Court Rules Bank Leumi Should Serve Crypto Exchange Bits of Gold 3749

Cryptocurrency exchange Bits of Gold received a huge boost this Monday after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled it could continue using an account with Bank Leumi.

The cryptocurrency exchange had previously been unable to access its account after the bank had restricted access to it, citing regulatory concerns. But after taking its case to the Supreme Court of Israeli, the bank will have to allow the exchange to use its services.

Though Bank Leumi continued to object in principle to the decision, it should mean that Israeli firms doing business in digital assets will be able to connect to local banking services.

“This is an exciting moment for us as a company and for the [cryptocurrency] community in general,” said Bits of Gold CEO Yuval Roash.

“We worked hard to set up a company which met regulatory requirements, in a new industry, and those efforts paid off. I am proud to be a part of this flourishing industry and push it towards the right regulation.”

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Fidelity Bitcoin Custody Launched, Is This The End of Personal Integrity? 3050

There is much talk of 2019 being the year that institutional money comes. And with the recent update by Fidelity on its Bitcoin custodial service, there is renewed hope for an end to the bear market. However, by welcoming this news, does that mean we have collectively abandoned our principles?

While the goal of institutional investing is to make money on behalf of members, this cannot be at the expense of diligence. Concerns over excessive volatility, uncertain regulatory framework, and technical barriers present something of a problem. But despite this, further developments in this space suggest that institutions are coming.

Fidelity Acknowledges Blockchain’s Potential

Back in May 2017, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson delivered a keynote speech discussing the problems of working with blockchain technology. She explained that challenges related to scalability, regulation, and governance needed to be addressed.

And while it lacked specifics, the acknowledge of blockchain’s potential to revolutionize investing was there.

Since then, the past few weeks has seen news filtering out regarding developments at Fidelity. They had previously announced their intent to build institutional-grade infrastructure for securing, trading and supporting digital assets. And yesterday they confirmed initial testing of a final product.

In an update, they go on to say:

“Our initial clients are an important part of our final testing and process refinement periods, which will eventually enable us to provide these services to a broader set of eligible institutions.”

The Bitcoin Paradox

Most see this as a positive move, but the arrival of institutional money once again brings to light fractures within the community. While Fidelity’s clout is expected to help legitimize crypto and bring benefits to retail investors through increased volume and stability, one cannot ignore the fundamental philosophies that spawned blockchain in the first place.

This split in opinion is firmly down to individual expectations. On the one hand, those who expect to get wealthy from crypto investing would see this as a natural development of the space. But idealists would sooner build a more equitable economic system to which corporate interest has no part. On that note, the acceptance of institutional money flies in the face of Nakamoto’s vision of a decentralized and trustless mechanism.

Nik Bhatia agrees with this. He has openly criticized institutional interest by saying:

“Bitcoin does not need Fidelity to become legitimate; rather Fidelity launched bitcoin custodial services because bitcoin has already achieved legitimacy.”

And therein lies the paradox to Bitcoin. While blockchain enthusiasts, who believe in personal sovereignty, want mass adoption. This can never happen without the involvement of centralized authorities. With that in mind, you may ask yourself whether the acceptance of institutional money is, in fact, a selling out of one’s principles.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Arrives Sans Bitcoin, Only Ethereum is Supported 3173

The internet was set ablaze when rumors began circulating that Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10, may potentially support cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum via a Blockchain Keystore application.

Samsung’s reveal event confirmed the existence of the Blockchain Keystore app that serves as a crypto wallet for top cryptocurrencies, however, the most important cryptocurrency of all won’t be supported at launch, according to initial reports from unboxing videos from around the web.

Samsung Blockchain Keystore Neglects Bitcoin, Ethereum Support Ready at Launch

The Samsung Galaxy S10 doesn’t officially drop for two more days on March 8, 2019, but some lucky smartphone enthusiasts have already gotten their hands on the final retail version of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone. Those with early access to the Galaxy S10 have uploaded unboxing videos to demonstrate the phone’s key features – one of which is a new crypto wallet called Blockchain Keystore.

One particular video demonstration reveals that the Samsung Galaxy S10 will launch without supporting Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency by market cap and undoubtedly the most important asset in the crypto space. The app, however, does support Ethereum out of the box.

