Říj 29

UK Fintech Industry Slams Govt’s ‘Blunt Instrument Approach’ To Cryptocurrency

The UK could compromise its fintech sector with “very blunt instrument” regulation currently under consideration, a new report from several industry entities warns.


‘Ashamedly Geared Around Bitcoin’

As local news outlet the Telegraph reports October 29, the report criticizes plans to award more power to regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and says treating all cryptoassets in the same way as Bitcoin was counterproductive.

“Bad regulation is worse than no regulation at all,” the Telegraph quotes it as reading, adding that the extant proposals are “ashamedly geared around Bitcoin.”

Politicians had lobbied for wider FCA jurisdiction in September, six months after the regulator had launched a dedicated “task force” with the remit of formalizing the domestic space.

Far from increasing security and consumer protection, however, one of the report’s authors argues a laissez-faire attitude would be considerably more beneficial for a sector which is only just beginning to mature.

“It is a very blunt instrument approach and I haven’t seen this in other countries,” Patrick Curry, chief executive of the British Business Federation Authority (BBFA) commented about the plans.

The use of this technology is still a voyage of discovery and these technologies are being refined for different types of use. My concern is the law of unintended consequences.

Overreaching?

The government had pledged to make London a home for fintech in the coming years, sounding out concerns that Brexit would make the city an unattractive place for innovative newcomers.

Blockchain Expo - Crypto La La land

At the same time, the Bank of England has said it is open to the concept of a self-issued national digital currency while also claiming that cryptocurrency poses “reputational risks.”

“Crypto-assets also raise concerns related to misconduct and market integrity,” Deputy Governor Sam Woods wrote in June.

Many appear vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, as well as money-laundering and terrorist financing risks.

What do you think about the UK’s cryptocurrency regulation plans? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Srp 13

Soaring ICO Failure Rate Sees Investors Flock to ‘Bigger Players’

ICO failure rates are increasing. However, there seems to be a trend of fewer projects receiving bigger sums. Due to regulatory pressure, ICO bans, and a bear market, investors seem to be taking a new strategy to funding blockchain projects.


ICO Failure Rates Surge

There is new evidence to suggest that one in two Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) failed in Q2 of 2018, while those that succeeded suffered huge loses. This is according to the agency, ICORating, whose data suggests 55% of ICO’s failed to complete in Q2 of 2018.
Last Call for 3 Must Buy ICO’s in 2018

The difference in returns between Q1 and Q2 is significant. In Q1, ICOs enjoyed an average return of almost 50%. In Q2, returns equaled -55%.

According to Michael Spencer, Editor of Future Sin, this as a sign of blockchain projects deteriorating in quality. But, he believes there is more than meets the eye. Other factors are at play. In particular, regulatory pressure from the SEC, ICO bans, and the Bitcoin price slump.

“While ICOs exploded from almost nothing to be a multibillion-dollar market in 2017, however in 2018 they appear even more speculative, risky and dangerous to the layperson investor,” Spencer writes

Less Projects, More Money

But while the failure rate is increasing, investment is not. In fact, the amount of money pouring into ICO tokens is rising. In fact, Business Insider notes that out of a total 827 ICO projects, investment totaled $8.3 billion in Q2 and $3.3 billion in Q1.

At the same time, fewer projects are attracting bigger sums, suggesting that bigger players are entering the market. Spencer also interprets this is a pivot towards private blockchain projects. He explains:

It spells a movement towards bigger players that we are seeing in the larger space; where private instead of public blockchains might be more the order of the day as bigger players enter the space: e.g. Bakkt. Bakkt’s focus on digital assets was wildly acclaimed by crypto insiders and the media as being potentially disruptive.

ICO Investment Dependent on Project Location

As the blockchain market continues its rapid development, investors are adapting as the country of registration is becoming an important factor. In other words, the country in which the company’s legal entity is registered at the time of the ICO.

