The Edge Markets: Singapore’s wary crypto embrace leaves top mogul in the cold

The Edge Markets: Singapore’s wary crypto embrace leaves top mogul in the cold

(Jan 12): Binance Holdings Ltd Chief Executive Officer Changpeng Zhao was putting on a brave face.

An affiliate of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange had just withdrawn its application to run a bourse in Singapore. Zhao, the richest person in cryptocurrency with a fortune of about US$90 billion, took to Twitter to say the affiliate’s investment in another exchange — one that was regulated — made the application “somewhat redundant.”

As it turns out, the other exchange has a licence to trade some things — such as shares in private companies and tokenized assets — but not cryptocurrencies. More importantly, the real reason for the withdrawal was that Binance’s affiliate didn’t meet Singapore’s criteria for protecting against money laundering and terrorist financing, a person familiar with the matter said after it happened last month. Binance denies this, saying it pulled the application on strategic and commercial grounds.

“There is a very clear line drawn in the sand,” said Lena Ng, a partner at Clifford Chance who advises cryptocurrency players in Singapore and internationally.

The cryptocurrency industry is attracting the attention of regulators around the world, with US Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler labelling it the “Wild West” and saying it needs more oversight. The Singapore example shows the regulatory process won’t always be easy for the companies involved, even as states express openness to the concepts and technologies.

Ravi Menon, the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the central bank and financial regulator, laid out Singapore’s approach in an interview with Bloomberg in October. The city-state sees promise in areas such as decentralisation, smart contracts and encryption, and wants to be well-positioned if they become integral to our economies, he said. But there are also “serious risks,” he said, giving the examples of money laundering and terrorist financing.

“It could lead to nowhere, or it could lead to a lot of risk and turmoil, or it could lead to a very good outcome for the economy and the society,” Menon said of the crypto phenomenon. “We have to look at it in terms of scenarios, and prepare ourselves for any of those outcomes.”

Singapore’s Payment Services Act came into effect in January 2020, providing a framework for regulating areas from trading Bitcoin to using tokens for payments. Under the law, MAS hands out so called digital payment token licences to crypto companies that make it through the application process.

The act’s introduction helped accelerate an inflow of crypto players into the Southeast Asian city.

Crypto.com, the world’s fourth-largest cryptocurrency bourse, relocated its headquarters from Hong Kong in 2021 and is seeking a licence. An affiliate of Huobi Group, which operated China’s biggest crypto exchange before last year’s blanket ban, is also applying, and its co-founder Du Jun has spent the last two years in Singapore. Binance’s Zhao, for that matter, had also been based in the city-state for the past two years.

All told, some 170 firms applied, including Coinbase Global Inc, the exchange that went public in the US last year in a landmark moment for the crypto industry. Gemini Trust, the bourse founded by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, is also among the applicants. Companies that have put in an application are allowed to operate in the city under a grace period until the regulator says otherwise or they drop out.

But about 100 applicants have already withdrawn or been rejected. Most failed to meet Singapore’s criteria for preventing illicit flows of funds, a person familiar with the matter has said.

In fact, only four are known to have received their licences, including Independent Reserve, an Australian cryptocurrency exchange, and the brokerage unit of DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Singapore’s largest bank. One other company, local startup Coinhako, said it had received in-principle approval.

“We don’t need 160 of them to set up shop here,” Menon said in the October interview. “Half of them can do so, but with very high standards.”

Singapore is taking a middle ground between the extremes of China, which banned all crypto transactions in September and vowed to stop illegal crypto mining, and El Salvador, which adopted Bitcoin as legal tender that same month.

It’s an approach that has similarities with other Asian financial centres.

Hong Kong, Singapore’s main rival as the region’s leading financial hub, uses a so-called “opt-in” regulatory regime for crypto exchanges, meaning they can apply to be regulated. It has approved one firm. The authorities are in the process of passing laws to enable a new licensing regime.

Japan had recognized 15 companies as cryptocurrency exchange operators as early as 2017, making it one of the pioneers of crypto regulation. As of December, it had given licences to 30 such firms.

South Korea had accepted registrations by 24 crypto-trading exchanges to operate in the country as of Dec 23. Only four of them are allowed to provide trading services in Korean won.

Singapore has advantages for becoming a crypto hub in its low-tax regime and lack of a levy on capital gains, according to Ulisse Dellorto, the Asia-Pacific head of blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis. The city-state also has an edge in ease of doing business, robust infrastructure and connectivity, and the fact that it’s already a financial center, said Gerald Goh, co-founder and Singapore CEO of Sygnum, which runs a digital-asset bank in Switzerland and an asset manager in the Asian city.

