency firms.
One of these countries is Singapore, which has a well-established financial industry and has been actively exploring blockchain technology in various sectors. Singapore’s regulatory framework for digital currencies is relatively open, and the government has been supportive of blockchain-based businesses, making it an attractive destination for digital currency firms.
Singapore has not forbidden cryptocurrency like some other countries have, which has made it a popular location for crypto firms. In addition, the city-state has a robust financial infrastructure, making it an attractive option for banking. Crypto-friendly regulations: Singapore has taken a positive approach to the cryptocurrency industry, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) providing clear guidance on the regulatory framework for crypto companies. In addition, the Payment Services Act was passed in 2019 to regulate digital payment tokens, including cryptocurrencies.
Singapore provides various benefits for crypto firms seeking to establish themselves in the region. The country’s banking system is highly developed and stable, with major global banks such as DBS and UOB operating there, providing a sense of security for crypto firms needing a reliable banking partner. Furthermore, Singapore’s strategic location in Southeast Asia grants easy access to major Asian markets, such as China and India, making it ideal for crypto firms looking to expand their business in the region. In addition, Singapore offers favourable tax policies, including a flat corporate tax rate of 17% and various tax exemptions and rebates, which is attractive for crypto firms seeking to reduce their tax burden.
Moreover, Singapore has a well-recognized reputation as an innovation hub focusing on developing cutting-edge technologies. This creates an innovation-friendly environment that can be particularly enticing for crypto firms searching for a supportive environment to grow and innovate. In summary, Singapore’s strong banking system, access to Asian markets, favourable tax policies, and innovation-friendly environment make it an attractive location for crypto firms looking to establish themselves in the region. Singapore’s well-regulated financial system can provide peace of mind for crypto firms looking to establish long-term banking relationships.
Another country that is gaining popularity among digital currency firms is Malta, which has established itself as a hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses in Europe. Malta has taken proactive steps to attract digital currency firms, such as introducing a regulatory framework for digital currencies and establishing a government agency to oversee the sector. In addition, Malta has a favourable tax regime for blockchain-based businesses, making it a cost-effective location for digital currency firms.
Malta, an EU member state, has made efforts to attract cryptocurrency businesses, making it an attractive banking option for crypto firms. One reason is that Malta has proactively created a regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency industry. The country’s Virtual Financial Assets Act establishes a clear legal framework for cryptocurrency companies operating in Malta. It establishes a regulatory authority, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority, to oversee the industry and ensure compliance. Malta’s banking system is also stable, unlike the US-based Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital, which recently experienced major bank collapses. This stability can reassure crypto firms looking for a reliable banking partner. As an EU member state, Malta provides access to the EU’s single market, which can be beneficial for crypto firms looking to expand their business in Europe.
Malta’s pro-crypto attitude is another reason crypto firms should consider banking in the country. Malta has positioned itself as a “blockchain island” and has actively promoted the development of the cryptocurrency industry, attracting several major crypto companies to set up shop in Malta. Additionally, Malta offers tax benefits for businesses, including a low corporate tax rate of 35% and a refund system for foreign investors, which can provide additional tax benefits for crypto firms.
Other countries that digital currency firms consider include Gibraltar, Estonia, and Bermuda. Gibraltar has been working to establish itself as a “blockchain hub” and has taken steps to create a regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency industry. The country also offers attractive tax benefits. Liechtenstein: Liechtenstein has taken a proactive approach to regulate the cryptocurrency industry and has established a clear legal framework for the sector. The country also offers attractive tax benefits. Bermuda has also introduced a regulatory framework for digital currencies and has been actively exploring the use of blockchain technology in various sectors.
While some countries clearly benefit from this saga, some face some challenges. Hong Kong has long been known as a financial hub in Asia, with a reputation for being friendly and open towards new businesses, including those in the cryptocurrency industry. However, recent banking challenges Hong Kong’s crypto firms face after the closure of Silvergate and Signature banks suggest that the city’s banking system may not be as ready as its government is making it out to be.
One of the biggest challenges Hong Kong’s crypto firms faces is the difficulty opening local bank accounts. According to industry insiders, banks in the city are not keen to serve crypto businesses, making it even harder for these firms to access banking services. This is a significant setback for Hong Kong, aiming to become a virtual asset hub. If the city’s banking system cannot support the needs of crypto businesses, it will be difficult for Hong Kong to achieve this goal.
One reason for the reluctance of banks in Hong Kong to serve crypto businesses may be due to regulatory uncertainty. Despite the government’s push to become a hub for virtual assets, there is still a lack of clear regulations in the space. This can make it difficult for banks to assess the risks associated with serving crypto businesses, leading them to err on the side of caution and avoid these clients altogether. This is not only happening in Hong Kong. It’s important to note that Swiss banks are also cautious when dealing with crypto firms, as cryptocurrencies carry risks and potential for money laundering. Due to regulatory pressure, some Swiss banks have already stopped offering services to crypto firms. Taking a careful stand is essential for the banks.
Another issue is the reputational risk associated with serving crypto businesses. While the cryptocurrency industry has come a long way in terms of legitimacy and mainstream acceptance, some still perceive it as a high-risk, unregulated sector. Banks that serve crypto businesses may be seen as supporting this perception, which could damage their reputation and lead to increased scrutiny from regulators.
The challenges Hong Kong’s crypto firms face highlight the need for the city’s banking system to become more accommodating towards the needs of this industry. While the government has made strides in promoting Hong Kong as a virtual asset hub, more must be done to ensure the city’s banking system is ready to support this goal. Clear regulations and guidance from regulators can help to provide banks with the clarity they need to serve crypto businesses. In contrast, education and outreach efforts can help to address the reputational concerns associated with the industry. Until these issues are addressed, Hong Kong’s ambitions of becoming a virtual asset hub may remain out of reach.
I hope this dilemma is short-term. Hong Kong being a financial hub close to China, would be a big plus for the crypto industry. Not only will we see an influx of Chinese tech talents into Hong Kong, but we will also be seeing huge capital inflows too.
In conclusion, the regulatory landscape for cryptocurrency is constantly evolving and can vary significantly between countries. While some countries embrace cryptocurrencies and develop favourable regulatory frameworks, others remain sceptical and have introduced strict regulations or outright bans on cryptocurrency trading and related activities. As such, it is vital for cryptocurrency firms to carefully consider the regulatory framework and banking system in each country where they operate or plan to expand into. This includes evaluating the legal and tax implications and the risks and benefits associated with banking in each country.
As the recent struggles of cryptocurrency firms to find banking partners illustrate, it is also important to identify reliable banking partners willing to work with the firm and provide necessary banking services. This may involve conducting due diligence on potential banking partners and assessing their ability to meet the unique needs of cryptocurrency firms.
My humble takeaway message to all is this: While the growth potential of the cryptocurrency industry is significant, firms must navigate the regulatory and banking landscape carefully and strategically to ensure their long-term success. Given the uncertainties, it’s worth noting that each country has its own regulatory framework and banking system. Crypto firms should carefully consider the risks and benefits of banking in each country before making a decision.
The author is an intergovernmental blockchain expert