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US Bank Launches Cryptocurrency Custody Services Amid Strong Demand From Institutional Clients

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U.S. Bank, the fifth-biggest retail bank in the nation announced on Tuesday that its cryptocurrency custody service is available to fund managers.

The offering will help investment managers store private keys for bitcoin, bitcoin cash and litecoin with assistance from sub-custodian NYDIG, according to Gunjan Kedia, vice-chair of the bank’s wealth management and investment services division. Support for other coins like ethereum is expected over time, Kedia said.

According to CNBC reports, this move is the latest sign that established financial players are beginning to accept cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset class. In the realm of custody banks, which verify and safeguard trillions of dollars of traditional assets for money managers, major players including Bank of New York Mellon, State Street and Northern Trust have all announced plans to custody digital assets.

“Our clients are getting very serious about the potential of cryptocurrency as a diversified asset class,” Kedia said in an interview. “I don’t believe there’s a single asset manager that isn’t thinking about it right now.”

U.S. Bank, which was founded during the Civil War in 1863, is a top 10 player in custody with more than $8.6 trillion in assets under custody and administration, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

After a key regulator released a paper last year which established that national banks could have custody of crypto assets, Kedia surveyed the firm’s biggest clients to determine if their interest was genuine. She found that interest in crypto was broad and not limited to niche players and that clients wanted the bank to move quickly.

“What we were hearing across the board, is that while every currency might not survive – there may not be room for thousands of coins— there’s something about the potential of this asset class and the underlying technology that would be prudent for us to stand up support for it,” she said.

Some investment clients already have positions in bitcoin, while others are waiting for custody services to begin, she said. U.S. Bank is one of the first institutions to have a live custody product available, Kedia said.

The price of bitcoin has whipsawed this year, surging to an all-time high of about $64,000 in April before losing half its value the next month. But the original cryptocurrency has proven to be resilient: It has weathered China’s move to ban the digital currency last month, and early Tuesday hit $50,000 once again.

There is irony in the fact that while bitcoin was created to cut out financial middlemen, swaths of the old financial order are being recreated to cater to digital currencies. After all, fund managers could choose to store their own cryptocurrency keys. But managers want the imprimatur of established names like U.S. Bank to help allay concerns from their own clients, Kedia said.

In order to onboard a manager into the crypto product, U.S. Bank has to trace the origin of the client’s funds in the industry’s standard anti-money laundering and “Know Your Client” checks, she said.

The product is only for institutional managers with private funds in the U.S. or Cayman Islands, according to the bank. But if and when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approves a bitcoin ETF, demand is expected to rise.

“We have a lot of funds who are hoping to invest in ETFs,” Kedia said. “Some literally want custody contracts signed the day the SEC approves an ETF.”

U.S. Bank first established its Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Practice in 2015, when the price of bitcoin was less than $200. The price of BTC is hovering around $51K at the time of writing.

The bank announced the launch of three cryptocurrency offerings in April to meet the “growing needs of clients.” The first was the custody service which is now live. The second was an investment in Securrency, a developer of institutional-grade blockchain-based financial and regulatory technology. The third was that U.S. Bank had been selected to administer NYDIG’s ETF bitcoin fund this year, pending regulatory approvals.

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Nigeria’s SEC to Enforce Weekly, Monthly Reports from Crypto Service Providers

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced a new regulatory framework requiring Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) to submit weekly and monthly trading statistics.

This move is part of a broader effort to monitor and regulate Nigeria’s burgeoning crypto market, according to a document released by the SEC titled “A Framework on Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program for the Onboarding of Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) and other Digital Investments Service Providers (DISPs).”

The framework aims to bring more structure to the country’s crypto ecosystem by amending existing rules on digital asset issuance, offering platforms, exchanges, and custodians.

The SEC’s initiative is seen as a significant step toward enhancing oversight and ensuring compliance within the rapidly evolving digital asset space.

Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program

The Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program (ARIP) will provide a special window for onboarding VASPs. The SEC has outlined specific reporting requirements for participants in the ARIP, including:

  • Weekly and monthly trading statistics.
  • Quarterly financials.
  • Compliance reports demonstrating adherence to the SEC’s conditions.
  • Reports on key issues such as misconduct, fraud, or operational incidents.
  • Actions taken to address customer complaints and emergent risks.

A Growing Market

Nigeria boasts one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto markets globally. According to blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, crypto transactions in the country amounted to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023, averaging $1.09 billion weekly.

Industry and Regulatory Insights

Senator Ihenyen, lead partner and head of blockchain and virtual assets practice at Infusion Lawyers, emphasized the importance of regulating digital assets for economic and security reasons.

“Nigeria can no longer afford to keep pushing digital assets underground for obvious economic and security reasons,” Ihenyen said.

He noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) recognition of the SEC’s regulatory role marks a positive shift for the sector, with regulators now working together to ensure consumer protection and investor safety.

Comparisons have been drawn with regulatory practices in South Africa, where a similar approach has been adopted to meet Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing for digital assets.