Some 350 firms focusing on blockchain and cryptocurrency already operate on the island, according to Chia Hock Lai, co-chairman of the Blockchain Association Singapore, which promotes blockchain technology. That translates into about 3,500 jobs, based on a median staff size of 10, he said.

But the case of Binance, which generated at least US$20 billion of revenue last year according to a Bloomberg analysis, suggests expanding at all costs isn’t necessarily the priority.

There were already signs the writing was on the wall for Zhao’s firm in September, when Singapore’s regulator added Binance.com, the group’s main platform, to its Investor Alert List of unregulated entities that may have been wrongly perceived as licensed or regulated by MAS. It told Binance Holdings to stop offering services regulated in the city-state, allowing only the Singapore entity to serve local residents.

Then in December, almost two years after it applied, Binance withdrew from the process.

“This certainly won’t damage Singapore’s reputation as a crypto hub,” said Neal Cross, a financial-technology entrepreneur and former chief innovation officer of the bank DBS. “In fairness, it may enhance it. Crypto is still nascent and has a long way to go before it becomes a major player in our wealth portfolios, but to make that happen, it needs to happen in a place that is firm but fair.”

A spokesperson for Binance said it’s continuing to work closely with partners and government agencies in Singapore to support the growth of blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives in the country.

Cross said openness to crypto will yield benefits because blockchain and decentralised finance are likely to make up a large part of the financial services industry in the future. Asked about potential downsides, he said there are two.

“One is the failure of such exchanges” and “the losses incurred by mom and pop investors as these aren’t government-guaranteed”, he said. “Secondly, crypto is notoriously hard to track and hence can open up new pathways to money laundering, but I feel MAS are on top of this with their current regulation.”

MAS’s Menon has repeatedly said Singapore doesn’t want its people speculating on Bitcoin and other volatile cryptocurrencies.

“MAS frowns on cryptocurrencies or tokens as an investment asset for retail investors,” he said in a December speech. Cryptocurrency prices “are not anchored on any economic fundamentals and are subject to sharp speculative swings. Investors in these tokens are at risk of suffering significant losses.”

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, more than doubled from the start of 2021 through a high in November before tumbling for the rest of the year. In 2018, it plunged 74%. The digital token slid less than 0.1% on Wednesday to trade at US$42,649.75.

People chasing digital investment opportunities should exercise caution and participate “responsibly”, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said Jan 11.

Singapore’s desire to protect its public from crypto trading has echoes in its policy for its two casinos, which have been a big economic success but came with concerns its people would be affected by gambling. In response, the government charges a S$150 (US$111) daily entry fee for citizens and permanent residents, while foreigners get in for free.

To be sure, not everyone is positive about Singapore’s crypto strategy.

“When Binance left, it became a statement that Singapore doesn’t welcome the big boys,” said Anndy Lian, the chairman of cryptocurrency bourse BigONE Exchange. “Many people are going for Dubai, because they see Singapore as not welcoming, and don’t know the real reasons behind that.”

Binance itself has turned to the Middle East, signing a cooperation agreement with the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority last month on the emirate’s planned virtual asset ecosystem. It also got in-principle approval from Bahrain’s central bank to be a crypto-asset service provider in the kingdom. And it appointed Richard Teng, a high-profile hire who joined Binance’s Singapore affiliate as its CEO in August, as the global entity’s head of the Middle East and North Africa.

Meanwhile, back in Singapore, a billboard for Crypto.com shouted its message in bold at a busy crossing on the Orchard Road shopping belt. “Fortune favours the brave,” it declared.

That may be true, or it may also favour the cautious. For Huobi Singapore CEO Edward Chen, the key is to get the mix just right.

“It is important to find the right balance between regulation and mitigating risks while still maintaining a competitive edge,” Chen said.

 

Original Source: https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/singapores-wary-crypto-embrace-leaves-top-mogul-cold

Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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Anndy Lian Commented”DeFi has a role in the future financial markets” at Asian Digital Week ” Fintech & Digital Banking Innovation Conference”

Anndy Lian Commented”DeFi has a role in the future financial markets” at Asian Digital Week ” Fintech & Digital Banking Innovation Conference”

Asian Digital Week ” Fintech & Digital Banking Innovation Conference” brought experts into the event to discuss on “Digital Banking & Platforms”. This is also the second session for the event. The experts talked about the adoption of blockchain for governments, large enterprises & SMEs, decentralised finance, trends ahead on fintech, neo-banks, responsible innovation and evolving regulatory frameworks.

