Bakkt Expands Compliance Capabilities With Its First Acquisition

ice bakkt nyse

Fresh from completing its maiden funding round, Bakkt announced its first acquisition on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. The daughter company of the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is also eyeing the possibility of expanding beyond the U.S. market.


Bakkt Acquires RCG Back Office

Bakkt announced the news of the acquisition via a Medium post by CEO, Kelly Loeffler. According to the blog post, the company is acquiring some assets of Rosenthal Collins Group (RCG), a longstanding independent futures commission merchant.

According to Loeffler, the deal should be finalized by February. Back in December 2018, Marex Spectron, the Commodity Brokerage firm acquired RCG’s customer business. The Bakkt CEO says the deal with RCG is for the purchase of assets related to its platform.

In an interview with Fortune, the Bakkt CEO said:

Typically when companies are combined you have overlapping systems, so we saw an opportunity to a purchase a portion of the back office operations, including compliance and treasury services, and risk management, as well as adding members of the RCG team.

Commenting on the importance of the acquisition, Loeffler said that it enhanced the platforms expertise across risk management and treasury operations.

Other aspects of the transaction will contribute to our regulatory, AML/KYC and customer service operations as we help enable digital asset acceptance by bringing more choice and control to buyers and sellers.

To this end, Loeffler insists that the acquisition isn’t tailored to institutional needs alone. According to the Bakkt CEO, the move has immense benefits for its consumer business as well.

Not Standing Still

The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is yet to approve for Bakkt to begin trading its Bitcoin futures. However, Loeffler says the company isn’t waiting around for approval as the team continues to work behind the scene.

Initially set for launch in January 2019, reports say the current U.S. government shutdown will push the launch to ‘early 2019.’

Nevertheless, Bitcoinist reported that the company raised $182.5 million in its first funding round from prominent investors like Microsoft at the end of December.

While waiting for CFTC approval, Bakkt is reportedly eyeing making inroads to markets outside the United States. According to Loeffler, the platform is in talks with regulatory agencies outside the country.

Meanwhile, the company continues to reiterate that the current market conditions do not negatively impact its plans. Loeffler noted:

People focus narrowly on Bitcoin’s price, but blockchain and crypto-currency technology keep advancing. Bitcoin certainly needs a boost; Bakkt could very well help provide it.

Do you think the Bakkt launch will ignite Bitcoin boost? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Twitter (@Bakkt), Shutterstock

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Source: Blockchain

Russia Planning $10B Bitcoin Investment, Insists Kremlin Economist

Russia cryptocurrency

Russian economist, Vladislav Ginko, says Russia is looking to invest $10 billion in Bitcoin as the State Duma has put cryptocurrency legislation high on the agenda for 2019.


Rumored $10 Billion Bitcoin Investment

Ginko, an economist with ties to the Kremlin, says the Russian government will convert some of its USD reserves into Bitcoin, a move that could start as early as February.

Last week, Bitcoinist first reported on the government’s rumored plans to ditch the Dollar as a way of circumventing U.S. sanctions.

Vladislav Ginko

Now, according to The Telegraph, the Kremlin plans to invest as much as $10 billion into Bitcoin, citing Ginko, who added:

[The] Russian government is about to make a step to start diversifying financial reserves into Bitcoin since Russia [is] forced by US sanctions to dump US Treasury bonds and [take] back US dollars.

“These sanctions and the will to adopt modern financial technologies lead Russia to the way of investing its reserves into Bitcoin.

The economist also believes cryptocurrency-related activity now comprises as much as 8 percent of the country’s GDP. What’s more, Ginko expects Russia to also create an intermediary ‘Bitruble,’ which it will trade for bitcoin.

Russian Efforts

“The proposal that I understand is on the desk of the finance minister at the moment is to create some sort of intermediary cryptocurrency,” commented Mati Greenspan, Senior Market Analyst at eToro, in reaction to the news.

We know that Vladimir Putin is a big advocate of blockchain technology. Obviously he doesn’t like the sanctions that have been placed on him, and he’s already said that these types of sanctions are going to lead to de-dollarization. This is more or less the direction the Russian government is going.

Cryptocurrency Regulations High on the Agenda

Greenspan also adds that “the only thing holding the country back is the legal framework to do so.”

