Bank of America Sets Up Dedicated Research Team to Study Crypto

Bank of America Sets Up Dedicated Research Team to Study Crypto

America’s second-largest bank, Bank Of America, has established a team dedicated to researching cryptocurrencies, Bloomberg reports.

Cryptocurrencies: One of the Fastest Growing Ecosystems

In a memo, the bank emphasized the growing interest in cryptocurrencies, describing them as one of the fastest-growing emerging technology ecosystems.

Bank of America’s head of global research, Candace Browning, noted that

“We are uniquely positioned to provide thought leadership due to our strong industry research analysis, market-leading global payments platform, and our blockchain expertise.”

According to the memo, Alkesh Shah, the bank’s former head of the Global Technology Specialist team, will lead the cryptocurrency research team.

Shah will report to Michael Maras, who leads Bank of America’s fixed-income, currencies, and commodities research globally. Mamta Jain and Andrew Moss will also join the crypto research team and will report to Shah.

Shah has been working in Bank of America since 2013 and has previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Bank of America has been in the blockchain scene for years. In 2018, the bank held the largest number of blockchain patents compared to other banks, and in 2019 it filed 722 patent applications.

The North Carolina-based bank also began hiring for several blockchain positions that same year.

In May this year, the Bank of America joined Paxos Trust. co, a blockchain-based settlement network for equities. Thanks to this partnership, the bank began settling stock trades in minutes rather than days using blockchain.

Bank Of America Becomes Latest Wall Street Bank Taking Crypto Step

With this creation of a crypto research team, the Bank of America becomes the latest US financial institution to dive deeper into crypto.

Several Wall Street banks have capitalized on investors’ frenzy for digital assets in recent times. Banks have been rapidly expanding into the world of cryptocurrencies, with many pushing to offer wealth-management products or custody services for the asset class.

For instance, Goldman Sachs Group Inc re-launched its cryptocurrency trading desk in March.

It also started offering investors access to non-deliverable forwards (NDFs), a derivative tied to bitcoin’s price that pays out in cash in May.

The bank is also looking at expanding into Ether by offering investors options and futures trading in the asset.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has also begun offering crypto-related products. In March, the bank launched a Bitcoin exposure basket, a product to track public company stocks with Bitcoin exposure.

In addition to crypto offerings, JP Morgan also rolled out crypto-related job vacancies last month, leading to speculations surrounding its growing cryptocurrency ambitions.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

SoftBank Invests $200 Million in Latin America Crypto Exchange

SoftBank Invests $200 Million in Latin America Crypto Exchange

This fresh capital will be used to scale Mercado Bitcoin’s operations, expand its offerings, and invest in infrastructure to meet the rising demand for cryptocurrency in the region.

Japan’s Soft Group Corp. has invested $200 million in one of Latin American’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, Mercado Bitcoin.

According to Roberto Dagnoni, executive chairman and chief executive officer of 2TM Group, the parent company of the exchange, it was part of the firm’s Series B funding round.

SoftBank made the investment through its Latin American Fund, which represents the Japanese multinational company’s largest investment in a Latin American crypto company.

With this funding round, 2TMhas reached a valuation of $2.1 billion.

Launched in 2013, Mercado Bitcoin has grown its client base to 2.8 million in 2021, over 70% of the entire individual investor base in Brazil’s stock exchange, 2TM said.

During the first five months of the year, about 700,000 new customers signed up to use Mercado Bitcoin’s services, and the company’s trading volume increased to $5 billion, more than the total for its first seven years combined, it said.

This latest investment from SoftBank comes at a time when the cryptocurrency market is in capitulation after experiencing a drawdown of as much as 50% to 75% from their all-time highs while money continues to flow into the private crypto market as investors bet on the long-term growth of the industry.

Dagnoni remains unfazed by the sideways price action going on in the crypto market, saying, “We are strong believers in the fundamentals of crypto.”