This panel discussion is moderated by Kaiser Naseem – International Development Banker, Tech Platforms, United Arab Emirates and panellists: Anndy Lian – Advisory Board Member, Hyundai DAC, Singapore; Kaiser Naseem – International Development Banker, Tech Platforms, United Arab Emirates; Amit Agrawal – Engagement Director, KPMG, Singapore and Xue Tan – Business Relations Manager Team Lead, GLEIF, Germany.

“Everybody is talking about cryptocurrencies. I won’t be surprised that in the next few years down the line, I don’t need to use physical cash and everything become digital. This will change the entire landscape.” Amit Agrawal – Engagement Director, KPMG, Singapore commented.

“DeFi lending for example. The transactions will take much less time, your collateral can be any digital asset and therefore your physical assets can be safe. There are also no credit checks are necessary, henceforth anybody can apply for a loan.” said Anndy Lian – Advisory Board Member, Hyundai DAC, Singapore

Anndy ended his speech with the question “Is the future of finance decentralised?” He believes that decentralised finance has a role in the future financial markets.

Asian Digital Week is a virtual event, dedicated to the digital transformation of modern society. It includes 7 conferences, giving the viewers useful information about the essential trends related to digital technology. Experts and business leaders from Asia and around the world will come to share personal and professional knowledge, best-case practices and showcase project experiences. The participant will have the chance to learn cutting edge information and view the latest in financial technology.

 

Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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Anndy Lian Spoke at Economics Summit 2020, Future of Banking & Capital Markets: “CBDCs complement and not replace cash. Cryptocurrency recreates the future of finance.”

Anndy Lian Spoke at Economics Summit 2020, Future of Banking & Capital Markets: “CBDCs complement and not replace cash. Cryptocurrency recreates the future of finance.”

 

COVID19 has brought uncertainty to every sector. The financial industry has not been spared. There are vital concerns that are emerging for the Banking & Capital Markets. Economics Summit 2020, held on 2 November 2020, gathered a panel of industry experts to discuss current challenges and share future insights on the topic. Anndy Lian, one of the panelists, shared insights on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) and its form in the future.

The panel consists of Kent Choi (Team Leader, Credit Suisse), Yvonne Zhang (Director, Risk Advisory, Deloitte), Andrew Colquhoun (Executive Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore), and Anndy Lian (Advisory Board Member, Hyundai DAC) and moderated by Pau Khua Mung.

The topic of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) came up during the discussion. CBDC is known as a new type of currency that governments around the world are experimenting with. It is issued and controlled by the central bank is managed on a digital ledger or blockchain, the same technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. CBDC also aims to expedite and increase the security of payments between banks, institutions, and individuals.

Andrew Colquhoun, MAS, mentioned that: “Digital currencies are a key area for MAS and central banks globally. Consensus views across different institutions show no immediate urgent use case for CBDC in this region. Many central banks are adopting a wait and see approach and still on a consultation basis.”

Further accelerating central banks’ considerations for the issuance of CBDC, Anndy Lian, Hyundai DAC added: “CBDCs are very early-stage and I believe CBDC is here to stay. CBDC is a form of digital fiat powered by blockchain for many, is traceable and accountable. It works 24/7, nonstop around the clock.” He also went on to clarify that CBDC is not a cryptocurrency. “We must be clear on this and not lumped this (CBDC) into the bucket of cryptocurrencies. There are also crypto companies looking at adding cryptocurrencies on top of CBDC and acting as a bridge. But this is a different concept.”

Digital currencies are still early. It is essential to understand the pros and cons behind it. Digitalization has prompted both regulators and the public to demand increased privacy. Same for CBDCs. Many technologists believe that the right design structure for CBDCs will ensure privacy. “There are many misconceptions on the technology and concept. It will take time to design a suitable model. In my opinion, CBDCs complement and not replace cash. Cryptocurrency recreates the future of finance.” Anndy sums up.

Economics Summit 2020 is an annual event organized by SIM Economics Society (SIMES). SIMES is a student-led society at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) committed to learning and researching global economic challenges.

Kevin Kristano, VP in Marcomm, SIMES thanked all the speakers and his colleagues for making this event possible and told the reporter: “Covid-19 has accelerated a vast array of technology adoption and digital transformation in several industries, like banking and finance. I believe that this change is imminent, regardless of the pandemic. I look forward to how this technological shift would affect the global economy.”

The two days summit ended on 2 November 2020. To view the video recording for this panel, go to https://youtu.be/hwgfXNUuwsw.

 

Media Contacts:

Name: Jenny Zheng

Title: Editor

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.blockcast.cc

 

Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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