Interestingly, fuelling the aforementioned rumors are new reports that Russian lawmakers are looking to prioritize creating a legal foundation for the cryptocurrency market this year.

According to Alexander Zhukov, the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, cryptocurrency regulations are a primary focus of legislative work for 2019. An excerpt from a recent article on the official State Duma website reads:

Among the priorities of parliamentary work in the spring session are issues of the development of the digital economy, bills aimed at improving the anti-corruption legislation, as well as amendments that will strengthen the fight against financial scammers.

Apart from being one of the focus points for the Spring Session of the State Duma, matters relating to the cryptocurrency industry will also receive special attention.

According to Zhukov, the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin has mandated that special attention is paid to draft laws towards the development of the digital economy.

Russia’s Cryptocurrency Law May Finally Happen in 2019

Despite several efforts, the country’s legislature was unable to pass any cryptocurrency legislation in 2018. Even with the apparent urging of President Vladimir Putin, the State Duma didn’t pass the “On Digital Financial Assets” bill.

With these new declarations from high-ranking members of the Russian Parliament, the country might finally be on the path of obtaining clear-cut regulations for the industry. Speaking during the opening plenary meeting, Volodin urged lawmakers to push beyond “legislative blockages” and focus on passing and enforcing laws.

What impact do you think a $10 billion investment by Russia would have on the price of Bitcoin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Duma.gov.ru, Shutterstock, Youtube

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Source: Blockchain

SEC Report: Examining Cryptocurrency a Priority in 2019

SEC EtherDelta securities

The Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed the cryptocurrency market as one of the six focus points of its compliance monitoring activities for 2019.


Spotlight on the Cryptocurrency Market

According to a report titled “2019 Examination Priorities,” OCIE says it plans to shine the spotlight on the goings-on in the cryptocurrency. An excerpt from the report relating to cryptocurrencies reads:

Given the significant growth and risks presented in this [the crypto] market, OCIE will continue to monitor the offer and sale, trading, and management of digital assets, and where the products are securities, examine for regulatory compliance. In particular, through high-level inquiries, OCIE will take steps to identify market participants offering, selling, trading, and managing these products or considering or actively seeking to offer these products and then assess the extent of their activities.

To this end, the OCIE plans to examine the activities of firms operating in the digital asset market. This examination will cover sale, trading, as well as the management of cryptocurrency assets. The OCIE also plans to pay particular attention to cryptos deemed to be securities.

Commenting on the approach for 2019, Pete Driscoll, Director of the OCIE, said:

OCIE is steadfast in its commitment to protect investors, ensure market integrity and support responsible capital formation through risk-focused strategies that improve compliance, prevent fraud, monitor risk, and inform policy.

Identifying the virtual currency market as a priority isn’t a new development for the OCIE. Back in 2018, the emerging market also formed part of the OCIE’s agenda. However, the mandate for 2019 appears to be an extension of the goal for last year, which focused primarily on risk and security.

Too Much Regulation?

The expansion of OCIE’s focus on digital assets comes at a time when U.S. Federal Lawmakers are trying to establish a separate regulatory ambit for cryptocurrencies. Some commentators feel the SEC is over-regulating the industry, slowing the rate of innovation in the country with regard to digital assets.

In December 2018, Reuters reported that members of the GOP were frustrated with the leadership of the SEC over their stance on most ICOs being securities. This new report from the OCIE expanding its examination focus might exacerbate such concerns. Meanwhile, for the SEC, the Commission continues to state that strict laws create a safer marketplace.

What do you think about the SEC’s focus on cryptocurrency in 2019? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Image courtesy of SEC.gov, Shutterstock

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Source: Blockchain

Banks in India: Don’t Touch Bitcoin Or Your Accounts Will Be Closed

India Bank

Reports on social media indicate that banks in India are threatening customers that deal in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with the closure of their accounts. This move is the latest salvo from the banking industry in a country where cryptos seem all but banned.


Upping the Ante

On Friday (Jan. 11, 2019), Morgan Creek founder and partner, Anthony Pompliano published a tweet culled from sources in India about the latest move by banks in India to prevent Bitcoin trading. According to the tweet, banks sent out warnings telling their customers not to deal in cryptos or risk the closure of their account.

