- Crypto-friendly SEC chairperson, Gary Gensler, shattered hopes of fast-track approval for Bitcoin ETFs.
- Germany has hired the former chairperson of Swiss regulator FINMA.
- South Korean authorities have issued a warning about the risk of crypto investments.
- Australia’s new regulator promises to be “business-friendly.”
Financial watchdogs may be a thorn in the side of businesses, but they maintain fair and orderly markets, protect investors, and promote macroeconomic stability.
The type of person at the head of these watchdogs, better known to businesses as the chairperson of the authority, can say a lot about what policies can be expected going forward. This is why it’s important to know who they are, and their feelings towards a particular market. Despite this, even a well known, seasoned chairperson can spring some surprises.
Gary Gensler, the head of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was formerly a blockchain, digital currencies, and Fintech professor at MIT Sloan university, meaning that the cryptoverse widely anticipated having a supporter at the SEC. This week, however, Gary Gensler shattered hopes of quick approval for Bitcoin ETFs.
Let’s take a look at the heads of the financial regulators across some of the other crypto-friendly countries worldwide.
1. Mark Branson – Germany
Mark Branson is set to become the new chair of Germany’s BaFin this summer. Germany hired the former head of the Swiss financial market regulator, FINMA, to rebuild BaFin’s reputation in the wake of the Wirecard scandal, in which the regulator failed to detect financial fraud.
The British-born Branson was known for his open policy at FINMA, where he aimed to provide equal opportunities for new business models. He also once advocated for Facebook’s “Libra,” claiming that “crypto projects developing outside official scrutiny” are more worrying.
2. Eun Sung-Soo – South Korea
Head of South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), Eun Sung-Soo, dubbed digital currencies to be speculative assets “which have no intrinsic value, [and] are not a real currency.” He also warned of the risks of investing into crypto, alleging that the government would not be able to protect cryptocurrency investors.
In April 2021 the chairperson issued a statement that around 200 crypto service providers operating in South Korea could be shut down, should they not seek approval from the FSC.
3. Marcelo Santos Barbosa – Brazil
Lawyer Marcelo Santos Barbosa has been the president of the Brazilian Securities Commission (CVM) since 2017. CVM is responsible for inspecting, regulating and developing the Brazilian securities market.
Holding the largest economy in South America, Brazil has a booming cryptocurrency market, however the regulations surrounding crypto remain inconsistent. In 2020 CVM announced the launch of a new regulatory sandbox for cryptocurrencies. The test environment is designed to help companies test their business models while legislation is being drafted.
4. Joe Longo – Australia
Joe Longo was appointed as the new chairperson of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in April 2021. The former financial services lawyer spent 17 years at Deutsche Bank as general counsel in both Hong Kong and London.
The new ASIC chair stated that he would be a “business-friendly” regulator, whose priority will be to address the over-regulation of financial advisers. Up to this point though, he has not disclosed his stance towards digital currencies.
Cryptocurrencies have been legal in Australia since 2017, where they are also treated as property and are thus subject to the capital gains tax.
5. Nikhil Rathi – UK
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) holds a strict and active stance towards digital currencies. Having taken effect in January 2021, the financial watchdog banned the sale of crypto derivatives and ETNs for retail investors. The authority explained that there’s “no reliable basis for valuation” of cryptocurrency and that they are too risky for retail consumers.
The head of the authority, Nikhil Rathi, warned the UK’s crypto users to beware of cryptocurrency frenzies. “Direct investment in crypto-assets are high risk, with few regulatory protections,” said the former CEO of the London Stock Exchange.
He also recently asserted that a high number of cryptocurrency firms do not meet Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards.
On the Flipside
- Various countries worldwide are exploring the possibility of issuing their own Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC).
- Digitized national currencies would remain under the control of their respective governments, unlike their decentralized alternative – cryptocurrencies.
- Crypto regulations are necessary for institutional capital to get safely involved in digital assets.