US Bank Regulators to Roll Out Uniform Rules for Crypto & FinTech Firms; Streamlining Licensing

  • In efforts to ease the regulatory process for payment services and crypto firms, the United States is set to introduce a unified set of regulations that will be used in about 48 states.

As per a press statement shared with Bitcoin Exchange Guide, money services businesses based in the United States, composed of crypto firms, will in the near future enjoy easy regulatory processes. The press statement explains that the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) is set to launch a group of state regulators which will oversee all the licensing work.

CSBS will bring together 48 state regulators who have agreed to come up with a unitary set of supervisory rules. Until today, crypto-based firms as well as payment service companies were forced to adhere to numerous individual state regulations.

About 78 firms will benefit from the fresh simplified format and according to an official at CSBS, these companies move more than $1 trillion per year combined. The enactment of the unified state regulations will help ease operations across many states.

John Ryan, CSBS’s CEO, stated that the new initiative will come with numerous opportunities which will help businesses operating in the country to expand their services. Ryan also quipped that the new model will work safely just like in the old regime.

He explained that the states will not be giving up their authority but will realize efficiencies through sharing of information. Ryan also explained that although states will be sharing information, every state has the right to conduct and independent examination when the regulators deem it necessary.

The new initiative comes after several complaints were filed by crypto and fintech firms as they try to get a solution on having a state-by-state supervisory regime that delayed the licensing process. CSBS embarked on testing various approaches to determine what could work well in efforts to come up with a lasting solution. The current unified approach led to promising results which culminated in the establishment of a pilot initiative last year.

Western Union’s Rosemary Gallagher whose firm participated in the pilot program praised the initiative saying it will lead to a faster licensing process.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Jack Dorsey’s Square Launches COPA to Ensure Bitcoin & Crypto Remain ‘Free and Open’

Bitcoin proponent Jack Dorsey’s payment company Square, which first ventured into crypto in 2018, is now inviting cryptocurrency firms to join its Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) to ensure the industry remains open-source. Dorsey wrote,

“Square is putting all of our crypto patents into a new non-profit org we’re calling the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, which will maintain a shared patent library to help the crypto community defend against patent aggressors and trolls. Join us!”

On Thursday, the announcement was made, and COPA was launched. In its “fight to keep bitcoin and crypto free and open,” the new initiative is introduced, which ensures new ideas don’t get tied up by patent litigation.

Free to Pursue Crypto’s Future

To tackle the concern of “patent lockup” stifling innovation and adoption, Square asked the crypto community to do “what it is so famous for and come together for the greater good.” The official website reads,

“We believe there needs to be a global native currency for the internet,” and everyone should be able to “participate in cryptocurrencies and have access to its underlying innovation.”

A separate entity from Square, COPA, has a two-prong approach, including a pledge that no member asserts their patents on foundational crypto technology ever except defensively, and creating a shared patent library where members pool their crypto patents and allow each other to use them. Square Crypto said,

“As more companies join and the shared patent library grows, the freer we’ll all be to pursue crypto’s future.”

In the US, the number of blockchain and crypto-related patents already doubled between 2016 to 2017. Even Microsoft filed a patent last year for a mining system powered by human activity.

The Native Currency of Internet but “Intuitive”

Dorsey is known for his bitcoin support, who believes it could be the “native currency of the Internet.”

In an interview with Reuters this week, Dorsey re-emphasized on it, saying, like the internet, bitcoin is consensus-driven. He said,

“I think the internet warrants a […] native currency and […] Bitcoin is probably the best manifestation of that thus far. I can’t see that changing given all the people who want the same thing and build it for that potential.”

But for the leading digital asset to interact with money and change the way most people think of it, it must be “intuitive.”

The main main point here is that bitcoin is expensive to use and that people must understand why they use it and access it in a way that is similar to dealing with cash. Dorsey said,

“We have to build the coin in such a way that it is as intuitive as fast and as efficient as what exists today and obviously goes beyond that.”

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Author: AnTy

Visa’s Fast Track Program On Boards New Bitcoin Lightning Payment Startup, LastBit

The Visa fast track program has onboarded a new Bitcoin Lightning crypto payment startup, LastBit, which recently launched its beta app. This addition comes barely a month since Strike also joined the Visa initiative to scale crypto adoption through Lightning BTC payment solutions.

Lastbit will enable merchants to accept BTC payments regardless of their preference since the underlying tech converts such transactions to fiat upon settlement. Currently, this BTC lightning-based innovation only allows merchants to receive their payments in U.S dollars. However, they are set to release an app that is Euro compatible in a few weeks, according to the company’s founder, Prashanth Balasubramanian.