It’s not known at this time if ERC-20 tokens are further supported using the Ethereum wallet address. Many other crypto wallets prioritize Ethereum due to the same wallet address being used to receive Ether (ETH) in addition to a variety of ERC-20 tokens such as Basic Attention Token (BAT), 0x (ZRX), Maker (MKR), and hundreds more.

However, the absence of Bitcoin is a glaring omission, as Bitcoin has the highest market cap out of any cryptocurrencies, has the most regulatory support, and the highest transaction volume. It’s also the face of cryptocurrency in the public’s eye.

Bitcoin may eventually make its way onto the Samsung Galaxy S10’s Blockchain Keystore app via updates, and it may happen sooner than later. It’s not uncommon for smartphone manufacturers to debut their products on the same day a major software update is released. However, given the limited interest in cryptocurrencies by the general public, Samsung may not view further developing the app as a priority.

Are Blockchain And Crypto Wallets The Next Big Trend in Smartphones?

Blockchain-based smartphones that come equipped with a built-in cryptocurrency wallet is a growing trend in the space, as smartphone manufacturers seek to find a differentiating selling point amongst the sea of similarly functioning smartphones.

In addition to the Samsung flagship, the HTC Exodus has blockchain-based features that are separated from the Android operating system, while the newcomer Sirin Labs has recently released the blockchain-based FINNY smartphone, and Pundi X is preparing the XPhone for a Q2 2019 launch. It’s expected that as cryptocurrency adoption grows, other companies will follow suit, including Apple who has dominated the smartphone market since its inception.

From Retailers to Major Banks, How the Crypto Sector of Japan is Exponentially Growing 3942

In a recent development in Japan’s crypto industry, Mizuho Financial Group announced that it would launch its digital currency on March 1.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the 1.8-trillion megabank’s digital currency service would allow users to exchange their yens for a cryptocurrency called J-Coin through an app of the same name. The experience will be similar to other payment applications: users would scan a QR code through the app and transfer money to the intended receivers.

At the same time, the best thing J-Coin app would offer will be a ‘zero transaction fee’ structure. Merchants will not be required to pay a transaction fee when transferring money from J-Coin wallet to their bank accounts. In comparison, traditional payment apps charge 3-to-5% processing fee on each transaction. That is where J-Coin’s crypto innovation is proving useful for users.

Credit Goes to Friendly Crypto Regulations

Mizuho’s move follows years of regulatory development inside the Japanese cryptocurrency industry. Three years after the Mt. Gox incident, the country brought cryptocurrencies like bitcoin under their Payment Service Act, giving them the status of money. It subsequently offered clear tax guidelines for crypto investors. In contrast, western countries were slower than Japan while developing a robust legal framework for cryptocurrencies.

Japanese regulator Financial Services Agency (FSA) also granted crypto industry to form an independent self-regulatory body to formulate rules and regulations. Dubbed as the Japanese Virtual Currency Association, the body enabled the crypto industry to remain flexible and adhere to Japanese laws without trampling innovation surrounding crypto assets.

Such initiatives enabled the FSA to study various aspects of the cryptocurrency industry deeply. The agency is now seeking to force ICOs into registrations before they raise funds – much like their counterparts in the US and Europe. It is also imposing strong KYC/AML compliance, in addition to limiting the amount of leveraged trading and enforcing advertising restrictions.

The reformist moves allowed the Japanese crypto industry to flourish amidst minimum risks. FSA recognized that over 200 companies were seeking regulatory approval at the end of 2018. Coinbase, a US-based crypto exchange, is awaiting approval from the FSA to operate within Japan. Huobi, another crypto exchanged, purchased a Japanese company to expand its operations in the region. In a similar move, Yahoo Japan acquired BitARG crypto exchange to launch its crypto services in Japan.

Merchant Adoption

Japan’s service industry also explored cryptocurrencies in the wake of friendly regulations. Bic Camera, the region’s biggest electronics retailer, announced in June 2018 that it would accept bitcoins as payments.

Rakuten, Japan’s biggest e-commerce store, not only planned to integrate a crypto payment option but also announced that it would acquire a local bitcoin exchange for $2.4 million.