North American startups attracted the bulk of funding, according to the ICO Rating report, with 64.6% of the total raised in the quarter. But smaller countries are increasingly hosting projects that are attracting larger sums.

The total amount of ICO funding per country presents an interesting picture:

  • Malta: 8 projects raised $113M
  • Cyprus: 8 projects raised $124.7M
  • Isle of Man: 2 projects raised $37M

This is compared to $393.7M and $301M raised in the US and UK, respectively. Put simply, projects within countries that have less red tape and friendlier regulatory frameworks tend to raise more capital per ICO.

In any case, as blockchain technology develops and regulations play catch up, ICOs appear to also be adapting to this borderless new industry.

Is the ICO space experiencing a cool-down? Or is it only getting started? 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Kvě 06

Blockchain Technology to Combat Dodgy Ticket Resales

· May 6, 2018 · 6:00 pm

Secondary ticketing in the UK is a billion-dollar problem, one that Aventus hopes to solve with blockchain technology.


Whether it’s your favorite football match or your music idol’s concert, front-row tickets are probably what you’re after. However, if they happen to be sold out by the time you can afford them, you might be tempted to purchase these tickets from unscrupulous secondary parties.

Prepare to be met with counterfeit tickets and sky-high prices. According to The Guardian, secondary tickets for shows for big artists, such as Adele, can fetch up to $12,000. Preventing these so-called ticket touts seems to be a decades-old issue, but something that blockchain technology could solve.

Blockchain to the Rescue

Annika Monari and Alan Vey, who are the founders of Aventus, will have the opportunity to test this theory at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia. Their blockchain-based program will be used for more than 10,000 tickets to fan events in the US and Europe.

By using blockchain technology, the records for each ticket will be immutable and therefore protected against counterfeiting. Essentially, each ticket will be linked to its owner, which will combat fraud.

By doing this, Monari and Vey, who both have degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Particle Physics, have said that Aventus will “virtually eliminate ticketing fraud and the scourge of unregulated touting”.

A New Solution for an Old Problem

A New Solution for an Old Problem

The Aventus founders discussed their excitement at working towards a solution for this problem:

“It has been an amazing journey. We used to sit in this common room having coffees and worrying about our coursework. But now, hopefully, we will be the people who can solve the problems in the ticketing industry. That would feel incredible and be such a huge achievement for us.”

The platform’s ICO in September last year sold out in just seven minutes, raising a total of just over $35 million.

Positive Impact

Professor Mike Waterson from Warwick University acted as a technical advisor to Monari and Vey. He had this to say:

“It has a lot of potential. Thinking through the market from a fresh perspective is very useful. If they get genuine buy-in from a wide enough range of people then it is going to have a big impact on the market.”

Expanding Blockchain-based Solutions

Waterson also conducted a government report into the secondary ticket industry, including ticket sales for Premier League games. This is also an issue that Aventus hopes to help with. The platform will be working with another blockchain-based platform, Blocside, for the FIFA World Cup initiative, but hope to expand their offerings to Premier League football clubs soon.

Ticket fraud is quite a lucrative industry in the UK, with an annual value of about $1.3 billion. Bernie Dillon, an entertainment industry expert, discussed how Aventus could make a difference:

“Anyone who has ever attended, hosted, or produced a live entertainment event has been affected by counterfeit tickets or extortionate resale prices. Aventus brings a refreshing solution that could end fraudulent activity and ticket touting once and for all.”

Do you think that blockchain technology is the answer to the ticketing industry’s biggest problem? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock

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Dub 07

FCA Clarifies Stance on Cryptocurrency Offerings – Derivatives ‘Likely’ Require Authorization

· April 7, 2018 · 4:30 pm

In a statement issued on Friday by the FCA, the UK’s financial watchdog, the agency announced that all companies wishing to provide cryptocurrency derivatives would “likely” require official authorization to do so.