LastBit’s BTC Lightning for Micropayments

Despite the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, mainstream adoption is still one of the most significant uncertain factors. Well, BTC lightning solutions, which came up as a result of network congestion, seem to be finding a niche in micropayment fiat-crypto on-ramps, given the convenience in rates and transaction time.

LastBit’s lighting payment, for instance, allows users to load BTC on their applications, after which they can access a digital debit card. With this card, they can then initiate BTC payments, which are received by vendors in dollars and soon Euros.  Balasubramanian has since noted that their goal is to facilitate the mass adoption of Bitcoin as a standard means of payment,

“We simply want to see the masses using bitcoin on a day-to-day basis. To do this, we have engineered arguably the most seamless interoperability between bitcoin and fiat, on top of the Lightning Network, that caters to the needs of both new and experienced users alike,”

Prospect Markets!

As the world continues to move towards digital ecosystems, crypto startups like Stripe and LastBit are looking to capitalize on the growing opportunities in various markets. On this front, LastBit is set to expand into Europe following approval from the EU. Balasubramanian confirmed this prospectus move with Coindesk, highlighting that;

“With a solid product, partnerships and notable investors […] behind us, we’re going to roll out our Bitcoin, Lightning, and EUR interoperable payments layer in the EU to prove that this works and that a small company without millions can pull off a complex payments product to push for Bitcoin adoption,”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Travala Adds Support for VeChain’s Cryptocurrency, VET, As A Payment Option at 2.2M Hotels

VeChain has become the latest cryptocurrency to be added to the travala.com’s cryptocurrency payment portfolio. The addition would open the gates for VeChain token holders to book their travel tickets and over 2.2 million hotels via travala.com using the native VET token.

Travala.com, over the years, has established itself as a noted travel booking platform that allows its customer to book tickets to their favorite destination using cryptocurrency. The platform has already added Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and many more cryptocurrencies to its platforms. The services of the platform are available in over 230 countries.

Juan Otero, CEO at Travala.com, shared his views on the importance of this partnership and how it would help them in achieving their goal of broader crypto adoption. He said:

“At Travala.com, we are dedicated to expanding valuable options for our users. Through this partnership, we hope to continue to push the growth of cryptocurrency adoption by enabling our user’s access to VeChain’s reputable ecosystem and fast, user-friendly payment execution.”

Given the vacation rental market size is expected to grow to $114 billion by 2027, travala.com can play a major role in expanding the adoption and use of crypto.

VeChain, on the other hand, is a popular enterprise-friendly public blockchain platform. The blockchain platform association with Travala.com promises to not only expand the use of crypto but also ensure safety and security. VeChain said that its VET token would work as smart money for the users.

Sunny Lu, the co-founder, and CEO at VeChain, commented on their recent association with one of the largest travel booking platforms and said:

“Positioned as the ecosystem enabler, VeChain has been on the path for accumulating real-world applications and client base, and we’re always on the lookout for partnerships amongst a diverse list of industries to widen the adoption of blockchain. We’re pleased to partner with Travala.com to bring users an enhanced travel experience through the utilization of blockchain technology.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

Social Media Giant Launches ‘Facebook Finance’ Division to Push For Payment Opportunities

  • Facebook Inc. is determined to push its strides in the payment industry with the launch of the F2 division, Facebook Financial, to handle all its payments.
  • The division will be led by the co-founder of Libra Association, and Novi CEO, David Marcus
  • Stephane Kasriel joins from Upwork Inc.

The largest social network company in the world is launching a new payment and commerce division led by Davis Marcus. Facebook Financial will be in charge of all the payment projects currently in development under FB, including WhatsApp Pay, Novi, and any universal payment features set to be built on Messenger and Instagram in the future.

The launch of the division focuses its energy on building stable commerce systems within the Facebook-controlled apps, in a bid to increase advertisement revenue and keep users longer on the platform, the Bloomberg states.

One of the key developments F2 will work on is the launch of WhatsApp Pay in Brazil and India to boost e-commerce. However, the process of registration and tough regulations in the country are slowing the implementation process.

David Marcus, who has championed for the development of digital currencies since the launch of Libra, states the company is working with financial regulators in these two countries to integrate payments on their apps. He said,

“It’s helpful to have specific expertise in financial services regulation to build things the right way from the get-go.”

Former CEO of the freelancing marketplace, Upwork Inc., Stephane Kasriel, will join the Facebook Finance division as a payments vice president, deputizing Marcus.

Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the benefits of Libra to Facebook shareholders during the AGM, stating the stablecoins will usher in a new wave of higher prices for advertisements on its social platforms.