Meanwhile, the fresh capital will be used by Mercado Bitcoin to scale its operations, expand its offerings, and invest in infrastructure to meet the rising demand for cryptocurrency in the region.

The company is looking at regional expansions in Latam and expansions via mergers and acquisitions while focusing on custody which is “very important in releasing the power of the institutional market,” said Dagnoni in an interview with Reuters.

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Author: AnTy

Bank of America to Speed Up Stock Trade Settlement Using Paxos Blockchain Network

Bank of America to Speed Up Stock Trade Settlement Using Paxos Blockchain Network

Crypto firm Paxos has welcomed Bank Of America to its blockchain-based network for settling US equities.

According to Bloomberg, Bank of America has become the latest US bank to join the Paxos Network for blockchain stock settlement. The Paxos network facilitates the quick settlement of securities.

European banking giant Credit Suisse and Nomura Holdings Inc’s Instinet already use the network known as Paxos Settlement Service.

Improving Return-on-Assets for BoA

Speaking on the new development, the Bank of America’s head of financing and clearing, Kevin McCarthy, said joining the Paxos network would help improve the return-on-assets in the business, which he said has been a challenge for the bank.

Paxos Settlement Service is an alternative settlement platform to existing market infrastructure. It was launched in 2020 after receiving a no-action relief from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in October 2019. Paxos has also applied for a clearing license with the SEC.

The CEO of Paxos, Chad Cascarilla, said his platform could threaten the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), which currently dominates equity settlement. The DTCC offers a “T+2” settlement process via legacy software. The DTCC settlement takes up to two days and only offers same-day settlement for trades are recorded on or before 11 a.m.

This is unlike Paxos that settles stock trades within minutes using the blockchain. Paxos runs a permissioned version of the Ethereum blockchain.

Using Blockchain In The Stock Market

In recent times, financial firms worldwide have begun to explore how blockchain can help address inefficiencies in the financial markets. Even as the total value of stocks traded globally is pegged to be around $77.5 trillion, the complexity in stock-related transactions persists. The stock market still has problems regarding the time it takes for transactions to be approved and the operational costs.

NASDAQ is one stock exchange that has been a front-runner when it comes to adopting blockchain. The exchange already uses blockchain technology to issue and manage private securities. Most of the other exchanges are still exploring prototypes and looking into the opportunities in blockchain technology.

Banks like JP Morgan Chase have also leveraged blockchain technology to develop specialized payments systems and offer niche banking products. Since last year, JPMorgan has used the blockchain to execute intraday repurchase agreements totaling billions of dollars.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Hackers Demand Up to 600 Bitcoins ($32 Million) in Kia Motors Ransomware Attack

Hackers Demand Up to 600 Bitcoins ($32 Million) in Kia Motors Ransomware Attack

  • Kia Motors America suffered a ransomware attack on Thursday.
  • Hackers demand a $22 million payout to decrypt the data.
  • Ransom could shoot up to $32.7 million in the coming week if not paid on time.

Kia Motors America is the latest company to face a ransomware attack from the notorious DoppelPaymer gang of hackers. The hackers are demanding the payment in Bitcoin (BTC), 404 Bitcoins (~$22 million, as of writing), to decrypt the data and not leak the data to the public. The ransom is set to increase by 50% to 600 Bitcoins if not paid by 28th February 2021.

A ransomware attack is a malware attack in which a hacker encrypts files and data of the victim and asks for a ‘ransom’ to decrypt the data. According to a report by BleepingComputer, the attack on Kia Motors America witnessed “a nationwide IT outage” affecting the company’s mobile UVO Link apps, phone services, payment systems, owner’s portal, and internal sites used by over 800 dealerships in the U.S.

In a note first revealed by BleepingComputer, the DoppelPaymer gang alleges they orchestrated the attack on Hyundai Motors America, Kia’s parent company. No hack attempts have been reported on Hyundai Motors. The Tor ‘victim page’ reads that the hackers made away with large volumes of data threatening to release them to the public if no negotiation or payment is held in the next 2 weeks.

