On a global scale, a few basic trends are emerging rapidly where crypto exchanges and banking are concerned. The proliferation of crypto/fiat on and off-ramps, ever wider arrays of crypto financial services, and development of competing stablecoins are being witnessed more than ever.
Major players seek to secure market capitalization in the context of security-oriented, compliance-based crypto competition which fosters financial inclusion.
A new age of banking is imminent. Legacy models will be forced to follow suit or become obsolete in the eyes of value holders worldwide, as new bitcoin and crypto services take over, seeking to implement blockchain systems with an eye on convenience and financial inclusion.
Announcements of stablecoins and exchange services from giants Binance, Coinbase, and others, signal the age of the ‘Bitcoin Bank’ is just beginning. Whether this shift brings about the immense positive change it promises, or simply becomes a new centrally regulated banking system with competing digital monies, the transition is nevertheless underway.
Overview of Trends
Binance Announces New Stablecoin Project
On Monday, Binance announced “plans to initiate an open blockchain project, Venus, an initiative to develop localized stablecoins and digital assets pegged to fiat currencies across the globe.” The $1 billion+ daily trading volume behemoth is supporting over 150 cryptocurrencies and already actively involved in stablecoin development “including a BTC-pegged stablecoin (BTCB) and the Binance BGBP Stable Coin (BGBP) pegged to the British Pound.”
The Chinese version of the announcement stressed the need to embrace change, and for groups like itself and Libra to be developed in an “orderly manner” under regulatory guidelines. The announcement goes on to suggest three specific courses of action including government establishing the strategic position of blockchain and stablecoin enterprise in the financial sector, establishing regulatory sandbox mechanisms, and the allowance of private enterprise creation of stablecoins and cross-border payment settlement systems.
Coinbase Acquires Xapo
Another giant in the industry serving as a significant crypto on-ramp since 2012, is Coinbase, whose custody business has recently acquired crypto asset storage group Xapo’s Institutional Custody Business. In an announcement on August 16, Coinbase detailed: “Through the acquisition of Xapo’s institutional businesses, we’re now proud to act not only as the gateway for millions of people to cryptocurrency, but also as the world’s largest and most trusted steward of digital assets.”
Coinbase Assets Under Custody (AUC) growth chart.
Coinbase currently provides crypto services supporting 42 countries worldwide, with over 20 million customers globally. The group’s main service is facilitating the buying and selling of bitcoin via bank account, credit and debit card. Like Binance, Coinbase has its own stablecoin, USD coin (USDC). The overarching selling point of all of stablecoins across the industry is strikingly similar: a focus on convenience and reliability. As Coinbase claims, emphasizing financial inclusion:
Unlike regular US dollars, USD Coin doesn’t require a bank account. It doesn’t require that you live in a particular geography. And you can send USD Coin around the world at an extremely low cost in just a few minutes. This opens a lot of possibilities.
Headquartered in Singapore, the Chinese exchange Huobi was forced to adapt via unorthodox means due to encroaching Chinese regulatory restraints in 2017. The exchange is currently doing a daily volume of over $1.1 billion and serves as an active hub for crypto and fiat trading, with leveraged spot trading, fiat withdrawals, and the HUSD stablecoin being key selling points. Multisig cold wallets with “24/7 security monitoring” and a “Dedicated 20,000 BTC Security Reserve Fund”, enable users to store funds. Like Binance and Coinbase, Huobi is exemplary of crypto exchanges now moving out of mere trading to offering what are basically crypto banking services to their users.
Coincheck and Bitcoin Suisse
Allowing users to earn interest via crypto lending, payment of utility bills, and business payment services, Japan’s Coincheck was acquired by mainstream Tokyo brokerage firm Monex Group in April, 2018, for $33.6 million. In the wake of a $534 million NEM heist in January, 2018, and ensuing regulatory overhaul, the exchange has once again become profitable, according to Monex.
Monex Managing Director and Chairman Oki Matsumoto recently created even more of a stir when he announced that Monex had applied to join the Libra Association, expressing emphatic interest in the project. The Libra announcement solidified the growing impressions of many that a global synergy toward bitcoin banking is indeed developing more rapidly than ever across the industry.
Other major players include groups like Bitcoin Suisse, founded in 2013 and marketed by the company as “Switzerland’s oldest, regulated, professional company for crypto-financial services.” Bitcoin Suisse offers trading and brokerage, storage, collateralized lending, staking, and the Cryptofranc (XCHF) stablecoin. As an amusing aside, a recent publicity stunt brought the group even more attention, finding them conducting the “highest bitcoin trade ever publicly recorded” on the wind-whipped, snowy summit of Breithorn, Switzerland, at 4,164 meters above sea level.
Bitcoin.com’s upcoming exchange (to launch September 2) viewed in combination with the already available non-KYC, P2P local.bitcoin.com trading platform are aiming for mass onboarding of crypto users seeking banking-type services through Exchange.bitcoin.com, while simultaneously providing a clear route for private, permissionless exchange of crypto via the P2P platform.
The exchange is set to offer features such as crypto/fiat on and off-ramps, security via “2FA, IP whitelisting, cold storage”, dozens of trading pairs against BCH, and an SLP token exchange. Bitcoin.com is conscious of financial inclusion as well, including financial sovereignty as the critical element of transaction. As the developer site states:
Money is critical to the Human Condition. Bitcoin Cash and Blockchain technology enable financial sovereignty in a way which is unique in history…As a developer you can make it Bitcoin Cash available to all people, whatever their age, gender, nationality or financial status.
A New Era in Banking
As the trend toward a new generation of Bitcoin Banks continues to evolve, market demand is likely to force legacy institutions to adapt or die, and inspire renewed focus industry-wide on convenience and transparency. As evidenced by cases like 87-year-old private bank Maerki Bauman in Switzerland, which has seen revived interest after hinting at crypto offerings, the new paradigm is one which is digital asset-friendly.
With major crypto service providers and exchanges taking unique roles in their offerings to the market, currency competition among stablecoins is – at least to some degree – now being encouraged. It will no doubt be evident in years to come which Bitcoin Banks are serious about financial inclusion and bringing about a true revolution in the banking industry, and the unfolding promises to be an exciting spectacle.