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Author: Lujan Odera

PayPal: Society has Reached an Inflection Point, Moving From Physical Cash to Digital

Paypal, the payment processing giant, has recorded another strong quarter with $5.26 billion in the second quarter of 2020 and added 1.7 million merchants to its ecosystem. Paypal executives got on a call recently to discuss the future of cash, and during their discussion, they noted that society had reached an “inflection point” post COVID-19 outbreak.

The executives on the call claimed that almost 70% of their customer base now fears for their health when it comes to paying in cash as it requires physical contact. This is understandable given the coronavirus pandemic has not only brought businesses to a halt, but it has also created a sense of fear among common masses over physical contact.

John Rainey, CFO of Paypal, believes the fear of physical contact has accelerated e-commerce and contactless payment by many years in just one quarter.

PayPal owned Venmo has also seen explosive growth as the total number of users reaching 60 million users. The increase in the use of Venmo is a big boost for PayPal’s plan to become the leader in the digital payment arena. Venmo was earlier used just for splitting bills, but in recent times the use case has expanded to a broader domain.

Paypal to Invest Heavily to Improve its Digital Wallet

Paypal being the payment and remittance giant does not want to miss out on the changing times and the changing dynamics in the payment arena. This is the reason they have decided to invest in their digital wallet service to ensure it is the go-to digital wallet for consumers. Paypal is also promoting the use of a QR code-based payment option through its merchants and Venmo app.

Paypal revealed that they are expecting to grow their revenue by 25% for the rest of the year.

They have also decided to finally venture into the digital asset offering through its platform, which the company has sidelined for quite some time. The payment giant has partnered with Paxos to avail of the purchase of digital assets from within the app.

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Author: James W

PayPal’s Letter to European Commission Confirms Its Plans to Develop Crypto Capabilities

In a letter to the European Commission published in March this year, the global payment service, PayPal, stated they are in works to enable cryptocurrency capabilities on the platform. The company has yet to disclose plans in the digital assets arena completely, but the addition of Bitcoin (BTC) to the platform could be on hand.

PayPal’s ambition in the cryptocurrency space has been clear since its entanglement with the Libra stablecoin project. In the letter to the European Commission responding to the consultation by the regulators on building an EU framework for markets in crypto assets, PayPal confirmed its interests in the digital asset space. The report reads,

“Since the project’s [joining the Libra Foundation] inception, PayPal has taken unilateral and tangible steps to further develop its capabilities in this area,” the report reads. “And to continue to focus on advancing our existing mission and business priorities to democratize access to financial services.”

PayPal’s entry into the cryptocurrency asset space will open up the crypto market to over 300 million global customers (95 million in the EU). In June, BEG reported the global online payment giant had started researching into integrating buying and selling crypto.

Read More: PayPal CEO Dan Schulman Reveals He Only Owns One Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin

A clear developmental EU framework

PayPal recommends a developmental framework that enables a well-regulated industry, promoting clarity to enable innovation and evolution of the industry. The letter recommends three fundamental principles that the EU could follow to ensure a stable developmental structure in crypto regulation.

First, the EU should subject cryptocurrency service providers to the same scope of applicable KYC/AML compliance rules as other financial institutions to prevent money laundering and other illicit online trading activities.

The EU should also set clear definitions and rules on licensing and regulation to avoid loopholes and uncertainty. Finally, the EU regulators should take a step back not to stifle innovation in the rapidly changing world of cryptocurrency. The letter reads,

“Any regulatory framework in Europe should strive to be technology-neutral to support innovation and competition in this fast-evolving space.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

After Shutting Down Ahead of EU’s 5AMLD, BottlePay’s Set to Relaunch New Lightning Payment App

BottlePay, a social payment app that choose to shut down its operation in December of 2019 amid regulatory concerns, is ready for a relaunch with a new Lightning Payment App. The firm has restructured its products and services to comply with Europe’s 5th anti-money laundering directive (AMLD5). The new payment app also offers an exchange wallet with social features on Reddit, Twitter, and Discord and set for a beta launch in August.

Some of the features of the new payment app include scheduled payments to buy more bitcoin, which is quite similar to Square’s Cash App. However, this feature would be first rolled out in Europe. Users would also have the option to opt for a custodial or non-custodial wallet.

Pete Cheyne, a co-founder of BottlePay, said, “Lightning works in the background, without users having to manage channels.” Adding,

“There will be a small fee for exchanging between fiat and bitcoin, and vice versa. … There will also be tiers because people are interested in our app for different use cases.”

Mark Webster, CEO of BottlePay, revealed that his team of 11 employees was funded continuously by their angel investors, who were responsible for trading equity worth $2 million in 2019. He explained that the firm has no immediate plans to support any token. Webster also revealed his plans for expanding his workforce up to 35 people by 2021.