The notice even declared that banks need not send any further correspondence before closing customer accounts. Pomp’s tweet came directly from another Twitter user; Indian CryptoGirl, who commented on the situation saying:

Indian Banks now forcefully taking permission from us to ‘reserve right to close our account without further intimation’ if we deal in #cryptocurrency transactions Ability to decide what to do with our own money is the very reason we need to invest, #BUIDL, & believe in #bitcoin.

There are also reports of similar messages on ATM screens belonging to Kotak Mahindra Bank. According to Indian CryptoGirl, the bank has even made good on its threat. In an update of the situation posted on Saturday (Jan. 12, 2019), the bank issued a notice of account closure for doing transactions involving cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin all but Banned

Unsurprisingly, the reaction on social media has been one of outrage with many saying Bitcoin is all but banned in India. In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI); the country’s apex bank, prohibited banks from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions.

India's Supreme Court to Issue Final Ruling on RBI Cryptocurrency Ban in September

A coalition of stakeholders challenged the decision, and the matter remains unresolved. The government failed to respond to a Supreme Court deadline back in October 2018. Reports are indicating a plan to establish regulatory clarity for the market.

However, before such regulations emerge, the legacy banking system in India continues to stifle avenues for cryptocurrency trading. With the government failing to provide a definite stance on cryptos, the RBI ban remains the de facto regulation in the country.

What do you think about this latest move by Indian banks; legitimate concerns or fear of being usurped by decentralized currency systems? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Twitter (@APompliano and @DesiCryptoHodlr), Shutterstock

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Source: Blockchain

Russia Plans to Ditch US Dollar for Bitcoin, Says University Professor

Russia Putin

A Russian university lecturer with ties to the government says the Kremlin will soon begin investing massively in Bitcoin as a way of avoiding new U.S. sanctions, a move that could happen “in a matter of weeks.”


Russia to Buy Some ‘Digital Gold’?

Speaking exclusively to Micky, Vladislav Ginko of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration believes new U.S. sanctions will push the Kremlin into diversifying its cash reserves into Bitcoin.

Ginko who has ties with the government going back more than 20 years says the move will happen in a matter of weeks. Ginko has in recent times appeared on various Russian media platforms clamoring for the adoption of Bitcoin as a haven asset.

Commenting on the issue, Ginko said:

US sanctions may be mitigated only through Bitcoin use. Because of US sanctions, Russia’s elite is forced to dump US assets and US dollars and invest hugely into Bitcoins. The central bank of Russia sits on $466 billion of reserves and has to diversify in case there are limited opportunities to do it (in the future).

Cutting Dollar Dependence Amid New U.S. Sanctions

Along with China, Iran, and Venezuela, Russia is exploring ways to reduce its US Dollar dependence. Back in November 2018, Russian President; Vladimir Putin, declared that in the wake of new sanctions, the country had no choice but to cut down on its use of the Dollar in international trade.

At the time, President Putin said:

We have no goal of moving away from the Dollar. It’s the dollar that’s moving away from us. Those making such decisions are not shooting themselves in the foot, but somewhere more delicate, further up the body.

According to Ginko, the Kremlin will, beginning in February 2018, look for ways to diversify its reserves. Ginko has in recent times appeared on various Russian media platforms clamoring for the adoption of Bitcoin as a haven asset.

Russian Efforts

If the Russian government and the elite class invest massively in Bitcoin, the price of the asset could experience a sudden upward surge. Such a situation occurred in 2018 when wealthy Chinese citizens reportedly moved money into BTC in the wake of an accelerated currency devaluation by Beijing.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has been stocking up on non-digital gold as a shield against economic sanctions. Reports indicate the government is selling U.S. government debt in exchange for the precious metal. By August 2018, Russia had already tripled its gold reserve as it gears up for renewed economic tussles with the U.S.

Such is the extent of Russia’s gold-gobbling that global gold purchasing figures reached a three-year high in November 2018. The Kremlin is also pursuing closer economic ties with China to create a new payment system independent of the Dollar.

