Representatives from China's central bank and several research organizations visited San Francisco last week to find out more about blockchain technology and related financial regulation in the U.S.
The trip saw Yao Qian, director of the People's Bank of China's Digital Currency Research Institute, as well as delegates from fintech research bodies such as Shanghai New Financial Research Institute (SFI) and Peking University Digital Finance Research Center (IDF) meet with local startups from August 23 to 24.
According to a report by online media site Sohu, the visit was made as part of ongoing research led by the IDF and SFI, which is planned to be published in a report detailing the status of U.S. fintech development and regulation.
The delegates initially met with startups Prosper, a lending company; Sofi, an initiative targeting student loans; blockchain startup Circle; cryptocurrency exchange service Coinbase and DLT payments firm Ripple.
Additional conversations were reportedly centered around regulation.
According to Sohu, Qian stated in a discussion that "the issue of legal digital currency is of great significance" for China, and spoke about the necessity for traditional financial system stakeholders to set a strategy for blockchain technology.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Ripple.
Thank you for Bing Bin for her translation assistance.
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An official for Russia's national legislature believes that new laws regulating the exchange of cryptocurrencies will be complete by the end of the fall.
Anatoly Aksakov, who leads the State Duma's financial markets committee, told Russian media this week that next steps involve the formation of a dedicated working group to address the issue. Further, he said that he would be meeting with officials from Russia's central bank and the Ministry of Finance in the coming days.
Should all the pieces come together – Russian officials have been working on some kind of law related to the tech since as early as 2014 – lawmakers could complete work on a legislative passage over the next several months, according to Aksakov.
He said (in translated comments):
"If we agree on the main approaches in the coming week, I think that by autumn, by the end of the fall session, we will be able to adopt this law in order to provide a legal space for the development of this market."
The comments come amid a flurry of news out of Russia on the cryptocurrency front. The country's deputy finance minister, for example, said earlier this week that he thinks bitcoin trading should be restricted to qualified investors. The chief internet advisor to president Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, unveiled the formation of a new blockchain and cryptocurrency advocacy group earlier this week.
The ‘utility settlement coin’, a digital currency token developed by UBS has gained the interest of six of the world’s biggest banks as it shifting gears to a new phase of development ahead of a planned limited launch in 2018.
Per a Financial Times today, Swiss banking giant UBS – the developer of the utility settlement coin – is in talks with a number of central banks toward adoption of its digital currency tokens.
First reported in late 2015, the ‘utility settlement coin’ was developed as digital token that enabled financial institutions to swap value including equities, bonds and payments in digital tokens without the actual transfer of fiat cash. These digital tokens are designed to be convertible into different fiat currencies directly at their corresponding central banks, with all transactions recorded on a blockchain.
A year ago, three global banks joined UBS’ endeavor to develop and introduce a digital token geared for settlements in the global banking industry. BNY Mellon, Deutsche Bank and Santander came onboard the blockchain-based project to “dramatically enhance the payments experience,” as BNY Mellon put it.
Today’s report reveals six additional big banks joining the working group, namely: Barclays, Credit Suisse, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, HSBC, MUFG and State Street.
Central Bank Talks
According to UBS head of FinTech Hyder Jaffrey, the project is now moving into a new phase of development where its member banks are in talks with central banks around the world toward supporting the digital token.
Jaffery told FT:
We have been in discussions with central banks and regulators and we will continue that over the next 12 months with the aim of a limited ‘go live’ at the back end of 2018.
The UBS executive also revealed details of the immediate application of the digital currency following its launch next year. Participating banks will be able to use the utility settlement coin to pay each other, almost instantly, in different currencies. ‘If one bank owed $100 million to a rival with a £50 million debt in the other direction, the two institutions could transfer the money almost instantly using the new coins,” an excerpt from the report explained.
For settlement in securities trading, Jaffery insists that the securities would need to be transferred and accessible over a blockchain first before utility settlement coins are introduced to settle bonds and more. This necessity points toward a lack of compatibility toward existing infrastructure, hinting at the need for a complete overhaul before the settlement coin gains adoption.
Further, a number of central banks have already started developing their own digital currencies. After announcing plans toward a blockchain-based interbanking payments platform last year, Singapore’s central bank revealed details of its digital dollar trial over an Ethereum blockchain in June this year. China’s central bank also completed its digital currency trial over a blockchain this year, after publicly stating its intention to issue its own digital currency “as soon as possible” in early 2016.
The UBS executive admits that central bank digital currencies could prove a death kneel for the bank’s utility settlement coin. However, he sees the introduction of national digital currencies to take “many years” due to many “public policy questions” he believes will surface before the issuance of a central bank-issued digital currency.
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a blockchain Internet of Things (IoT) platform dedicated to bringing transparency to the food and pharmaceutical supply chains, announced it has raised more than $30 million in its token presale. Following the public crowdsale in September, the project hopes to raise $100 million.
