Major Mortgage Lender Abandons Plans to Accept Crypto Payments

United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), one of the foremost mortgage lenders in the United States, has suspended its plans to accept cryptocurrency payments.

In a press release shared earlier this week, the Pontiac, Michigan-based mortgage lender explained that the risks associated with the acceptance of cryptocurrency far outweighed the benefits, and it would not be moving forward with the initiative for the time being.

Not So Feasible For Now

UWM had announced its plan to accept Bitcoin for payments back in August. The company explained at the time that its initiative would make it possible for U.S. homeowners to pay for their home loans in Bitcoin, marking it a first for the industry.

At the company’s second-quarter earnings call, chief executive Mat Ishbia said they were looking into the initiative’s feasibility and hoped to have something concrete by Q3. A company tweet even shared the possibility of adding payment options for Ether and other digital assets once the Bitcoin initiative sails through.

In this week’s press release, UWM explained that it accepted its first cryptocurrency payment in September and processed five more transactions this month. The pilot program focused on examining the speed, security, and ease of cryptocurrency payments. But, while the tests were successful, UWM said it would drop the idea for now.

“As we said last quarter, we were going to look into accepting cryptocurrency and test it to see if it’s a faster, easier and cheaper solution, and thanks to our innovative technology team members, the transactions were successful.”

“Due to the current combination of incremental costs and regulatory uncertainty in the crypto space, we’ve concluded we aren’t going to extend beyond a pilot at this time.”

Crypto for Investments; Not Payments

Speaking further to CNBC, Ishbia added that the problem wasn’t particularly with the cryptocurrencies themselves. He disclosed that UWM couldn’t find a market. While borrowers thought it was “cool” to make mortgage payments in crypto, there wasn’t much of a push to drive the initiative forward.

While the demand might not be substantial for now, UWM stated that it is committed to monitoring cryptocurrency adoption in the U.S. market to see possible paths forward.

The development further underscores the increasing use of cryptocurrencies as an investment, but not for payments. Crypto adoption continues to rise in the United States, with Chainalysis suggesting in its 2020 Crypto Adoption Index that traders and institutions appear to be driving this adoption push. But digital assets don’t seem to have the same appeal when it comes to payments.

Nevertheless, some companies have continued to push for crypto payments. Last month, major cinema giant AMC Theaters rolled out crypto purchase options for its electronic gift cards. Company CEO Adam Aron announced that customers would buy these cards for up to $200 with cryptocurrencies. Purchases will be available through the AMC mobile app, website, and physical theaters.

AMC continues to progress with its plan to accept crypto payments for movie tickets by the end of the year. The market will see how well this project pays off.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Russia has No Plans to Ban Crypto Unlike China, says Deputy Finance Minister

Russia Has No Plans to Ban Cryptocurrencies Unlike China, says Deputy Finance Minister

A Siberian region, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power and is known for its cheap electricity, also saw its energy consumption surging 159% due to an “avalanche” of crypto-mining.

After the US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Gary Gensler clarified in no uncertain terms that they have no plan to ban Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev conveyed the same thoughts.

Moiseev told reporters this week that Russia does not plan to follow the same path as China and introduce a ban on the purchase of crypto by citizens on foreign exchanges, according to a local publication.

“Russian citizens can have a wallet open outside the Russian Federation, but if they operate within the Russian Federation then they will be subject to bans, I think, for the entire foreseeable future, due to our financial sovereignty,” said Moiseev during a “Digitalization of Financial Markets” lecture at MGIMO.

Last month, China strengthened its crackdown on crypto mining and trading; as a result, a flood of Bitcoin miners are now also moving to Russia besides Kazakhstan and the U.S.

A Siberian region, Irkutsk, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power and is known for its cheap electricity, saw retail energy consumption surging 159% this year, from 2020 levels due to an “avalanche” of underground crypto-mining, Governor Igor Kobzev said in a letter to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

“The situation is an unpredictable event for the region and is leading to significant loads on the power grid with the risk of accidents and emergencies,” reads the letter, in which Kobzev said the problem has been exacerbated by China’s ban on mining and called for higher electricity rates for miners.

