Navigating the Regulatory Minefield
Blockhain-crypto start ups are here to stay, and while most of them are eager to play by the rules, they need a helping hand or two from organizations with expertise in regulatory matters. This regularity environment must walk a tightrope of clarity, best practices, and an aversion to overzealous oversight that risk throttle the industry. We’ve seen the fruits of such a beneficial environment already in Malta, which has formed the vanguard of crypto-friendly countries in Europe, and Estonia, which has designs on a “digital republic“.
However, financial and securities regulations aren’t easy to understand. Very often, start-ups interpret their offering in one way, only to find that regulators have interpreted it rather differently. Take, for instance, the dim view the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has taken of so-called utility tokens. Numerous start-ups believed their tokens did not fall under the definition of a security due to their ‘utility’ on the platform.
The SEC, following a principle of “Substance over form”, reviewed the aggressive marketing of these tokens and noticed the vast majority of people were buying the utility tokens with the expectation of a future profit. This classification from on high has led to a scramble among ICOs and a full scale swing to Security Tokens, which start-ups hope will avoid regulatory carpet bombing.
This is where Börse Stuttgart, Germany’s no. 2 stock exchange, enters the picture.
An Integrated Platform
Börse Stuttgart is developing an integrated service offering for digital currencies, which, they hope, will remove the grey areas that often plague ICO sales. The company will allow blockchain start-ups to conduct their ICOs over their new platform in a transparent manner. The platform offers services in a centralized manner so that the start-ups can work with a single integrated service provider. Börse Stuttgart is also developing a secondary market for the ICO tokens sold over their platform. A secondary market are important for most blockchain-crypto projects, since brings in the much needed ‘network effect‘.
Börse Stuttgart is a well-established player in Germany with their floor-based stock exchange. Retail investors can trade in various products here — equities, securities derivatives, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and bonds, to name a few. Founded in 1860, and based out of Stuttgart, the company lays claim to broad expertise in various kinds of trading as well as regulation, all of which will come handy for ICO token issuers who use their new ICO platform.
The company is also developing a crypto trading app, named ‘Bison’, which they plan to release in September 2018. Their new ICO platform will follow the release of Bison. Alexander Hoptner, their CEO, is upbeat about the project which sits well with their strategy of promoting digital currencies in a transparent and regulated manner.
Börse Stuttgart isn’t the only stock exchange serious about blockchain and crypto; “SIX”, the company that owns and manages Switzerland’s stock exchange, is building “SIX Digital Exchange” (SDX), an integrated market for cryptocurrencies. Increasingly, it looks like Europe is taking the lead in blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. Time will tell if other global financial powers can keep pace.