Regardless of being primarily a cash-based nation, Japan is looking to jump two-steps ahead of other countries: a direct switch from cash to digital currency. The entrance of larger institutions like Mizuho certainly validates the potential demand for cryptocurrencies in the region. It would make Japan a frontrunner in crypto adoption as far as 2019 is concerned.

London Stock Exchange Invests $20 Million in Crypto Bond, Rapid Institutional Adoption 3589

The London Stock Exchange (LSEG) has led a $20 million funding round for London-based Nivura, a blockchain startup primarily known for issuing the world’s first automated crypto bond.

Nivaura is a digital platform which utilizes the blockchain technology to automate the issuance of bonds, derivatives, and equities.   The process eliminates the need for human involvement; it leads to speedy administration and settlement using digital tokens, value-enabled assets that are issued on blockchain ledger, the technology which supports Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Nikhil Rathi, the head of international development at LSEG, said that buying small stakes in Nivaura was their way to leverage blockchain technology. Rathi indicated that they would be able to issue digitized financial instruments on blockchain using Nivaura’s settlement solutions.

“The investment strengthens our existing relationship with Nivaura and underlines the Group’s partnership approach in innovating to support our clients in accessing global investment pools,” Rathi added.

The $20 million funding round by LSEG, which also received participation from Santander InnoVentures, Aegon, Transamerica Ventures, Digital Currency Group, and MiddleGame Ventures is the latest attempt to push the ongoing blockchain trend. The mainstream influence indicates that the public ledger technology would prove useful when it comes to upending issuance, settlement, and trade in the global financial sector.

Crypto Regulatory Blockade

In its current state, issuing and settling financial instruments is a costly process. The reason for it is the involvement of one-too-many middlemen. More steps lead to more delays, and more delays lead to more costs. With blockchain, authorities can easily automate the entire process via tokenization. The integration could save up to 80 percent in time and money, according to Nivaura.

At the same time, the startup recognized the regulatory blockades that could come before while issuing tokenized financial instruments.

“We re-engineered some of our key workflows to make tokenized instruments compliant under Central Securities Depositories Regulation (CSDR),” said Nivaura CEO Avtar Sehra about the European regulatory reform. “Then it doesn’t matter which blockchain you use – a private or public one – ultimately the token created on that chain will comply under CSDR and can be traded on a regulated trading venue.”

According to reports, a group of CSDRs from Europe and Asia is already exploring custody digital assets to study its potential integration in the traditional financial sector. They would present their findings at the annual SIBOS conference, which will take place in London in October this year.

Blockchain-not-Bitcoin

To be sure, the integration of blockchain into the mainstream does not concern the growth of bitcoin. The digital currency, while on a path of institutional adoption, remains a risky asset for a majority of established financial actors. JP Morgan, for instance, has admitted its negative stance towards bitcoin but has yet launched a digital token based on the technology that powers the cryptocurrency.

Similarly, HSBC explored blockchain to create a payment settlement system that does not use bitcoin. Mizuho, Japan’s megabank, also announced that it was launching J-Coin for cross border settlements and payments over blockchain.

How Co-Founder Sees NEO 3.0 Blockchain Being Used By Everyone From VCs to Potato Farmers in 2020 3579

NEO’s 2019 DevCon event in Seattle started off with a bang when the company’s Co-Founder, Da Hongfei, opened the event with a speech focused on the promise of the smart economy, and shared his views on how NEO will help guide the world towards a new, tech-based, future.

Importantly, Hongfei expressed an ardent belief that the smart economy is much more than a simple movement within the financial ecosystem and will ultimately prove to be the next stage in world economic development, moving the world away from an industrial-based economy and towards a digitally-based one.

What is the Smart Economy?

Throughout history, there have been multiple stages of economic development that have guided most countries towards their current economic status. Hongfei believes that a “smart economy” will be the next evolutionary stage of economics that pulls the world away from an industry-based economy and towards a digitally-based one.

During his speech, the NEO co-founder explained that the smart economy will be fully digital, programable, and interoperable. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) will undoubtedly play a large role in this hypothesized new global economic system but will also offer participants of this new economy another key benefit: decentralization.