Close Attention on Crypto

While no plans to ban crypto, the digital currency will not be allowed to be used as a means of payment within the country, as this could result in the loss of the government’s control over the money supply, said Deputy Finance Minister.

Moiseev further said that there is a need to define digital currency and blockchain in the country’s Civil Code and in specialized laws.

“The blockchain will obviously occupy its own niche and will be used where equal rights are needed.”

Last week, Anatoly Aksakov, the head of the State Duma Committee on the Financial Market had said that they are keeping “close attention” on the topic of digital assets and thinking about implementing legislative restrictions on the investment of unqualified investors in cryptocurrencies.

These measures, according to him, are necessary to protect private investors as billions of dollars are currently spent on the purchase of digital currency. But while there is a great risk, there is also great profitability, he noted.

“Here, of course, we need to prescribe in the legislation the norms that will protect an unqualified investor in ill-considered investments in digital currencies.”

In July this year, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation issued an information letter recommending Russian exchanges not to admit instruments linked to crypto and advised professional participants in the securities market to refrain from offering their unqualified clients access to crypto and the management company to include them in mutual funds.

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Author: AnTy

Fintech Savings App, Acorns, Plans to Introduce Crypto Assets to Its 4 Million Subscribers

Fintech Savings App, Acorns, Plans to Introduce Crypto Assets to Its 4 Million Subscribers

In an interview with CNBC, Noah Kerner, CEO of fintech firm, Acorns said the startup plans to introduce cryptocurrencies and other digital assets on its platform. This will give users the ability to invest and learn more about cryptocurrencies. The move represents a switch from the conservative nature Acorns has adopted in previous years.

Additionally, the savings app has appointed former Amazon employee David Hijirida as president to lead the company’s day-to-day operations. Hijirida started his journey in traditional finance companies before spending 12 years in management roles at Amazon, including its global payments division. He also held the CEO position at digital bank, Simple Finance from 2018 before unexpectedly shutting down operations in May this year.

According to Kerner, introducing Bitcoin and other digital currencies will be launched on the app in the coming weeks. This will allow users to diversify their portfolios and learn how to manage their crypto assets, he added during the interview.

“We are going to let people customize their portfolios and add individual equities and crypto into a slice of their diversified portfolios, much the way a money manager would advise you to behave.”

The fintech startup is preparing for its expected public listing later in the year by appointing seasoned managers such as David, Kerner explained. Following a merger with Pioneer Merger Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Arcons was valued at $2.2 billion, preparing for its public sale launch in May. David is the second high-ranking manager appointed in the last two months after it named Twitter executive Rich Sullivan its new chief financial officer.

“David obviously has a great depth and breadth of financial services and technology experience.”

“He has a great combination of fintech, payments, operations, and also product development experience.”

The growth of Arcons is nothing short of impressive, having reached over 4 million paying subscribers with a plan to reach over 10 million subscribers in the next four years.

Unlike fintech startups such as Robinhood, which went public last year, Arcons offers savings and long-term investment options rather than a short-term trading service that offers gamified stock and crypto trading.

“Everything Acorns does about long-term saving and investing for the everyday consumer.”

“It’s why our subscription model is so important because it decouples the business from behaviors that aren’t necessarily customer-aligned, like driving trading or driving spending or driving borrowing.”

The platform is yet to release a launch date for its planned crypto assets inclusion, Kerner concluded.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Swiss Bank UBS Plans Cryptocurrency Offerings to High Networth Clients

Swiss Bank UBS Plans Cryptocurrency Offerings to High Networth Clients

Leading Swiss investment bank UBS Group AG is considering adding cryptocurrency offerings to its services.

UBS Group To Offer Cryptocurrency Services

According to Bloomberg, UBS is exploring various alternatives to offer its wealthy clients exposure to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Anonymous sources familiar with the plan told Bloomberg that UBS would only invest a small percentage of their client’s wealth in cryptos due to their volatile nature of the sector. One of the means being considered includes investing through third-party investment vehicles.

