Being prevalent in a $5 trillion-per-day global foreign exchange market, London is yet to clarify its position concerning the endorsement of cryptos. However, whatever the financial centre decides, it will be either all or nothing, Philip Stafford and Hannah Murphy write in a recent article for the Financial Times “London remains wary of jumping on crypto bandwagon.”
Looking Back At Rivals & Counterparts
While London remains cautious and keeps contemplating on what to do with the emerging crypto assets, the rest of the world (well, some parts of it) try to either tackle them down or adopt.
The ranks of the committed regulators are swollen by Japan as well as South Korea and China (however, the level of the regulation in each country differs). In the meantime, two of the most outstanding American futures bourses CME Group and Cboe Global Market have been trading bitcoin-based futures since the end of last year.
There are harsh approaches to cryptos, and most of them are triggered by hazardous features that cryptos bear. For instance, experts usually view cyber-coins as facilitators of money laundering, as well as blame cryptos for being volatile and lack essential peculiarities which would make them credible stores of value.
By contrast, crypto-supporters name them an alternative means of payment and exchange that will make people independent from centralized financial banking systems and regulators.
Not At The Forefront Anymore
London, in its turn, has always been at the vanguard of generating and getting benefits from financial products, e.g., the progress of Eurodollar deposits in the second half of the last century and so on.
Despite that, London has not hurried yet to set standards in the crypto-niche, the chairman of the FICC Market Standards Board, Mark Yallop, believes.
“Their overall size, even in aggregate, is so small that they are too small to really be of relevance in wholesale markets. […] UK market participants have been very cautious in engaging with them because of fears about their vulnerability to fraud, financial crime and other ‘conduct’ risk categories,’’ Yallop said.
However, the issue of virtual coins regulation is not the only concern among British authorities.
“The strength of wholesale banking in London and the dominance of banks have proved less conducive to the development of a market that has proved popular with retail investors,” FT explains.
According to the article, all the advancements made by London have been boosted by publicly traded spread betting firms, among which there are Plus500 and IG Index. These companies provide retail investors with crypto-derivatives. Nevertheless, most of such clients adhere to much more growing Asian markets.
It is apparent that currently, Asia is the epicenter of the crypto-development and novelties. This region hosts the major cyber money trading venues in the world, and it also is an excellent place for crypto-miners to reside as power supplies here are cheap.
The UK Still Has Potential
The Asian dominance and the endeavors of the US to dominate the market do not mean London has nothing to offer. This financial centre has lots of considerable opportunities in creating the virtual assets industry. This is the opinion, expressed by the head of Markets Regulation at AIMA Oliver Robinson. The body, which he directs, is a London hedge fund one.
“They stem from what the UK offers global capital markets more generally — a central timezone, a respected legislative and judicial system and a deep global talent pool,” said Robinson.
However, if UK banks decided to endorse cryptos, that would change the game as institutional investors would get e green light.
Expert at Tabb Group – Monica Summerville – said:
“[There was] a wall of institutional money just waiting for the right conditions — such as adequate technology and regulatory clarity — to enter the market’’.
By now, major banks have registered an American virtual wallet provider and owner of the GDAX crypto-bourse. The only exclusion is Barclays which is agreeing to register Coinbase, another critical US cyber money trading venue.
Max Boonen, a top exec of a London crypto-market maker B2C2, and a former Goldman Sachs trader and now chief executive of B2C2, said:
“Banks have been unusually strict in dealings with crypto. It’s nearly impossible to open an account for crypto in the UK. The problem is that in the UK there is a perception that banks have issues with anti-money laundering and decided to be a lot more conservative.”
A few months ago another public figure, the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, said holding crypto-exchanges to the same requirements as securities-exchanges would address “a major underlap in the regulatory approach.”
The Work Is In The Process
Right this summer there might be laid out first thoughts on how the financial ecosystem of London could deal with jeopardies related to handling virtual money. These thoughts are being developed by the UK task force, consisting of the Treasury, BoE and the Financial Conduct Authority.
Nevertheless, some expect banks to come to the crypto-market next year. Among the supporters of this thought, there is David Mercer, a top exec of London based LMAX, a trading platform, which has recently started trading virtual coins.
Also, London can offer Europe a mix of securities lending, cash management, and trading services. However, so far it remains a plain ambition. Last week BoE told parliament that banks are reluctant to take “direct exposure” to cyber-coins market in the nearest future. However, it’s only the clients who may change the banks’ minds.