Friday’s announcement comes as the FCA seeks to clarify its stance when it comes to cryptocurrency derivatives. According to the official statement, all companies that offer – or wish to offer – services linked to cryptocurrency derivatives must comply with all rules in the FCA handbook as well as any “directly applicable” EU regulations.

The statement reads:

It is likely that dealing in, arranging transactions in, advising on or providing other services that amount to regulated activities in relation to derivatives that reference either cryptocurrencies or tokens issued through an initial coin offering (ICO), will require authorisation by the FCA.

Products and services falling under the cryptocurrency derivatives umbrella include:

  • cryptocurrency contracts for differences (CFDs)
  • cryptocurrency futures
  • cryptocurrency options

The FCA notes that cryptocurrencies themselves are not regulated by the agency provided that they are not part of other regulated products or services. It is an important distinction, lest the ruling be misconstrued as a blanket call for regulation of all things crypto.

Which Products are Actually Regulated, Then?

Which Products are Actually Regulated, Then?

While cryptocurrency derivatives – which are capable of being classified as “financial instruments” under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MIFID II) – fall under the agency’s definition of a regulated service or product, cryptocurrencies themselves do not. There is no legal framework currently in place that would allow the FCA to officially supervise the distribution of digital currencies.

This means that companies offering services that facilitate an individual’s ability to buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies on their own behalf would most likely not be affected by the new ruling.

The FCA also warns that ICOs “may or may not fall within the FCA’s regulatory perimeter” depending on the nature of the tokens being issued.

Despite the agency’s attempts to clarify its stance on cryptocurrencies and related products, nebulous qualifiers such as ‘likely’ and ‘may or may not’ leave a lot of room for uncertainty. Because of this, the FCA recommends that businesses seek expert advice if they are at all unsure whether or not they require authorization under the new ruling.

The statement is crystal clear on one salient point, however:

It is firms’ responsibility to ensure that they have the appropriate authorisation and permission to carry on regulated activity. If your firm is not authorised by the FCA and is offering products or services requiring authorisation it is a criminal offence. Authorised firms offering these products without the appropriate permission may be subject to enforcement action.

Do you think that the FCA’s announcement clarifies its stance on cryptocurrencies or does it muddy the waters even further? How will it affect market activity? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg, AdobeStock

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Led 28

Masked Gunmen Steal ‘Fortune’ in Bitcoin in Daylight UK Robbery

· January 28, 2018 · 9:00 am

The very first UK Bitcoin robbery occurred when four armed men broke into a home and forced a crypto trader to transfer a “fortune” in Bitcoin.


The meteoric rise of Bitcoin over the course of 2017 featured a number of positive effects. A lot of people made a good deal of money, and media and public interest in cryptocurrency reached new heights. However, a downside to such attention is that criminals now see physically stealing Bitcoin or money used to buy crypto as a viable way to make money. A family in the UK found this out the hard way when four armed men broke into their home and forced the husband to transfer his bitcoins.

UK Bitcoin robbery

Terrifying Ordeal

It’s being called the first Bitcoin robbery in the UK, and it took place in Moulsford, Oxfordshire, a wealthy enclave, during the morning hours. The criminals broke into the home belonging to a cryptocurrency trader and his family.

The criminals were armed with handguns and wearing balaclavas. They tied up the trader’s wife and put the couple’s baby outside in a pram before forcing the trader to transfer over a “fortune” in bitcoins. (The exact amount that was stolen has not been disclosed.)

The criminals then fled, and the police manhunt began immediately after. A police helicopter was used in an effort to locate the hoodlums, but to no avail. Nearby schools were put on lockdown. Police are asking for any camera footage that shows four suspicious males in the area during the early morning hours.

One woman apparently saw the criminals. She describes:

I saw four young men in black tracksuits with the hoods pulled up, crossing the road to the property where it took place. They were aged 18 to 25, dark-skinned and super-fit. They jumped over the fence on the other side of the road. I didn’t see any gun, but that’s what people locally are saying – and that the men wore balaclavas which I didn’t see either, just the hoodies pulled up.