UBS is a Swiss multinational bank founded over 170 years ago at the advent of the Swiss banking industry. It’s known as a billionaire’s bank that manages a large amount of private wealth globally. The firm counts around 50% of the world’s billionaires as its clients.

Banking Giants Considering Offering Crypto Services

Several banking giants seem to have warmed up to offering cryptocurrency trading and custody services following Bitcoin’s terrific rise this year.

The news of UBS comes after banking firm Citigroup revealed it was mulling the idea of floating a crypto trading, custody, and financing service.

The global head of foreign exchange at Citi, Itay Tuchman, revealed Citigroup’s interest in crypto when he spoke about how the bank had seen a high surge of interest in Bitcoin from large clients since last August. Tuchman, however, said the firm is in no rush to launch crypto services.

Many other investment banks are pushing towards cryptocurrencies. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs relaunched its cryptocurrency trading desk after a three-year hiatus, with new plans to once again support Bitcoin futures trading.

Morgan Stanley also became the first major US bank to offer its wealth management clients access to Bitcoin funds. The bank announced that it would launch access to three funds allowing Bitcoin ownership.

Sources have also revealed that JPMorgan Chase & Co is preparing to let private wealth clients invest in a managed Bitcoin fund for the first time.

BNY Mellon Corp also joined the crypto train when it disclosed its intention to form a new unit to help clients hold, transfer and issue digital assets in February.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

UK Hedge Fund Brevan Howard Plans to Invest 1.6% of $5.6B Capital in Cryptocurrencies

UK Hedge Fund Brevan Howard Plans to Invest 1.6% of $5.6B Capital in Cryptocurrencies

European hedge fund Brevan Howard Asset Management is reportedly planning to invest part of its capital in Bitcoin, according to Bloomberg.

Hedge Fund Joins League of Institutional Investors

Per the report, the firm is set to invest up to 1.6% of its $5.6 billion capital in cryptocurrencies. This translates to about $84 million soon to be allocated into digital assets.

Co-founders of crypto investment firm Distributed Global, Johnny Steindorff and Tucker Waterman, will oversee the crypto purchase for Brevan Howard.

Brevan Howard plans to have a diversified portfolio of cryptocurrencies; not just Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

The billionaire co-founder, Alan Howard has been investing in cryptocurrencies with his personal investments. He joins the likes of wall street heavyweights backing cryptocurrencies.

Howard owns a significant stake in European cryptocurrency asset manager CoinShares. He has also led and participated in many funding rounds for crypto startups. These include European companies such as Komainu and Nextmarkets.

More To Come, Less To Go

With the increasing debut of institutional investors in cryptocurrencies across the world, experts believe that more will come in and less will go because of the rising value of Bitcoin. At press time, Bitcoin trades at $61,896, still down 1.6% in the last 24 hours.

A survey report conducted by Glassnode showed that there was about 4 million Bitcoin in circulation, a feat that has never happened before.

The report added that the sharp rise in the demand for digital assets might lead to a massive supply squeeze in the meantime, which is capable of pushing the price higher.

As a result, the coins being mined are not even enough to meet the people’s demand. Most experts believe the short squeeze is also a factor driving crypto prices.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Chainalysis Raises $100 Million with a $2 Billion Valuation, No Plans to Go Public Yet

Chainalysis Raises $100 Million with a $2 Billion Valuation, No Plans to Go Public Yet

Blockchain research and analysis firm Chainalysis is the latest company in the crypto industry to raise funds. The firm has raised $100 million from investors led by Paradigm, co-founded by crypto exchange Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehsram.

TIME Ventures, the investment fund of billionaire Marc Benioff also participated in the funding round along with the previous backers, Addition, and Ribbit.

The new investment came just on the back of a $100 million investment in November, bringing Chainalysis’s valuation at more than $2 billion.

The New York-based company helps private firms and government agencies process and mine blockchain data for analysis recorded on blockchains to root out “cryptocurrency crime and money laundering.”

The company aims to use the raised funds for hiring across all parts of the organization and expand its product portfolio to provide new data solutions.