Govt-Backed Ambrosus Raises $30 Million Ahead of ICO
The platform, which has received financial backing from the government of the Swiss Canton of Vaud, aims to integrate blockchain technology, smart contracts, and cutting edge sensors to improve global supply chains and empower consumers with the knowledge of where products originate and whether or not they are what they claim to be.
Ambrosus says its token presale, which is ongoing, has already surpassed $30 million. On September 13, the Ambrosus ICO will open to the public and has a hard cap of 100 million CHF (est. $100 million). Ambrosus Co-Founder and CEO Angel Versetti attributed the success of the presale to the value that this IoT system will bring to all participants in the global supply chain:
Our token sale participants, many of whom are early adopters of Ambrosus, see value in a platform that assures the quality, safety and origins of life-essential products. By combining high-tech sensors, blockchain technology and smart contracts, Ambrosus ensures the transparent and efficient recording of supply chain data to a blockchain that can be accessed by anyone.
Recent food scandals–such as the revelation that cheap fish is often passed off as a more-expensive species–has shown the public that food is not always what it claims to be. Moreover, the food production industry is rife with human rights abuses, so consumers need to know about the provenance of their meat and produce so they can make responsible consumption choices.
Often inefficient, opaque and corruptible, the world’s system of commodity production and distribution has been slow to capitalise on the ground-breaking technological advancements of our time. Scandals, recalls and failures have plagued the global food and pharmaceutical supply lines for years, clearly demonstrating that this problem has become a moral issue, not just a practical one.
In addition to its food tracing mechanism, Ambrosus has also launched a P2P marketplace where buyers can connect with international food producers who utilize the supply-chain transparency platform.
Several major organizations have lent their approval to Ambrosus. It is the first blockchain project to form an official partnership with the United Nations 10YFP, a global framework for sustainable production and consumption. The project has also received an endorsement from the Swiss Quality and Safety Association.
Companies Turn to Blockchain Tech to Secure Supply Chains
Ambrosus is not the only project looking to leverage the power of blockchain technology to secure global supply chains. The most high profile project is an IBM working group that includes members from some of the world’s biggest retailers and food producers, including Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Kroger. On a smaller scale, a group of Arkansas livestock farmers partnered to form the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, which utilizes blockchain tech to trace meat as it travels through the supply chain from farm to fork.
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A major UAE forex and remittance house is in the process of partnering FinTech firm Ripple for real-time cross border payments using blockchain technology.
A report by regional publication Arabian Business has revealed that UAE Exchange, one of the region’s earliest remittance operators with some 800 offices across 31 countries, is looking to partner San Francisco-based FinTech firm Ripple to facilitate instant international money transfers.
The remittance operator sees blockchain technology as the solution toward faster and efficient money transfers at significantly lower costs for customers. Ripple uses its bank-friendly public blockchain, the Ripple Consensus Ledger, to link its international partners and facilitate real-time money transfers globally.
“UAE Exchange has been investing significantly in blockchain technology,” revealed UAE Exchange Group CEO Promoth Manghat.
The executive added:
[We] are in the process of tying up [a deal] with distributed ledger startup Ripple, for real-time cross border payments.
Based in Abu Dhabi, the remittance operator has already witnessed the National Bank of Abu Dhabi – the emirate’s largest bank – launching blockchain cross-border payments by integrating Ripple’s technology. The bank has a marked presence in the Middle-East and Asia corridor with operations in Malaysia, China, South Korea, Hong Kong and more recently, India – the largest remittance receiver in the world.
“Banks and their customers have been hearing about the promise of blockchain technology to enable real-time cross-border payments,” said Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse after the bank’s commercial launch of blockchain payments in February. “Now…banks like NBAD are making this a reality by offering Ripple-enabled payments to their entire customer base.”
Meanwhile, the UAE Exchange Group has also invested in blockchain loyalty network Loyyal and is also a member of Bankchain, India’s largest banking blockchain consortium which took shape in February this year.
Bitcoin: The Remittance Industry’s Future
The Arabian Business report concludes with a market expert pointing to bitcoin as the future of the remittance industry. Dubai-based Jameel Ahmad, VP of corporate development and marketresearch at trading broker FXTM stated:
Adopting bitcoin for remittance and forex business is where the industry is heading.
Traditional bank remittance, through SWIFT, typically costs 6% in remittance fees and could take up to 3-4 days for settlement. The likes of PayPal and other modern remittance operators like Western Union can charge up to 4% in fees, with faster transfers. However, a bitcoin-based remittance agency can guarantee same-day transfers with 1% of the transaction fees or less.
The big remittance operators like Western Union and Money Gram along with other smaller players, he added, directly facilitate 25% of the world’s annual remittance transactions. The trading executive sees bitcoin streamlining what is otherwise an exhaustive, multi-step process for an international money transfer. As reported earlier, South Korean FinTech remittance firms that mediate money transfers with bitcoin will now gain official permits to operate as money transfer operators.
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