“Execution is what will make the difference,” said an industry expert. “We’ve never been lacking in regulations.”

Government and Industry Reactions

Earlier in July, Wale Edun, Nigeria’s minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, urged the SEC to address the complexities of crypto regulation.

“The SEC board should be willing to accept the challenge of regulating these new areas, particularly crypto, as they are fast-moving complex areas,” Edun stated.

The Senate Committee on Capital Markets also emphasized the need for crypto regulation to ensure accountability and protect investors’ funds.

Osita Izunaso, chairman of the committee, pointed out, “The issue of cryptocurrency must be regulated because Nigerians are trading in crypto. Since Nigerians are trading in crypto, why are we not regulating it? Where is the money going if we don’t regulate activities in the crypto market?”

Compliance and Challenges

The new regulatory framework aims to facilitate the onboarding of entities willing to engage in virtual asset activities and enhance the SEC’s understanding of digital asset business models.

However, some industry insiders have raised concerns about the practicality of certain requirements, such as the need for a physical presence for crypto companies.

Chimezie Chuta, founder and coordinator of the Blockchain Nigeria User Group, highlighted the potential benefits of regulation for tax revenues.

However, others worry about over-regulation. “We are now like banks that are over-regulated. Between 2020 and now, we have had new regulations and changes to existing rules, but where has that taken us to?” questioned a Lagos-based crypto player.

As Nigeria’s crypto market continues to evolve, the SEC’s new regulatory framework represents a crucial step towards ensuring transparency, accountability, and consumer protection in the digital assets space.

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KuCoin Announces New 7.5% VAT on Transaction Fees for Nigerian Customers

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KuCoin has announced the implementation of a 7.5% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on transaction fees.

This new regulation will take effect on July 8th, 2024, impacting all users whose Know Your Customer (KYC) information is registered in Nigeria.

KuCoin, one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange platforms, revealed this update in a statement addressed to its Nigerian users.

The tax will be applied exclusively to transaction fees, not the overall transaction amount.

For example, a user buying 1,000 USDT worth of Bitcoin will incur a fee of 1 USDT at the standard 0.1% fee rate.

The new VAT at 7.5% will apply to this fee, resulting in an additional charge of 0.075 USDT.

Consequently, the net amount available for the transaction will be 998.925 USDT.

KuCoin clarified that the VAT would cover all types of transactions on its platform. The move aligns with recent regulatory updates and demonstrates the company’s commitment to complying with local tax laws.

The announcement has garnered mixed reactions from the Nigerian cryptocurrency community. Some users express concern over the added cost to their transactions, while others recognize it as a necessary step towards greater regulatory compliance and legitimacy for cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria.

KuCoin encourages affected users to seek assistance through their Telegram group or by contacting the online support team for further guidance on the new tax regulations.

As Nigeria continues to evolve its regulatory framework for digital assets, this development underscores the importance for traders to stay informed about local laws and their potential impacts on trading activities.

The KuCoin team expressed their gratitude for users’ cooperation and understanding, reiterating their commitment to providing a secure and compliant trading environment.

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Bitcoin Eyes Gains with Seasonal July Boost After Slump

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After several months of declines and rangebound trading, Bitcoin (BTC) bulls have reason to cheer as the largest cryptocurrency is poised for a potential seasonal upswing this July.

Historical data and recent market movements suggest a positive outlook for Bitcoin, following a period marked by billions in sales, upcoming selling pressure, and outflows from exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Since April, Bitcoin has been trading within a narrow band of $59,000 to $74,000, weighed down by market dynamics and peak negative sentiment among retail traders.

However, July has historically been a bullish month for Bitcoin, and early indicators show a possible reversal of recent trends.

On the first day of July, U.S.-listed ETFs recorded nearly $130 million in inflows, their highest since early June.

This influx comes after a significant $900 million outflow in the previous month, signaling renewed investor confidence in the cryptocurrency.

“Bitcoin has a median return of 9.6% in July and tends to bounce back strongly, especially after a negative June,” said Singapore-based QCP Capital in a recent Telegram broadcast.

“Our options desk saw flows positioning for an upside move last Friday into the month-end, possibly in anticipation of the ETH spot ETF launch. Many signs point to a bullish July.”

Historical data supports this optimistic outlook. Over the past decade, Bitcoin has gained an average of more than 11% in July, with positive returns in seven out of the ten months.

A 2023 report by crypto fund Matrixport highlighted significant July returns in recent years, with gains of around 27% in 2019, 20% in 2020, and 24% in 2021.

Seasonality, the tendency of assets to experience regular and predictable changes that recur annually, appears to be a driving factor.

These seasonal cycles can be influenced by various factors, such as profit-taking around tax season in April and May, leading to drawdowns, and the generally bullish “Santa Claus” rally in December, which reflects increased demand.

As the cryptocurrency market enters July, Bitcoin traders and investors are optimistic about a potential rally. While the market remains cautious of underlying pressures, the historical trends and recent inflows suggest a favorable environment for Bitcoin’s resurgence.

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