Webster went on to reveal that most of the recent hiring has been in the legal and marketing department, which helped them in restructuring their product. He said,

“I think Lightning is at the core of the strategy. As consumer demand increases, we can open more channels. You can store a fiat balance, Scan a Lightning code, and pay that from your pound or euro balance.”

The scheduled beta launch in August will be limited to the European citizens. Still, Webster said that he hopes to expand the reach of his application in the United States and hopes to launch a Telegram integration by 2021.

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Author: Hank Klinger

Currencycloud Partners with Ripple to Leverage RippleNet for Efficient Cross-Border Payments

Currencycloud – one of the global payment processing giants – has become the latest member of the RippleNet family and would help ripple in expanding its cross-border remittance services further. The B2B payment processing giant is known to work with several small and medium business entities before joining the RippleNet.

RippleNet, a venture of Ripple blockchain, is known for its cross-border remittance solutions and has partnered with hundreds of banks, financial institutions, and payment processing giants to avail fast and cheap cross-border transactions using XRP as liquidity.

RippleNet aims to be the payment processor for a rapidly-changing world and is banking on the wave of globalization moving from west to east.

Asia is one of the footholds for the decentralized tech provider firm, and they have made aggressive expansion in the region with new members and services regularly.

Currencycloud, which has been working with Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), aims at expanding its service to help its new partners, especially in a world where traditional banks often overlook SMEs for big MNCs. The payment processing giants hope to reach new firms and SMEs who are deprived of the banking facilities up until now.

Ripple’s Client List Grows to 350

Ripple, which calls itself a decentralized tech company, ventured into remittance services through RippleNet a few years back, and even though the XRP token hasn’t managed to see a price break though, in a very long time, the cross-border solutions have garnered a lot of popularity over the years.

Ripple now boasts over 350 clients and recently updated its official website to include its new partners.

Mike Laven, CEO of Currencycloud, commented on their recent association with RippleNet and hoped the partnership would be mutually beneficial, helping them in expanding their network to new parts of the world. He said:

“Currencycloud is all about bringing clarity, speed, and value to the traditionally opaque, costly, and time-consuming issues associated with cross-border payments, particularly for SMEs that have historically been under-served by traditional banking. Ripple’s solution will help us to extend our network to new parts of the world, removing more barriers to payments for our clients.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

Cryptocurrency Payment Processor BitPay Finally Announces Support for SegWit

Bitpay, the crypto payment processing giant, has finally integrated the segregated witness (SegWit) protocol, a second layer scalable solution to make bitcoin processing cheaper. The Segwit integration is currently optional for bitcoin wallet users on BitPay. However, the firm plans to make it a default feature by the year-end.

SegWit was first proposed by Pieter Wuille, a bitcoin core developer in 2015. The SegWit protocol aimed to free up block space on Bitcoin blockchain without increasing the block size.

SegWit also eliminated a transaction signature vulnerability, which allowed miscreants to manipulate transaction signatures. On the other hand, BitPay is one of the largest crypto processors and currently processes around $1 billion worth of crypto transactions every year.

BitPay had earlier passed on an opportunity to integrate SegWit on its platform almost three years back and instead opted for another protocol called SegWit2x. SegWit2x implemented segWit itself, but at the same time, it also increased the block size from 1MB to 2 MB.

The Bitcoin community was divided over the use of the two protocols, creating conflict in the community over the size of the Bitcoin block, and many believe this also led to the creation of Bitcoin Cash Network.

However, SegWit2x failed to capture on the industry support, and as of today, 63% of all bitcoin transactions are processed using SegWit.

BitPay’s Decision Surprises Many

BitPay’s staunch support for an alternative second-layer protocol over SegWit has made many wonder what changed the minds of its decision-makers.

Sean Rolland, BitPay director of the product, claimed that now is the perfect time to introduce SegWit to its users as it decreases the cost of transactions by up to 30%, and the firm believes it would reduce the fee by 5%-10% with a new update.

Bitcoin was created to provide an alternate easy to use financial tool which offered lightning-fast transaction speeds at minimal transaction cost.

However, as bitcoin’s popularity grew, the network started to show signs of fatigue as it was unable to handle the transaction volume, making it slow, complicated, and costly to use. This was when developers came up with an off-chain second layer solution in the form of the Lightning Network and SegWit.

The lightning network showed a lot of promise. Still, even after years into development, the LN protocol seems to have more complexities than it was invented to resolve. Thus, SegWit became a popular choice.

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Author: Lillian Peter