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BlockFi plots retail launches in Europe — but not the UK

Crypto lending startup BlockFi is planning to roll out its retail products in Europe early next year.

The initiative will debut in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy in the first quarter of 2021, according to David Olsson, the firm’s vice president for Europe and Asia. Olsson was hired in May to lead the company’s expansion in the region.

“They’re large enough markets that it’s worth our while to go in and put the resources to work to get traction there, and there is also the regulatory certainty that they’re more pro-crypto and it’s a stable regulatory environment,” he said.

BlockFi has already begun testing its retail products in Italy.

It does not have any plans to launch products in the UK, however, despite the fact that Olsson and his team of ten are based in London. That may have to do with recent actions by the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK’s finance watchdog.

In October, the UK banned the sale of crypto derivatives products to retail investors. The regulator said its decision was in part due to the “inherent nature of the underlying assets, which have no reliable basis for valuation.” Various businesses subsequently expressed concern that the ban might deter pioneering crypto businesses from setting up shop in the country and cause the UK to lose its status as a hub for financial innovation.

Though the derivatives ban doesn’t affect BlockFi, Olsson said the whole picture for retail crypto products in the UK remains “complicated.” The ban “looks like it’s putting crypto on a different footing to equities,” he said.

The company has not completely abandoned its ambitions for the UK. But for the time being those plans center on courting institutional investors.

“It’s the epicenter of the European hedge fund community; we need to be close to that,” said Olsson, adding that BlockFi has fielded more enquiries from traditional asset managers, hedge funds and family offices in the past few weeks than in the whole of the rest of his time with the company.

Some of those family offices are owners of large gold mines and are exploring potentially divesting those assets in favor of buying bitcoin, according to Olsson.

BlockFi has raised $80 million this year across two fundraises in February and August, which were led by Valar Venture and Morgan Creek Digital respectively.

© 2020 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Ryan Weeks

Market Wrap: Bitcoin Fails to Break $15.9K; Over 50K ETH Staked on Eth 2.0 Contract

Bitcoin’s price closed in on $16,000 before losing steam while over $20 million in ether is already staked for the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade.

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Author: Daniel Cawrey

Venezuela’s Bitcoin Story Puts It in a Category of One

Venezuela’s peer-to-peer bitcoin activity has been extraordinary, whether measured as an absolute or relative to GDP, according to CoinDesk Research data.

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Author: Duy Nguyen

Discovering Bitcoin Through the #EndSARS Movement, Feat. Yele Bademosi & Akin Sawyerr

When the Nigerian government shut down #EndSARS protestors’ bank accounts, bitcoin and crypto became a way around.

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Author: Nathaniel Whittemore

Flash Loans Aren’t the Problem, Centralized Price Oracles Are

Flash loans attacks have received a lot of press attention. But they’re not DeFi’s biggest vulnerability, says Chainlink’s CMO.

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Author: Adelyn Zhou

Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio says bitcoin isn’t poised for the success its adopters hope

Bridgewater Associates founder and CIO Ray Dalio is expecting the growth of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), but says he still sees problems with bitcoin as a currency.

Dalio broke down his thoughts on bitcoin on Yahoo! Finance earlier this week. He said that, theoretically, bitcoin could be used as currency, but because it is too volatile to be a stable store of wealth and there are too few use cases for it to be used as a medium of exchange, it fails in practice. Additionally, Dalio said bitcoin’s lack of government control could stand in the way of its use as currency.

“I don’t think digital currencies will succeed in the way people hope they would for those reasons,” he said.

Dalio also compared bitcoin to gold in that gold was once scrutinized by governments for its use as a store of wealth, but he doesn’t see bitcoin replacing gold. 

“I wouldn’t prefer bitcoin to gold,” he said. “Gold will be the vehicle that central banks and countries use as an alternative to cash.”

This contrasts recent comments from billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller who said he believes bitcoin will continue to attract millennials and “new West Coast money” as a store of value. Druckenmiller said he views investing in gold similar to investing in bitcoin, with bitcoin perhaps the better bet over time due to its illiquid nature.

© 2020 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Aislinn Keely

Mapping out CMT Digital’s portfolio

Quick Take

  • CMT Digital, a division of the CMT Group, is a Chicago-based firm focused on crypto asset trading, blockchain investments, and legal/policy engagement within the digital asset/blockchain sector
  • In 2019, CMT Digital was one of the most active funds in the blockchain/crypto vertical with a total of 11 investments. (Seed, Early Stage, Late)
  • In total, the firm has deployed capital into at least 34 startups and protocols across 9 verticals, which The Block has mapped out.

This research piece is available to
members of The Block Genesis.
You can continue reading
this Genesis research on The Block.

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Author: John Dantoni

Congressional Democrats rebuke OCC chief’s ‘unilateral’ focus on fintech and crypto issues

A group of Congressional Democrats has issued a public letter to acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks in which they criticize his office’s “unilateral actions in the digital activities space” including those focused on crypto custody and stablecoins.

The letter was penned by progressive Democrats including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Stephen Lynch and Ayanna Pressley. Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García, Barbara Lee and Deb Haaland also signed the letter. In it, they urged the OCC to collaborate with Congress on digital issues rather than take what they described as a go-it-alone approach.

In the letter, the Representatives invoke the OCC’s recent move to allow national banking institutions to hold custody of crypto-assets on behalf of their customers — but they expressed caution about the manner in which these activities would be overseen by federal officials. 

“Small and minority-owned financial institutions continue to face a deposit crisis and the Covid19 pandemic has only exacerbated this problem. For some of these banks, the ability to hold crypto-asset deposits could create beneficial outcomes,” they wrote. “Further, the movement toward digital banking activities has the potential to increase access to banking services. However, these potential gains stand to be lost, and significant consumer harm to be caused, if these new activities aren’t properly regulated. It is in the best interest of both banks and consumers for our regulators to collaborate and move forward responsibly.”

Further, the letter stated that the Representatives “question whether this is an appropriate priority for the OCC in the midst of this pandemic.”

They continued:

“Arguably, the immediate needs of millions of at-risk individuals who have not yet received an economic stimulus check and/or cannot deposit their funds in a bank, deserve greater attention than an effort to increase access to financial services to the ‘banked community’ via mobile phones,” the letter states. “Our concern regarding the OCC’s excessive focus on crypto assets and crypto-related financial services is shared by the American Bankers Association and other trade groups who have expressed similar reservations that such services move too far away from the core business of banking.”

The letter concludes with a series of questions about the OCC’s policies on stablecoins, digital assets and payments, as well as the extent to which the OCC has collaborated “with your fellow regulators on [OCC] decisions.”

Read the full letter here

© 2020 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Michael McSweeney

US Representatives Rip OCC, Brooks for ‘Excessive Focus’ on Crypto

Congressional Democrats blasted the OCC and Acting Comptroller Brooks for spending time on crypto during a pandemic.

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Author: Danny Nelson

Blockchain Bites: Bitcoin’s Path to $20K, Ethereum’s ‘Unannounced’ Fork and Biden’s Crypto-Friendly Picks

ALSO: ShapeShift delists three privacy coins citing regulatory uncertainty and $3 billion in blockchain bonds come to market on Friday.

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Author: Daniel Kuhn