Blockchain fans gathered in force at LATTICE80 last week for a jam-packed event that included a fireside chat, Q&As, networking, a best-ICO contest, and even a karaoke afterparty.
In the fireside chat with Anson Zeall, Co-founder and CEO of CoinPip and Chairman of ACCESS, moderated by Addy Crezee, CEO of BlockShow by Cointelegraph, the two discussed blockchain regulations, the recent closing of bank accounts in Singapore held by cryptocurrency firms, and the need to work closer with government.
One of the key takeaways from the talk was that now is the time for the whole ecosystem to initiate communication on blockchain regulation. We also heard that the growing wave of Chinese blockchain startups leaving the country following the government’s ICO ban will likely consider Singapore as a prime location to set up shop.
Excerpts from the discussion below:
Zeall: In the last few days, if you read Bloomberg, there was an article about cryptocurrency bank accounts being shut down… The whole community is still trying to work with the banks and regulators to get things done.
The cases that happened recently are nothing special as this kind of thing has been happening for a while. But they made it sound like it just happened for the first time. Because the community has grown, it caught the attention of a lot of mainstream journalists.
Crezee: Let’s go to regulation. The Chinese have banned mining and ICOs. What’s your point of view on that… and as for Singapore, what’s going on here? So what’s the future and what’s the perfect regulation for blockchain startups?
Zeall: China banning ICOs is an opportunity for Singapore to capitalise and enable a growing market here, not only from China but also the US… When we talk to regulators, it’s important to make clear that there is an opportunity and for us to see if we can capitalise on it.
Regarding regulations, in August a notice came out saying if you are a security you need to be regulated as a security… Most important is that your anti-money laundering, CFD compliance, counter-terrorism financing and KYC checks are done. If you really put the effort in there, when the regulators come to you at least you have something to explain.
For now, if you are doing an ICO on a utility token – meaning something like Ethereum – then you’re fine.
Crezee: There is not much consensus between government, regulators and community. What do you think?
Zeall: In my view, regulation should not be more flexible, but engagement and communication should be. It is a problem right now… but not loosening up [regulations] does not mean you do not communicate. Financial institutions also want to participate, so now is the time to initiate communication as a whole ecosystem. There should be an open sharing of information on the regulatory experiences that they have.
What I’m pushing for is for the regulators here reference what they’re doing in Japan. It’s sort of like a plug and play. We saw the framework of the payments, licenses and crypto exchanges and it’s quite similar to what Singapore is proposing. Since [Japan] already has something, perhaps we can reference it and do something quickly that is localised.
MAS is communicating very heavily with Singapore Fintech Association. They’re not just sitting there and looking down from above. But we now need more communication than ever before.
Crezee: What do you think about China blockchain companies and will they be able to attract investments from overseas?
Zeall: It’s hard to speculate. All I can say is that the Chinese blockchain ecosystem really has very immense projects. But there is a big problem: scammy/bad projects to good projects has a ratio of 99:1. It is that bad. When a project comes up, there are immediately many copycat projects trying to front run the [original].
The Chinese regulators are very intelligent. They see what blockchain has done. One Chinese scholar said they’re not actually banning ICOs [permanently], but they’re looking for a better way to regulate them. But Chinese companies that want to do ICOs have to find places that are friendly to them.
[So Singapore] has a big opportunity from China, which has one of the most advances blockchain businesses in my opinion. Most of the articles that I read, most of what I’m learning from in blockchain, is all in Chinese. The articles in Chinese are more advanced that the ones that are published in English. There is a lot to learn. For the guys coming out of China, Singapore will be one of their destinations.