Oral evidence: Digital Currencies, HC 910
Wednesday 20 June 2018
Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 20 June 2018.
Members present: Nicky Morgan (Chair); Rushanara Ali; Mr Simon Clarke; Charlie Elphicke; Stewart Hosie; Alison McGovern; Catherine McKinnell.
I: Marco Santori, President and Chief Legal Officer, Blockchain; Obi Nwosu, CEO and Founder, Coinfloor; Iqbal Gandham, Chairman, CryptoUK and Managing Director, eToro; Izabella Kaminska, Editor, FT Alphaville.
The witnesses provide their views on regulating the blockchain space and their personal experiences on which jurisdictions are #LeadingTheWay
Iqbal Gandham: My name is Iqbal Gandham. I am the managing director of eToro UK. eToro is a platform that launched in 2007. We have over 10 million customers and we have offered cryptocurrency since 2014. I am also the chair of the CryptoUK self-regulatory trade association in the UK, our members ranging from companies that are selling to institutions to those selling to a wider audience, and from companies that are providing data to the industry to those that are looking a little more into the future in tokenising commodities, such as gold.
Izabella Kaminska: I am Izabella Kaminska. I am the editor of FT Alphaville, which is the blog of the Financial Times, focused on markets, commodities and all sorts of things. We have been following cryptocurrency since 2012 and we try to take a relatively critical take on things. We hope to scrutinise all these new innovations. I presume that is why I am here.
Obi Nwosu: My name is Obi Nwosu. I am the CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor. We were founded in 2013 right here in the UK and we are one of the longest established cryptocurrency groups of exchanges globally. We focus on institutional, sophisticated and professional investors, not retail investors. We believe that, with sufficient regulation, the UK can be a leading player in the nascent cryptocurrency space.
Marco Santori: My name is Marco Santori. I am the president and chief legal officer of a company called Blockchain. It is a UK-headquartered company. Blockchain is the world’s largest software provider for blockchain assets. We have over 25 million wallets and we do it all from here in London, although I should note that we were actually founded in York.
Q137 Stewart Hosie: Mr Gandham, you said earlier that the industry did not need regulation for stability or to gain customers. I am presuming that you think that what we have, regulatory-wise, is sufficient.
Iqbal Gandham: I was referring to the question of whether we are really looking for regulation to aid our businesses. We do not need regulation for customer acquisition. We need regulation from a consumer-risk perspective and an economic risk perspective. It is a missed opportunity here in the UK. Consumers are buying crypto assets today. Hundreds of thousands of these are buying them from exchanges, such as the ones that have been hacked abroad. If you speak to these exchanges, they would be more than happy to be regulated and operate out of the UK. Currently they are going to jurisdictions such as Switzerland, Gibraltar et cetera. They would be happy to be regulated. They would be happy to have their crypto assets in cold storage, so that if they were hacked the coins would not go missing and customers would not be affected.
From an economic perspective, there is a larger ecosystem that has been developed here due to crypto assets. There are the legal associations, the compliance associations, the regulation, advertising, marketing and development that are occurring in the blockchain. If you look at websites that list jobs, you will see that jobs listed for the blockchain and blockchain related development far outweigh any other industry currently today. There are two risks but, just to summarise, as an exchange, platform or association, the platforms are not looking for regulation so they can add more customers; they are looking at protecting the consumers.
Q141 - Stewart Hosie: Mr Nwosu, can I come back to you? In your written evidence, you encourage policymakers to look at the examples set for fintech. What were the lessons to be learned from regulation in fintech where there could be a read-across to the crypto world?
Obi Nwosu: In my written evidence, I asked them to focus more on the examples set by other jurisdictions. For example, we have set up Coinfloor Exchange Gibraltar. The reason why is that we were incredibly impressed with Gibraltar’s forward-thinking approach to regulation. We have been working with them for over a year. They have taken a policy around AML and CTF, countering terrorist financing. They have also looked at policies around custodianship of cryptocurrency, treating customers fairly, and they have taken a broader look at the market. This is what I was recommending that the UK should look at as well, as an example.
Q142 Stewart Hosie: Oane might make a case that Gibraltar is an easy touch compared to what one might expect a tougher regulator to be like elsewhere, with some justification.
Obi Nwosu: I cannot speak to that. My experience of Gibraltar has been incredibly positive. They are very thorough, but are very knowledgeable about the space and passionate about being a leader in the space.
Q154 Alison McGovern: Sure. Finally, to the whole panel, in terms of other jurisdictions, is there a particular jurisdiction you would consider that the Committee should look at?
Obi Nwosu: I have mentioned Gibraltar.