The crypto community got some exciting news this week after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman stated that Ether (ETH) is a commodity. The news follows similarly worded statements from SEC officials in the past.
The news came via an Oct 10 statement from acting CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert. In the post, the Chairman announced that he believes Ether is not a security at this time. The news comes at a critical point in Ethereum’s development.
The news is a huge win for the Ethereum community. Currently, Ethereum is the second-largest cryptocurrency in the world by market cap ($20 billion). The ruling is important because it means Ether falls under CFTC regulations and not SEC securities regulations. Consequently, the decision allows financial institutions to offer a wide array of new products and open up entirely new markets moving forward.
Ether Futures and Derivatives
In the past analysts pointed out that the Ether derivatives market suffered due to the lack of transparency. Tarbert now says that you can expect to see both Ether futures and derivatives markets in the very near future. Surprisingly, he stated that these financial tools would hit the market in less than a year.
According to the Chairman, Ether is a case of a transformative token. Basically, the token started as a security during the ICO event. At that time the enterprise was playing a controlling role over the digital asset. As time progressed, the Ethereum enterprise faded to the background as the cryptocurrency decentralized. Now the token serves as a utility.
Additionally, Tarbert described the reverse scenario in which a utility token slowly develops into a security. In this situation, you start off with a fully decentralized organization. Over time, the enterprise steps back in to take more control. Consequently, this creates a scenario where investors seek profits from the efforts of others. Now the token is a security.
Notably, SEC officials stated that they do not consider Ether a security in its current state. However, both the SEC and CFTC did point out that during the company’s ICO, Ether acted as a security. Luckily the SEC declined to fine the Ethereum development team for its ICO.
Bitcoin is a Commodity
Falling along this line of thought, Tarbert explained that Bitcoin is also a commodity. This statement coincides with the SEC’s decision to decline to label Bitcoin as a security. Analysts consider these actions as a precursor to this week’s news.
PoW to PoS
Also, Ethereum developers announced a shift from the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm to a more energy-efficient alternative, a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. PoS systems don’t require your PC to do heavy computations. Instead, users earn rewards for “staking” tokens in their wallets. In this manner, PoS tokens use far fewer resources.
Ether Moving Forward
The Ethereum community has much to celebrate moving forward. The cryptocurrency continues to see development across the entire sector. You can expect to see the Ethereum community expand as more ETH-based products enter the market in the coming months.
Adoption of NEM’s Symbol Blockchain Increasing Among Central Banks and Startups
Symbol – NEM’s New Core Blockchain Technology
Only months ago, we were reporting on the release of ‘Symbol’. A product of NEM, Symbol is a hybrid blockchain, built specifically with enterprises in mind. Symbol’s hybrid blockchain brings together the advantages of private and public blockchains to provide the best of both worlds for enterprise users and their customers.
The launch of Symbol marks a focused effort towards servicing the security token arena, and makes full use of the widespread flexibility, and functionality, that the Symbol blockchain offers.
Today, we highlight two recent instances of adoption of Symbol by a promising startup and a central bank.
Our first example of promising adoption comes from a recently announced collaboration between Wave Financial and NEM to launch Bourbon Fund tokens. This collaboration will mark the first security token launched through Symbol. The launch is expected to occur in late 2020.
Representatives from Wave Financial and NEM Group took the time to comment on their collaboration surrounding the Bourbon Fund.
Dave Hodgson, Chief Investment Officer of NEM Group and Managing Director of NEM Ventures, stated,
“I am delighted to see the first committed security issuance on Symbol from NEM, even before its launch. We have been working with Wave Financial since early 2020 to tokenize this unique asset class and it is exciting to see this progress. The Wave team have prior experience of digital asset tokenization are consummate professionals – the perfect partner for our first security token.”
David Siemer, CEO of Wave Financial, stated,
“After launching the fund, we were on the lookout for a protocol that would facilitate this unique offering. Symbol from NEM was a natural fit, due to its technical capabilities, purpose-built with the issuance of security tokens at the forefront of its network architecture.”
Bank of Lithuania – LBCOIN
Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) are currently the talk of the town. Various countries around the world are rapidly researching, and developing, their own variants. Recently, we touched on how the Bank of Canada is gearing up for CBDCs.