Chainalysis is building solutions for cryptocurrency businesses and financial services providers to optimize their market development strategies based on on-chain customer behaviors, help asset managers use on-chain data to discover crypto investing opportunities, and government agencies connect on-chain activity to other data sets.

As of yet, Chainalysis has no plans to go public, said Chief Executive Officer Michael Gronager, adding that they are choosing growth over profitability for the time being.

“We’re assuming we can do even better in 2022,” he said. “We can do more, but doing more takes money.”

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Author: AnTy

Bank of Russia to Launch Digital Ruble Pilot in 2021

Bank of Russia to Launch Digital Ruble Pilot in 2021

  • Russia in plans to launch a central bank digital currency prototype by the end of 2021.

Local reports from Russia indicate the country plans to complete its prototype for a digital ruble before the end of 2021. According to Prime, a financial news outlet, the central bank will launch pilot programs to test the CBDC in 2022 once the prototype is complete.

The report states the Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank, Alexei Zabotkin, confirmed the news during an online conference organized by NES. Zabotkin confirmed plans to launch the “prototype was underway” pending some technological developments. However, users will need to wait longer to use the digital ruble as real transactions will not be activated until the platform’s full launch. He added,

“Next year, based on this prototype, taking into account its revision, we will already be launching testing rounds.”

The latest news cement the central bank of Russia’s position in launching its CBDC, an ongoing craze across governments. In October last year, the central bank released a consultative paper on CBDCs, enhancing and advancing payment systems in the country. A week later, the bank stated it had started studying the pros and cons of launching a digital ruble kicking off its development.

Despite the barbarian crypto laws set in the country, massive developments are ongoing in the stablecoin and digital currency fields. Leading state-owned bank Sberbank also announced its plans to launch a blockchain that will host its stablecoin, Sbercoin.

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Author: Lujan Odera

A New ETF is Filed to Invest in Companies Having Direct or Indirect Exposure to Bitcoin

But the Valkyrie Innovative Balance Sheet ETF Fund has no plans to invest in Bitcoin directly or indirectly through derivatives.

Valkyrie Digital Assets has filed for an exchange-traded fund (ETF) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would invest in companies that have Bitcoin on their balance sheet or are indirectly dealing with the cryptocurrency.

A Form N1-A has been filed for Valkyrie Innovative Balance Sheet ETF in partnership with KKM Financial, which is the investment advisor of the fund, and for the distributor of the fund, the company has chosen institutional asset manager SEI. The document reads,

“The Fund is an actively-managed exchange-traded fund (“ETF”) that will invest principally in the securities of operating companies… that directly or indirectly invest in, transact in, or otherwise have exposure to bitcoin or operate in the bitcoin ecosystem.”

The Bitcoin ecosystem is defined here as trading platforms, miners, custodians, digital wallet providers, companies that facilitate payments in bitcoin, and companies that provide other technology, equipment, or services to companies operating in the ecosystem. However, the Fund has no interest whatsoever in investing in Bitcoin directly or indirectly through derivatives.

Just today, BTC/USD has made a new ATH above $60,000.

Last week, JPMorgan Chase published a filing for an incoming debt instrument that will also invest in companies like MicroStrategy, Square, chipmaker Nvidia, and others that are involved with cryptocurrency.

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Author: AnTy

Shark Tank Investor Kevin O’Leary Changes Tune, Plans to Add Bitcoin to Portfolio

Shark Tank Investor Kevin O’Leary Changes Tune, Plans to Add Bitcoin to Portfolio

In a year that has seen the most cynical critic becoming a crypto faithful, crypto continues to boom, with traditional institutions and high-net-worth individuals wanting a piece of the crypto pie.

Popular TV personality Kevin O’Leary, known to Shark Tank fans as “Mr. Wonderful,” has decided to leave the critics’ boat behind and join the Bitcoin train.

Kevin Makes A “Wonderful” Move To Crypto Club

The Canadian investor who is infamously remembered for calling Bitcoin “garbage” two years ago has finally made a 180 on BTC. Volatility was the primary reason O’Leary and Mark Cuban were quick to write-off the digital asset. Calling into question the sustainability of an asset that could easily fall as much as 30% in one week.

