American financial services company Fidelity Investments has fully launched its cryptocurrency custody service. Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity Investments, revealed the development in an interview with the Financial Times published on Oct. 18. Johnson said that the company is ready to roll out its crypto custody business following a year-long preparation and accumulation of clients.
Last fall, Fidelity specifically indicated that it would provide an enterprise-grade crypto custody service to hedge funds, family offices, and financial advisors. Johnson called that kind of service nascent and not developed, but noted its potential, saying:
“There are people out there with significant amounts of wealth in cryptocurrencies, probably Bitcoin, and they’re looking for somebody to hold those coins for them because in the event of their passing — which is going to happen at some point or another — you’ve got to have a plan to be able to get those coins to somebody else.”
Speaking about Coinbase’s custody offering, Johnson argued that Coinbase “is still a company that most people had never heard of, and they don’t have the existing relationships with the independent advisers.”
As previously reported, Coinbase Custody was initially announced in November 2017 and launched in July 2018, to provide robust security of crypto assets, which according to Coinbase has been institutional investors’ “‘number one concern.” As of August, Coinbase Custody claimed to store assets on behalf of more than 120 clients in 14 different countries.
Recently, Kathleen Murphy, personal investing president of Fidelity Investments, said that the firm does not offer cryptocurrencies on retail trading platforms to protect its clients. When asked when she expects users to trade crypto “in a meaningful way” on Fidelity’s platform, Murphy replied:
“You know, we’re really careful about that. So while we embrace crypto in terms of trying to understand it and be innovative and thoughtful… We’re also very careful about where we offer those types of things, so they’re not offered broadly on the retail platform. We want to be very careful about making sure that investors who really aren’t institutional investors […] don’t make a mistake with cryptocurrency.”
Telecom Giant Suggests Blockchain Can Make Phone Insurance More Convenient
South Korean telecommunications firm, SK Telecom, announced a blockchain-based document submission process for mobile phone insurance. This new protocol will do away with the company’s current antiquated paper processing methods. Before now, users had to visit a technical repair office to receive insurance benefits for damaged phones, according to Itbiznews. Successful visits would conclude with a claim receipt, which they then had to forward via email or fax to the insurance company.
SK Telecom’ new system will allow the telecom giant’s customers to skip this outdated process, and complete everything online quickly and securely. The announcement states that replacing paperwork with electronic certificates will help the company to safely manage inquiries sent to insurance companies. They also hope that this new method will help to prevent document forgery.
SK Telecom expects mobile phone service centers and insurance companies to cut costs and improve processing speed, allowing them to resolve customer complaints in a timely manner. The company states that Samsung’s Galaxy series will be the first phone compatible with the new service. Kim Seong-soo, SK Telecom’s sales manager, expressed that the adoption of Blockchain technology will expand to “various service areas in the future.” On May 26, Samsung announced a standalone turnkey security solution that secures cryptocurrency transactions on smartphones and tablets.
OKEx Now Offers A Latin American Fiat Gateway With Latamex
OKEx, a major global cryptocurrency exchange, is embracing the Latin American crypto market by launching a fiat gateway for three local currencies. According to a July 3 announcement, OKEx users can now buy Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) in exchange for the Argentine peso (ARS), the Brazilian real (BRL), and the Mexican peso (MXN) via a direct bank transfer.
OKEx’s partnership with a company called Settle Network allowed them to enable these features. Settle Network is claimed to be the largest digital settlement network in Latin America. The new service is provided through Latamex, Settle Network’s proprietary product. Latamex is designed to unlock crypto purchases using local currencies in Latin America. Jay Hao, CEO of OKEx, highlighted that the cooperation will allow OKEx to work with the LATAM market in a compliant way. The executive promised that OKEx will continue to add more cryptocurrencies “to allow more users to purchase cryptocurrencies more conveniently.”
OKEx is not the first major exchange to implement Settle Network’s Latamex. Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, partnered with Settle Network to provide a similar feature in late 2019. As reported, Binance’s LATAM offering featured BTC, ETH as well as Binance’s native token BNB and proprietary stablecoin, BUSD. The gateway was initially available for ARS and BRL.