Bitcoin robbery

Media Hyperventilates on Bitcoin

Fortunately, no one in the family was injured during the Bitcoin robbery. Since the media has no blood and gore to wheeze on about, they’re drudging back up the same old tired talking points that Bitcoin is used mainly for illicit means.

Naturally, this is ludicrous as the blockchain is pure transparency. The UK-based cybersecurity firm Elliptic recently released a report that shows less than 1% of all Bitcoin transactions originate for criminal reasons. Of course, hard facts do little to hinder media speculation on Bitcoin and illegal activities.

While the rise of cryptocurrencies is tremendous, there is a dark side. There’s been a number of recent criminal attacks upon individuals with a connection to crypto. There has been a kidnapping and multiple accounts of robberies over the last month or so. Sadly, such instances are likely to continue as long as cryptocurrencies continue to gain in value.

Are you worried about the seeming rise of Bitcoin robberies? What can be done to stop them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Pxhere and Bitcoinist archives.

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Pro 10

00Bitcoin! British Spy Agency to Review Potential Bitcoin Risks

· December 10, 2017 · 3:45 am

The UK is calling upon its spy agency, the GCHQ, to review the potential risks that Bitcoin can bring and share that information with other government departments.


When one thinks of British spies, James Bond comes to mind. The swaggering superspy is known for regularly thwarting villains bent on world domination, all the while enjoying a nice vodka martini and the attention of beautiful women. However, the real world is far different as intelligence agencies often deal with highly technical, tedious matters. Sadly, James Bond isn’t going to burst into the lair of some Bitcoin villain any time soon, but the UK government is tasking its spy agency to review the risks associated with Bitcoin.

Shaken, Not Stirred

The spy agency tasked with probing potential Bitcoin risks is the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is an arm of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The GCHQ is tasked with providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the UK government and its armed forces.

The deputy director for cyber skills and growth at the NCSC, Chris Ensor, recently told The Telegraph that:

We are interested in anything that could affect the country, so Bitcoin is a major thing now.

At the behest of the UK Treasury, the NCSC is examining how the cryptocurrency works, with a particular emphasis upon the potential benefits of the underlying blockchain technology. The agency is bringing in experts (mathematicians, academics, and industry professionals) to help civil servants in the UK government understand the burgeoning cryptocurrency field.

From Bitcoin with Love

The reason why the UK government is having the NCSC investigate Bitcoin is that it is concerned about the potential risks associated with the cryptocurrency. The recent surge in Bitcoin’s price has led to government authorities to begin fretting about the unregulated nature of the digital currency.

The Doughnut – Home of the GCHQ

The UK is considering a crackdown on Bitcoin through regulations. Currently, there are no regulations in the UK for Bitcoin exchanges or Bitcoin ATMs. That may change as the UK Treasury is suggesting changes to European money laundering rules that would require Bitcoin exchanges to know who their customers are. Chances are that regulations would also be enacted to require verification for a person to use a Bitcoin ATM.

Of course, a primary reason why the National Cyber Security Centre is looking into Bitcoin likely has to do with tax evaders. It’s no secret that many people shield their earnings by using cryptocurrency, which was clearly shown in the recent IRS lawsuit against Coinbase. You can bet that the UK Treasury wants to get their hands on some additional, and unreported, revenue.

Like any massive bureaucratic entity, the UK government is being forced to play catch up with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This plodding approach is why so many people are flocking to digital currency to circumvent burdensome regulations and excessive taxes. Still, it is interesting that a spy agency is the one asked to look into Bitcoin, and it is pretty humorous that so much effort has to be made to explain cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to government bureaucrats.

What do you think about the NCSC probing into the potential risks of Bitcoin? Does it make you think of thrilling car chases and exciting shootouts? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Flickr, Pixabay, and Wikimedia Commons.

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