To prevent any leak of the data and get the data decrypted, Kia Motors should pay 404 BTC through a Tor website link, with instructions on how to do so. If not paid in the next nine or so days, the ransom is stated to grow by 50% to 600 BTC (~$31.7 million, at current prices).

Several services remain affected on the Kia Motors America website, but the hackers have released no information on the type of data stolen.

This is not a first-time hack attempt for the DoppelPaymer gang, who also launched a ransomware attack on Foxconn, one of the largest electronic firms in the world, in December. The hackers asked for 1,804 BTC, or $35 million at the time, to decrypt their files.

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Author: Lujan Odera

North America’s First Bitcoin ETF Debuts on TSX with a Whopping 0 Million Volume

The first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) of North America has had a roaring start, with $220 million worth of shares exchanged by investors on the first day of going live, which is very well above an ETF’s typical day in Canada.

While there have been several crypto-tracking products in Europe that function like an ETF, they all have been essentially ETPs. Purpose Bitcoin ETF, with a ticker BTCC, is the first Bitcoin product that’s officially labeled as an exchange-traded fund.

The new fund debuted Thursday on Toronto Stock Exchange.

This fund invests directly in “physical/digital Bitcoin,” which is currently trading above $52,000, up 76% YTD.

“There’s sizable untapped interest for a Bitcoin investment that has the benefits of an ETF,” said Todd Rosenbluth, CFRA Research’s director of ETF research, adding it’s unlikely the fund will trade at a significant premium to net asset value (NAV). He added,

“While most ETFs come to market globally with an educational hurdle to overcome, many investors are familiar with what is inside BTCC.”

Meanwhile, the US hasn’t approved a single Bitcoin ETF, although there have been several active filing for the product, including VanEck Associates Corp., NYDIG, and Bitwise Asset Management.

But with the change in leadership at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the prospects of the first American Bitcoin ETF are rising. President Joe Biden’s nominee for SEC chairman, Gary Gensler, has the crypto market hopeful and excited as he has taught a class at MIT’s Sloan School of Management called “Blockchain and Money.”

Crypto-related products like Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and Bitwise 10 Crypto Index Fund have seen great demand with $34.22 billion and $900 million in assets under management, respectively.

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Author: AnTy

Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase Files S-1 Form With SEC for Potential IPO

After months of speculation, Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in North America, has confidentially filed for a public listing. Per an official blog post from the exchange, Coinbase revealed that it had completed its S-1 Filing and shipped it off to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Not There Yet

The company pointed out that the filing will be effective following a review from the regulator.

The SEC Form S-1 is the initial registration form for companies planning on floating their IPOs to register their securities with the SEC.

It’s a prerequisite for companies before they list on any of the country’s stock exchange platforms. It contains details such as planned use of capital proceeds, company business model, and competitors. The form also features details like the methodology for arriving at the offering price and possible dilutions to other listed securities.

The Crypto Space is Ripe for IPOs

This isn’t the first time that Coinbase will be linked to an imminent IPO. In July, Reuters reported that the company was working towards a public listing, which would occur either later this year or in the first half of 2021.

At the time, Coinbase was looking to hire investment banks and law firms to guide the exchange in the process. It was also reported then that the company was considering a direct listing, which offers the opportunity of selling existing shares without offering new ones. Direct listings have become popular recently as an alternative to the traditional IPO.

Coinbase’s filing couldn’t have come at a better time considering Bitcoin’s recent rally. BTC broke its all-time high yesterday and has sat pretty above the $20,000 mark since then. With the leading cryptocurrency – as well as several other large-cap assets – expected to maintain their hot streak for the next few weeks, the crypto market is as vibrant as it has ever been.

Coinbase isn’t the only crypto-facing company that is working towards a possible listing. As Bitcoin Exchange Guide reported this week, Robinhood, the renowned crypto-friendly trading platform, had also made significant progress in pushing for a public listing. Robinhood had tapped Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs to lead the public offering, with the firm hoping to list in the coming months.