Our second example of recent adoption of NEM’s Symbol blockchain, comes from none other than the Bank of Lithuania.
The central Bank of Lithuania is looking to prep for the future with digital currencies; they have recently announced the pending release of what they call LBCOIN. While not a CBDC, LBCOIN is a collectible token on the Symbol blockchain, issued by the Central Bank of Lithuania. Its purpose? To provide valuable insight into the functionality, and hurdles, associated with the eventual release of an actual CBDC. By learning from LBCOIN, the Bank of Lithuania hopes that any wrinkles will be ironed out for the future.
If all goes well, LBCOIN could prove to be extremely valuable for Symbol and NEM, as Symbol looks to establish itself as a leading blockchain, and a viable option for other countries following similar paths.
Established in 2015, NEM (formerly known as the ‘New Economy Movement’), is a blockchain protocol, boasting unique smart-contract capabilities. The NEM Foundation headquarters are situated in Singapore.
In Other News
For those interested in learning more about the aforementioned Bourbon Fund, make sure to read the following interview. In this exclusive discussion, we learned the ins-and-outs of the fund and its creator, Wave Financial.
Investment Activity in Japan Signals Interest in Digital Securitization
All the pieces are falling into place for the digital securities market in Japan. One of the biggest traditional financial institutions in Japan, Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings is advancing rapidly with its plans to digitize the financial services the company provides in a traditional sense.
New Investment in Blockchain Company by Tokai Tokyo
According to a Nikkei report, Tokai Tokyo completed a new investment in blockchain development company Hash Dash Holdings. Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings will own 33% shares of the company, which is working on integrating the blockchain technology into the traditional financial industry. The aim is to enable the issuance of digital securities while providing investors with a trading service on their mobile devices.
Digital securitization is picking up steam as more traditional financial institutions dare into the digital asset space. With uncertainty looming over traditional markets, digital assets are piquing the interest of investors – and not only retail, but institutions are taking clear steps to be part of the paradigm shift. Tokai Tokyo’s efforts to build a digital securities exchange is an example of the latest venture into the field.
Per the report, Tokai Tokyo’s platform will tokenize securities, and will start with Japan’s real estate industry with plans to explore digitization of Intellectual Property assets as well as corporate bonds.
Alongside Tokai Tokyo, other shareholders are the founder of Hash Dash and ICH X Tech, the company operating iSTOX. With this venture, the goal is to issue digital securities powered by blockchain technology and trade these on iSTOX, the digital security exchange based in Singapore.
The iSTOX exchange also has previous strong ties with Tokai Tokyo, as the latter had announced a $4.5 million investment in ICH X Tech just seven months ago in November 2019.
As reported, the iSTOX digital exchange was part of the MAS Fintech Sandbox program undergone by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and was one of the select successful products. The motivation behind the investment was to make digital securities on the iSTOX platform available to Japanese investors; this being possible through the brokerage capabilities of Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings.
If at the time, the digital securities exchange was a sandbox, it has since become a recognized market operator with a capital market services license. Other iSTOX investors included the Singapore Exchange (SGX), state-owned Temasek’s investment firm Heliconia Capital, and Hanwha Asset Management.
Asian countries have been known to be at the forefront of the digital asset industry – starting off with a dominant presence in the mining industry to having a lot of cryptocurrency exchange platforms across different countries and a population eager to experiment with novel cryptocurrencies.
Japanese Companies Bringing Digital Securitization Closer to Mainstream
In the past few years, Japanese companies have also been actively seeking opportunities to enter the digital securitization space. SBI Holdings has been long making the headlines in the industry with their collaboration with Ripple and XRP.
In the past year, Nomura and Nomura Research Institute started the BOOSTRY platform, which focuses on securities and bonds issuance. Tokenization platform Securitize already created a Japanese real estate investment platform, receiving funding from numerous high profile Japanese investment firms.
While Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings is almost a century old company with deep roots in the traditional financial markets, the company is determined to adapt to changing market conditions.
In December, Tokai Tokyo made an investment of 500 million yen ($4.7 million) in Huobi Japan, the popular crypto exchange licensed in Japan. In order to execute their vision of becoming an “advanced financial integrated group”, Tokai Tokyo is focused on meeting consumer needs by deploying leading technologies from FinTech and the cryptocurrency space, according to the company’s press release at the time.