At one point, Cuban said he preferred owning bananas to Bitcoin. But still, he made sure his basketball company, the Mavericks, offered BTC payment options for fans. O’Leary plans to allocate 3% of his investment portfolio to the highly volatile assets class.

The covid-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees. It also brought investors into cryptocurrencies. Notable tech companies like Square, MicroStrategy, and Tesla Inc. have made a dynamic tweak to their investment practice which has seen Bitcoin featuring heavily.

MicroStrategy has built a name for itself with its pivot into Bitcoin. The publicly-traded company has been on a buying spree. It owns a reported 90,859 BTC worth $4.3 billion.

Tesla has been more conservative and invested only 7.7% of its cash reserves in BTC, costing it $1.5 billion. Square, owned by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, has been a more quiet BTC buyer even as it boasts over $300 million locked in the largest crypto by market cap.

Institutional adoptions have seen many critics rethinking their decision, and Kevin O’Leary is the latest addition to the BTC family. In a tweet posted on his verified Twitter profile, the Shark Tank colleague of Cuban said the rapidly changing regulatory environment played a role in his decision. Mr. Wonderful, as he is fondly known on TV, had previously said he owned only $100 in crypto so far. But his 3% allocation will definitely increase his exposure to crypto-assets.

Cuban In A Crypto Love Affair

Making an official announcement on his shift towards crypto on a Feb.22 CNBC’s show hosted by Hadley Gamble, O’Leary said that digital currencies have come to stay. He also added that he would stake 3% of his investment portfolio on the foremost cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum.

While O’Leary has committed to a future partnership in crypto, Cuban has been quite active in the space. He once admitted to being intrigued by meme-based cryptocurrency Dogecoin (DOGE). Stating that his 11-year old son was also a crypto investor, the billionaire investor said that many things have changed since crypto began to have more real-world use cases.

Following this DOGE love, Cuban admitted that he is most fascinated by Ethereum’s smart contract functionality. To him, the second most valuable crypto-asset is set to disrupt the business models of most tech companies. While he still considers Bitcoin to be more valuable than gold due to its metered units, he has his attention riveted on Ethereum.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Thailand SEC Plans to Introduce New Rule on Crypto Trading as Young Investors Rush In

Thailand SEC Plans to Introduce New Rule on Crypto Trading as Young Investors Rush In

In January, the trading on the nation’s licensed exchanges tripled from the previous month. With very young investors involved, students and teenagers, regulators will be revealing new proposed rules this week.

Thailand is planning to introduce new rules to curb cryptocurrency trading by individuals. The move is made in response to a surge in inflows from young investors, which is concerning the regulators. Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol, the secretary-general of the Securities & Exchange Commission, in an interview on Friday, said,

“It’s a big concern as most crypto investors on domestic exchanges are very young, such as students and teenagers.”

“We realize those people love innovations and technology, but investments in these assets have enormous risk.”

The regulators are now planning to have retail investors show their income or assets before being allowed to open trading accounts with the nation’s six licensed cryptocurrency exchanges, said Suwanmongkol.

She added that those who aren’t allowed to trade cryptocurrencies through their own accounts could invest through financial managers or licensed fund managers.

As per these new rules, individual investors may even be required to have some knowledge of crypto markets before they are allowed to open accounts to trade digital currencies.

In the month of January, crypto trading on the licensed bourses of Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy tripled from the previous month to 56 billion baht ($2.17 billion), revealed SEC data. Over 90% of this trading comes from Thai citizens.

These new proposed rules on cryptocurrency trading will be disclosed by the regulators this week before holding a public hearing in early March, said Ruenvadee. However, before finalizing the limitations, officials will be taking suggestions and recommendations from crypto exchange operators, brokerages, and other related parties, she added.

The nation may soon see its first initial coin offering as well. The new token to be offered by a local company in the first half will be backed by the rental revenue of properties.

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Author: AnTy