Robinhood plans to raise about $20 billion in its IPO valuation. Subject to market conditions, the Menlo Park-based company hopes to get on with the listing as soon as possible in 2021.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Coca-Cola to Utilize Baseline Protocol For Supply Chain Tracking with Exposure to DeFi

Coke One North America (CONA) has partnered with Provide and Unibright to streamline the supply chain of the largest coca-cola bottlers in the region by integrating the Baseline protocol as a fundamental technology.

This initiative will not only improve the communication between internal and external stakeholders in the bottling process but also expose them to the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) ecosystem. A crypto niche that is currently on the rise with over $4.45 billion in locked digital assets.

Notably, the Baseline protocol integration is an advancement from CONA’s earlier adoption of the Hyperledger Fabric, whose target was to streamline the internal network of the twelve largest Coca Cola bottlers in the region.

The Pioneer project, which leveraged Hyperledger Fabric as early as 2019, obtained favorable results for increasing transparency and efficiency within the supply chain. CONA has now decided to advance this course by enabling communication with external stakeholders as well.

The Baseline Protocol in CONA’s Bottling Strategy

With so many processes involved, the bottling process is one of the most costly operations in the supply chain for Coca Cola’s products. This might soon change following this initiative by CONA to utilize the Baseline protocol. Ideally, the goal is to create a “Coca Cola Bottling Harbor,” which will help seamlessly onboard the bottling suppliers into the Ethereum-built ecosystem.

Despite operating on Ethereum’s public Mainnet, the Baseline protocol enables large companies or entities to transact and communicate privately on the network. This project is the brainchild of corporate giants Ernst and Young, Microsoft and ConsenSys, the Ethereum venture studio. Launched earlier this year, and making great strides in setting up base support for businesses to build decentralized ecosystems. Ernst and Young global blockchain leader, Paul Brody, has since told Decrypt that,

“It’s great to see the Baseline Protocol growing beyond the original code base, with companies like Unibright and Provide. Services building and applying it at scale. It confirms we made the right choice with Consensys and Microsoft to donate this work into the public domain and create a foundation structure to steward development.”

The Cutting Edge

Apart from running operations on the Ethereum public blockchain, the bottling suppliers and other stakeholders will be exposed to DeFi products. They will be able to access the said portfolio through various means, including tokenized invoices.

Initially, a transaction would have been impossible. This is because of limitations in jurisdictional markets and unsystematic barriers obstructing centralized record keeping. While the project is quite optimistic, the partners identified some challenges like undesired changes to purchase orders and manual errors that may hinder CONA’s initial expected results set for Q4, 2020.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

$35.4B Investment Bank in Latin American Issues Tokenized Real Estate on Tezos Blockchain

Banco BTG Pactual, the largest private investment bank in Latin America, has started to issue tokenized real estate security tokens on the Tezos blockchain.

However, this won’t be the first occasion when the investment bank has made use of blockchain to issue security tokens for real estate, earlier the bank has launched ReitBZ token on the Ethereum blockchain. The ReitBZ token project raised $10 million in Ether and Gemini Dollar.

The bank revealed that they have managed to raise $2.5 million in fiat for the Tezos project and $5 million worth of the ReitBZ tokens will be moved to Tezos as well.

The largest investment bank in Latin America also revealed the reason behind moving its real estate backed security tokens from Ethereum to Tezos suggesting they are keeping their options open and diversification of the tokens on two different blockchains would help them in the long run. Andre Portilho, head of digital assets at BTG Pactual commented on the move:

“We don’t want to be tied to just one blockchain. Because I cannot tell which blockchain will prevail. <…> We want to have other options, other blockchains that might serve better the pieces of tokenization and issuing tokens that represent real assets.”

Issuing Digitized Token For Assets Come At a Cost But With Added Advantages

Portilho revealed that issuing a digitized asset surely turned out to be costlier than its traditional counterparts. However, he was quick to point out that a digitized version has added advantages, which would cover the cost in the long run.