What Does What Happened To Wirecard Mean For Blockchain
Some of the most impactful frauds in modern history, from the Enron scandal to the Bernie Madoff investment scheme, were carried out by malignant actors inside or at the helm of corporate entities who manipulated the tangled, esoteric financial records. This is precisely the kind of behavior blockchain technology is designed to obliterate. The rapid demise of the German financial technology company Wirecard, which established itself in the blockchain community as a major crypto debit card issuer, seemingly belongs to the same category of events. In the long term, it might contribute to the growing public demand for increased transparency of corporate financial records and money flows.
The power to issue cryptocurrency debit cards connected to the Visa and Mastercard systems is an enviable one. Businesses that find themselves in this position serve as a gateway between the realm of digital cash and the world where it can be exchanged for goods and services as handily as fiat money. This middleman job is also quite lucrative, as companies that absorb both the volatility risks and trouble of compliance are entitled to hefty fees on every step of the process.
The regulatory burden, however, is so onerous that there is usually no more than one major principal provider issuing the bulk of Visa and Mastercard cryptocurrency cards at a time. A company called WaveCrest was once backing a handful of the most popular products in this space — such as Cryptopay, Bitwala and TenX — until it fell out of grace with Gibraltar regulators and was shown the door by Visa in early 2018. A German payments group, Wirecard, then stepped in to fill the void, eventually onboarding crypto card providers Crypto.com and Wirex, as well as WaveCrest’s orphans, TenX and Cryptopay. A rare European fintech success story, Wirecard rose to prominence as a global payments processor and triumphantly entered DAX, Germany’s premier stock market index. Wirecard was big in the fintech field long before the term came to be associated with the convergence of finance and blockchain technology. Seamus Donoghue, the vice president of sales and business development at Metaco — a provider of digital asset technology solutions — observed:
“Wirecard AG began processing payments for gambling and pornographic websites 20 years ago and has grown to become a bluechip DAX listed German tech darling. With a peak market capitalization of 25 billion dollars, it counts Olympus, Getty Images, Orange and KLM among its customers. As a payment service provider, merchants use it to accept payment through credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay and others.”
Operating on a truly sizable scale within the traditional financial system, Wirecard “does not appear to have branched out to service crypto firms in any meaningful way,” said Jeff Truitt, the chief legal officer of Securrency — a firm providing technology infrastructure to the regulatory technology and financial technology industries. Truitt also noted that few of the mainstream press articles covering Wirecard’s meltdown mentioned its affiliation with crypto at all.
Foreshadowing Wirecard’s present collapse was a chain of incidents where the group’s various units were suspected of fishy accounting practices. The Financial Times even ran a specialized series, “House of Wirecard,” looking into various instances where the company’s financial reporting raised questions. Last year, Wirecard emerged largely unscathed from a scandal that uncovered a pattern of systematic book-padding across the firm’s Asian operations. The latest round of controversy began to unfold on June 18, when Ernst & Young auditors reported that they were unable to locate more than $2 billion that was supposed to be sitting in Wirecard’s Philippines-based accounts.
A few days later, the payment processor’s board admitted that the funds likely did not exist. From there, things escalated quickly with CEO Markus Braun’s arrest on June 23 and Wirecard’s insolvency filing on June 25, followed by the United Kingdom’s financial regulator suspending the firm’s subsidiary that issues Visa crypto debit cards. Fortunately for cardholders, the ban proved to be short-lived, as it was lifted after just three days. Against the backdrop of law enforcement officers searching its Munich headquarters, Wirecard is now going into administration. As the Financial Times reported, potential buyers are already lining up for its various units. Expectedly, in a matter of a few days, the value of the company’s stock all but evaporated. Despite EY claiming that its “robust and extended audit procedures” could do little to detect the complex fraud scheme, disgruntled investors are taking legal action against the auditor for failing to report the abuse soon enough.
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