Will massive Bitcoin investment by the Kremlin lead to any surge in the price of Bitcoin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Source: Blockchain

Japan’s Internet Giant GMO Quits Mining Hardware Bussiness

GMO Internet mining quit

GMO
Internet says it will no longer develop, manufacture, and sell Bitcoin
mining hardware following significant losses incurred in Q4 2018. The
Japanese IT company will instead focus on its in-house mining activities
following a comprehensive revenue review.


GMO Internet Downsizing Bitcoin Mining Operations

In a statement Dec. 25, 2018, the IT behemoth announced the shuttering of its cryptocurrency mining hardware business. The decision follows the enormous losses suffered by GMO Internet in Q4 2018 as BTC 00 hit the lowest price in over a year.

After taking into consideration changes in the current business environment, [GMO] expects that it is difficult to recover the carrying amounts of the in-house-mining-related business assets, and therefore, it has been decided to record an extraordinary loss.

Data from the company’s statement show consolidated and non-consolidated losses for Q4 2018 at ¥ 35.5 billion ($321 million) and ¥ 38 billion ($344 million), respectively.

However, despite shuttering its mining hardware sales department, GMO, which generated a total of ¥154 billion ($1.3 billion USD) in revenue in 2017, expects to continue its in-house mining operations.

Presently, the company admits that a decrease in the profitability of its in-house mining venture. This trend is mostly tied to the falling cryptocurrency prices throughout 2018.

GMO began developing, manufacturing, and selling mining hardware in September of 2017. Back in August, GMO shut down its Bitcoin Cash mining activities to focus solely on mining bitcoin.

Bitcoin Mining Firms Feel the Pinch

For most of the year, as prices fell, Bitcoin hash rate still continued to increase. This translated to increased operational costs for reduced rewards. It was thus only a matter of time before miners began to feel the pinch.

After the mid-November price crash that took BTC down to $3,200, as many as 800,000 (unprofitable) miners reportedly pulled out. However, the Bitcoin mining difficulty has adjusted a since, stabilizing the falling hash rate.

However, cryptocurrencies market woes may not be the core reason for GMO pulling out. According to BitMex Research, the company may not have been competitive to begin with and was thus unable to cope with falling prices.

Recently, Bitcoinist reported on massive downsizing going on at Bitmain. The mining behemoth closed down operations in Israel as well as its entire Bitcoin Cash development team.

Recent reports surfacing online even suggest that the staff layoffs might be as high as 85 percent of the company’s workforce.

Will Bitmain and GMO survive the bear market? Share your thoughts below.


Images courtesy of GMO and Twitter (@Excellion).

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Source: Blockchain

Japanese Yen Set to Surpass US Dollar in Bitcoin Trading

japanese yen bitcoin

The U.S. Dollar (USD) and the Japanese Yen (JPY) are the two most dominant national currencies used in Bitcoin/fiat trading. But while the USD has always dominated the market, it appears BTC/JPY may now be on the verge of overtaking the dollar.


Most Bitcoin/Fiat Trades Denominated in USD or JPY

The USD is in many ways the de facto global currency for business and trade. It is the most popular currency in the forex market, and as such, it is no surprise to find that BTC/USD 00 is one of the most commonly used trading pairs.

According to the cryptocurrency market indexing platform Coinhills, BTC/USD accounted for more than 48 percent of all Bitcoin/fiat trades over the last 24 hours. JPY comes as a close second with more than 47.23 percent of all such transactions within the same time frame.

Japan Needs to Have Stricter Exchange Regulations According to Monex

Together, both account for 95.87 percent making them by far the most popular fiat currencies used in BTC trading. The popularity of the BTC/USD pair isn’t exactly surprising given that Tether (USDT), the most popular stablecoin in the market is pegged to the USD.

Based on Coinhills’ data, JPY is becoming a firm favorite for Bitcoin traders. Back in November, Bitcoinst reported on a study by Cryptocompare that showed a 50 percent dominance for USD in the BTC/fiat market. At the time, JPY accounted for only 21 percent. Though it is important to note that Coinhills’ data covers only 24 hours. The research by CryptoCompare was for the whole of November 2018.

