Dear all, We will be taking a break next week for the Memorial Day holiday in the US and Spring bank holiday in the UK. We hope everyone has a great week ahead and a relaxing long weekend on the horizon. See you in June! Best, the Fintech Update team
The SEC delayed its decision on Bitwise’s proposed bitcoin ETF again; Paytm is working with Citi to launch its first physical card in India; Investec shut down its robo-advisory business; the ECB produced a white paper exploring the risk to the EU posed by crypto assets; British MPs called for shared bank hubs; Coinbase expanded global access to the USD Coin stablecoin; and crypto trading platform eToro is expanding to the U.S.
In the News
SEC again delays decision on Bitwise’s crypto ETF. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a new notice and request for public comment on Bitwise Asset Management’s proposed bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF). It is the SEC’s second such filing since February, pushing the SEC’s decision deadline back three weeks into June. A decision originally had been expected in March, then by May.
Big banks to invest $50M in digital cash settlements. Around a dozen large banks are reportedly investing around $50 million to create a blockchain-based digital cash system to settle financial transactions. The project is a continuation of the “utility settlement coin” begun by Swiss bank UBS and London-based blockchain company Clearmatics, and will be run by a new entity called Fnality.
Citi partners with Paytm for card launch. Citigroup will work with the Indian mobile-payments firm to launch Paytm’s first physical credit card. Paytm dominates the Indian payments market with over 350 million users. The Citi deal is the latest example of fintech startups working with established banks to offer traditional card services, demonstrating their expanding clout and drive for new revenue streams.
Investec shutters robo-advisory service. The South African bank and asset manager is closing its online robo-advisory investment service due to lack of demand. Investec, which set up the low cost digital service two years ago to attract clients with smaller portfolios, said “the appetite for investment services such as ours remains low and the market . . . is growing at a much slower rate than expected”.
U.K. MPs call for shared bank hubs. Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, which includes banking policy in its remit, said that big banks should be forced to fund shared hubs for customers to prevent the loss of the “last bank in town”. The committee’s report on financial inclusion notes digital services’ vulnerability to IT failures and that many people are still reliant on branches to do their banking.
WSJ: lack of access to banks makes crypto firms take risks. The Wall Street Journal discusses how a “lack of banking options” forces crypto firms to use disreputable third-party service providers to support their activities, highlighting how Bitfinex lost $850 million of customer funds after it was turned away by Wells Fargo and partnered instead with Panama-based Crypto Capital Corp.
ECB: crypto assets are not currently a risk, but may become one. The European Central Bank’s (ECB) task force on monetary policy and financial system stability produced a white paper exploring the risks posed by crypto assets. While these assets do not currently threaten the EU’s financial stability, says the paper, increased exposure could result in regulatory arbitrage and heightened risk to the EU.
JPMorgan Chase pledges $125M to financial health. The global bank pledged to give $125 million over the next five years to non-profits focused on improving the financial health of underserved communities. The funding will be aimed at firms that use “fintech tools to help people save, boost their credit, and reduce debt.”
Coinbase expands its global support for USD stablecoin. The San Francisco-based crypto exchange now allows users to trade the U.S. Dollar-pegged USD Coin in 85 countries (it had previously been restricted to U.S. trading only). Coinbase expects USD Coin to be particularly popular among users in countries with high inflation, who could benefit from the stability of the dollar-pegged alternative.
eToro expands to the U.S. The social investing and trading platform, which operates in 140 countries, is launching in the United States. The platform will be available in 30 states and will expand further after receiving regulatory sign-offs. eToro currently has over 10 million users that trade and holds 1,500 asset classes, although the U.S. platform will only support crypto assets at launch.