NEO’s co-founder, Da Hongfei, delivering the opening speech for the 2019 DevCon in Seattle.

Within this brave new economic system that Hongfei postulates will proceed that which we are currently in, its decentralized nature will lead to significantly greater transparency and inclusion within not only financial systems, but also within society in general.

Furthermore, Hongfei noted that within the smart economy, its decentralized nature will also allow for greater freedom within all markets, and smaller governments.

How NEO Could Contribute to the Smart Economy 

Naturally, Hongfei believes that NEO will provide a solid base for this new economy to be built upon, as the network encourages multiple projects in a wide range of industries to build services and products that can offer benefits from everyone ranging from venture capitalists to potato farmers.

Hongfei and fellow NEO co-founder, Erik Zhang, also released more details about NEO 3.0 during the DevCon event, which they hope will help to ultimately propel NEO to become the number one blockchain in the world by 2020, and to help usher in the new era of the smart economy.

NEO 3.0 – which may take up to one and a half years to be fully implemented – will offer multiple benefits to the network, including upgrades to the architecture of NEO, add support for layer two and sharding solutions, and offer greater incentives in an order to optimize on-chain governance solutions, while also increasing the network’s security.

If projects and corporations across the globe continue turning to blockchain at a rapid rate in an effort to increase their operational efficiency, the world’s economic system may ultimately transition away from industrialism and towards the smart economy that Hongfei believes NEO will play a role in forming.

Another University Endowment Invests in Crypto Fund: 2019 is the Year of Institutions 3527

The University of Michigan’s $11.9 million endowment fund has plans to increase its stakes in a crypto fund managed by Andreessen Horowitz.

The public university said in its Regents Communication agenda that it was looking to make additional investments into the California-based venture capital firm’s CNK Fund I. Earlier, in June 2018, the endowment had committed $3 million to the same fund. However, this time, it didn’t reveal the number it plans to invest.

CNK invests in startups involved in the cryptocurrency technology at “seed, venture and growth stage” levels. Kevin Hegarty, the chief financial officer at the University of Michigan, wrote that crypto recently became “an important area of innovation and entrepreneurship” that explains converged attention. He said that the cryptocurrency technology was becoming more visible and understandable compared to earlier.

“Crypto is currently regarded as a distinct type of technology by entrepreneurs, funding sources, and developers. By creating a separate fund, AH hopes [to put itself in a better position] within this community that would be the case by continuing to invest through its general IT funds.”

Traditional Funds and Crypto

The University of Michigan’s investment comes amidst growing speculation about institutional investments in the cryptocurrency space. Earlier this week, two Virginia pension funds invested undisclosed sums into Morgan Creek Digital’s $40 million venture fund. The same fund also attracted investment from an insurance company, a university endowment fund, and a private foundation, Anthony Pompliano, the founder of Morgan Creek Digital, confirmed.

Nevertheless, the entire crypto market remains in what is confirmed to be its most extended bear phase. In 2018, the industry lost nearly 1/3rd of its valuation owing to the death of a majority of ICO startups. Universities like Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard invested in crypto funds even when market sentiments’ were weak.

“There’s a belief in the institutional world that if the industry is around for a long time, it will be [precious],’’ Pompliano told Bloomberg. “The smart money is not distracted by price but looks at the long-term trends, and believes they’re betting on innovation as a great way to deliver risk-mitigated returns.’’

Validating Bulls

Many believe that universities were principally investing in crypto assets via independent funds when the market reached its new lows. For instance, the university endowments invested in crypto funds when analysts predicted that bitcoin would bottom-out at $6,000. Chris Dixon, the general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said that it was utilizing their clients’ capital to invest in crypto assets despite weak market conditions.

“If there is another ‘crypto winter,’ we’ll keep investing aggressively,” he stated.

The University of Michigan’s undisclosed investment also comes at a time when the crypto market is hinting to bottom-out. According to CoinMarketCap.com, the market has added $35 billion worth of capital since its December low at $100 billion.

Crypto Market Global Chart | Source: CMC

Psychologically, significant endowments/funds gaining stakes in crypto ventures prompt retailers to stay bullish about the industry. With a recovery already in process, the public university’s announcement could strengthen the buying sentiment in the crypto market.