Meanwhile, Bitcoinist reported last week that Asian markets tend to have a bigger impact on BTC price than the US and Europe, according to cryptocurrency research firm Mosaic. If the trend holds, Japan, in particular, could give the USD a run for its money when it comes to fiat trading pairs. The land of the rising sun is known for its crypto-friendly laws and embracing BTC commerce with major retailers accepting bitcoin both at brick and mortar stores and online.

BTC/KRW Surprisingly at Two Percent

Leading the rest of the minor currencies is the Korean Won (KRW), which accounts for two percent. Data from the CryptoCompare study put the BTC/KRW trading pair at 16 percent of the Bitcoin/fiat market.

The figures from Coinhills might indicate a cooling off of trading activity in the Korean market. Between October and November 2018, BTC trading to KRW dominated the fiat spot trading for the top-ranked cryptocurrency. Sometimes, the BTC/KRW pair accounted for about half of all daily Bitcoin fiat spot trading.

Other lesser traded fiats include the Euro (EUR), the Polish Złoty (PLN) and the Russian Ruble (RUB). These account for 1.35 percent, 0.15 percent, and 0.11 percent, respectively. Outside of the Americas, Europe, and Asia, the most popular BTC/fiat pairs are the South African Rand (ZAR – 0.03 percent) and the Australian Dollar (AUD – 0.03 percent).

Do you think the Japanese Yen can upstage the U.S. Dollar as the dominant BTC/fiat trading pair? Share below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and CryptoCompare

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Source: Blockchain

Study: Asia Has More Impact on Bitcoin Price Than America and Europe

asia shanghai bitcoin price

With events like SEC approval for Bitcoin ETFs and the introduction of cryptocurrency derivatives, it is easy to imagine the market being driven by news out of the United States. However, new research suggests that Asia, and not the West, is the dominant driver of Bitcoin price and cryptocurrency markets.


Western Focus Might be Misleading

Jay Clayton, the Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commented back in June 2018 as part of his comments about the Commission’s stance on whether cryptocurrencies where securities or not, saying:

We’ve (the SEC) been doing this for a long time, and we’ve built a $19 trillion economy, a securities market that is the envy of the world, following these rules.

While it is true that the Western hemisphere exerts a lot of dominance over the mainstream asset market, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to Bitcoin and the altcoin market. However, it isn’t unusual to see US-based “trading experts” to argue that things like the CME and CBOE BTC futures are driving Bitcoin price 00.

According to Mosaic, a cryptocurrency data and research firm, developments in Asia exert a significantly greater effect on the virtual currency market than the ones from the Western part of the globe.

The research firm says there have been 11 major news developments from Asia concerning cryptocurrencies. These headlines impacted the market by an average of 18.61 percent.

The most significant of these developments came at the beginning of the year when CoinMarketCap removed data from South Korean exchanges. According to Mosaic, this singular event crashed the market by more than 57 percent.

Back in mid-2018 when BTC price rallied from $6,200 to $8,000, many commentators pointed to news coming out of Asia. At the time, wealthy Chinese citizens turned to Bitcoin as a haven as the government accelerated the devaluation of its currency.

Asia Dominates Mining and Cryptocurrency Exchange

To start with, Asia dominates both the mining and exchange landscape. Even with the crackdown by China, other places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea are hotspots for numerous cryptocurrency exchange platforms and related businesses.

Why is this information relevant? Well, apart from the apparent trading volume conclusion, there is also the language component. These Asian exchanges make sure their services are offered in their local languages, bringing trading closer to the local population. With relatively cheaper electricity, the region (especially China), is still a dominant player in the bitcoin mining industry.

Hong Kong cryptocurrency

Earlier this year, Arthur Hayes, CEO of Hong Kong-based BitMex platform, said that crypto trading in Asia is more developed than in the West.

“Asia dominates cryptos because they’re very used to digital trading assets. South Korea has been trading digital goods related to gaming for two decades. When you move to a purely money based digital currency, they understand that culturally, so they get on board quickly,” he said. Therefore, it stands to reason that news out of that region would have a much greater sway on the market than in the US and Europe.

The researchers conclude that due to the “pivotal role” Asia plays in cryptocurrency, “investors seeking a better idea of what drives crypto prices would do well to look East.”

Will an influx of US-based institutional investors shift the tide of dominance towards the Western hemisphere? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Mosaic.io., Shutterstock

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Source: Blockchain