Further in the press release it was stated:
Also, in March Tokai Tokyo became a member of Japan Security Token Offering Association, a self-regulatory organization for STOs.
The intent from the Japanese financial giant is clear and it looks like the company is making it a priority to have a strong foothold in the digital securitization industry.
Overall, it’s a natural and likely necessary progression that financial institutions have to consider, seeing that in the next decade digital securities may become the prevalent financial products that investors look for.
Thai Government to Use Blockchain in Bond Issuance
Another minor, but significant development in digital securitization is unfolding in Thailand, where the public debt management office (PDMO) is set to issue government saving bonds that will be distributed with the help of blockchain.
This is an initial trial done by PDMO, which is part of the country’s finance ministry, to leverage the blockchain technology in issuing and distributing government bonds to the public.
According to local reports, the office is issuing bonds in total value of around $6.5 million (200 million baht). One particular feature of the blockchain technology is already clearly visible, as the bonds are being sold at a face value of 1 baht – the lowest ever amount for government bonds, which are usually priced at 1,000 baht.
Why is Bond Tokenization Important
The bond market is one of the oldest and most relied-upon asset classes, providing key financing for governments, corporations, and investors. Despite the market’s popularity with both institutional and retail investors, digitization has been incredibly slow.
Bond issuance is generally a long process that involves multiple intermediaries, incurring high costs and the risk of human error. These are common pain points in the financial securities market that technological innovations are hoping to solve.
This is where bond tokenization comes into play with the aim to lower the various costs associated with bond issuance. The application of blockchain technology can benefit the bond market as a whole by enhancing data visibility, reducing counterparty risk, and improving operational efficiency.
When buying and selling bonds, buyers can instantly verify that the sellers own the bond by looking at the blockchain. This also immediately eliminates the need of having intermediaries since the bond lives on a trustless and immutable ledger.
Blockchain also eases the process of bond issuance with the terms and conditions including the principal amount, coupon rate, and maturity date, being ingrained into code. As a result, the payment process can be automated: issuers can distribute interest payments directly to the bondholder’s wallet address.
With the novel technology, issuers of securities have the possibility to represent financial assets as granular as necessary. Since verifications, transactions and settlements take place on a blockchain ledger, there is no additional hassle or paperwork to go through, compared to traditional methods of asset securitization and distribution.
This is a huge advantage technology provides and general director of the PDMO Patricia Mongkhonvanit, recognizes that this will also open up new opportunities for everyone to buy government bonds:
“This should enable more people at the grassroots level to buy the government’s saving bonds,”
Thailand Pressing Forward with Digital Securitization
The government savings bonds will be available for purchase through the Krung Thai Bank’s (KTB) blockchain platform, which is wholly state-owned and the distribution will take place through an e-wallet. While this is an entirely novel way of conducting a government bond issuance, it is not an unfamiliar experience for many.
If the smallest bond partition is 1 baht, the minimum acquiring limit is set at 100 bonds per purchaser, with investment capped at 500,000 baht – according to PDMO.
The initial rollout will take place through digital channels, but PDMO also plans to broaden savings bond distribution channels to bank branches, ATMs and mobile banking.
In order to gauge public interest and spread the message, the government had beforehand let people subscribe through the blockchain-based e-wallet. The 200-million-baht savings bond offering is an initial test and those who are interested in participating must have accounts at KTB and apply through the bank’s e-wallet.
Thailand’s PDMO had recently closed the sales of savings bonds worth 50 billion baht, which was part of the government’s 1-trillion-baht plan to mitigate the economic damage following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rising interest on the side of the Thai government to pursue more efficient ways for issuing bonds is further confirmation that the role of blockchain technology for digital asset securitization is broadening. Should the trial issuance on the blockchain be viewed as a success, there is a chance to see more government bonds being distributed this way.
Thailand has also been one of the countries eager to step forward with their experimentation of blockchains for financial securitization. For instance, back in 2019 the Thailand Bond Market Association announced it would adopt blockchain for bond registration. The local Toyota Leasing in the country had issued a blockchain bond. In addition to that, the stock exchange also has plans to launch a blockchain-based digital asset platform.