He claimed that issuing $10 billion worth of tokenized security would cost the same as issuing $10 million worth of the same tokenized assets. Tokenization also paves the path for scalability.

The Latin American Bank earlier considered taking help from service providers like Securitize but later decided to do it themselves to comprehensively understand the process of digitization of assets and how the tokenization process works. The bank believes this would help them in reaching their potential clients.

BTG Pactual is also working on listing their security tokens on new and upcoming exchanges in Asia. Their primary focus would be to offer adequate liquidity to the clients overtime to lure more investors and clients in the tokenization arena.

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Author: James W

Binance To Launch Fiat Gateway, Latamex, In Brazil And Argentina; Can Buy BTC, BNB, BUSD, ETH

The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange platform is expanding its services in Latin America. Binance announced on 12th December via press release shared with CryptoGlobe its plan to launch a new fiat gateway for Latin America. It is partnering with various digital assets settlement networks to launch a platform called Latamex.

Latamex will allow direct fiat purchase of cryptocurrencies for Latin America on its website. Purchasers will be able to use Argentine Peso (ARS) and Brazilian Real (BRL) to buy some of the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin, and stablecoins such as BUSD.

Binance in Latin America

Binance’s new platform announcement has come days after Bitcoin trading volumes in Argentina made a new record at the beginning of December. Political turmoil in the nation has resulted in higher inflation rates, which is turning more people to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. It is the case in other politically troubled countries in Latin America. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said:

“There is a strong need for cryptocurrencies in Latin America, especially for financial access. Roughly 50 percent of the Latin American population is unbanked, and Latamex is a response to our users’ demands and the current market climate. Working with Settle Network allows us to instantly bridge the gap between fiat and crypto for Latin American traders. We are continuing to build with our key partner, Settle Network, to bring wider accessibility of cryptocurrency in Latin America and will support additional local fiat currencies in the region in the future.”

Latamex Future

The company will continue to build partners and settle networks to bring more extensive accessibility of cryptocurrencies in Latin America and also support additional fiat currencies in the future. In the future, Binance plans to launch Latamex in 13 other American countries, including Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Salvador, and Uruguay.

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Author: Daniel W

Ripple Named An ‘Innovation Example’ By Bank of America For Cross Border Payments

  • Despite this accolade, Bank of America remains opposed to cryptocurrencies.
  • Ripple’s value dropped by just over 1% in the last 24 hours.

Bank of America is easily one of the most influential and one of the largest banks in the world, so any stance of this institution holds significant weight. With the recent declaration that Ripple is an “innovation example,” the XRP community is thrilled, as one member, BankXRP, shared a screenshot from the praise-filled document.

The document sheds light on Ripple as a cross-border solution for payments. It states that the use of a distributed ledger, on Ripple’s part, solves a challenge in “legacy correspondent banking infrastructure,” and that it improves payment tracking and data transmission with the use of “bi-directional messaging.”

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Though many cryptocurrencies may try to outdo the traditional financial system, Ripple isn’t taking on this battle. Instead, the platform is working to become a part of the system by integrating itself into it. So far, there are over 300 payment platforms and banks to already start trialing the On-Demand Liquidity and xCurrent platforms offered by Ripple.

The biggest rivals of Ripple, like the Swift payment system, aren’t willing to collaborate yet. Though there are many cryptocurrency advocates that believe that Ripple will actually replace Swift one day, the platform still believes that Ripple doesn’t have the longevity yet to be used worldwide.

To be clear, Bank of America hasn’t switched gears on its continual opposition of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In fact, the bank shut down accounts held by Justin Sun (the CEO of Tron) and Roelof Botha (a former PayPal executive). Reports from U.Today suggest that Bitcoin was purchased with Botha’s account.

Even with this good news, it still isn’t clear if the price of XRP will see some positive movement as a result. At the time of writing, XRP was priced at $0.221529, dropping by 1.34% in the last 24 hours.

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Author: Krystle M