Germany’s crypto custody license was supposed to give blockchain-based firms access to the basic banking essentials. Despite this fact, stories continue to emerge of companies finding it very difficult to acquire banking services such as checking accounts. A closer look reveals some of the reasons why the German banking industry is still pushing back against crypto adoption.
Confusion, FUD – Crypto Custody License
One of the main reasons German banks are hesitating to provide crypto-related platforms service boils down to a lack of clarity in the space. Both crypto firms and institutions have uncertainties and concerns related to applying for the crypto custody license. Until Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) clarifies these issues, such as what type of activities would qualify as crypto custody, banks will still error on the side of caution.
For example, there is a lack of transparency around crypto exchange operations. Banks are curious about how functionalities such as staking and lockup periods could affect the custodial license of an exchange. Currently, the law states that any crypto firm with access to customer’s private keys is a custodian.
Crypto Custody License
Additionally, in March, BaFin released a guidance stating that tokens originating from security token offerings (STOs) can be custodied by a crypto custodian without the use of a depository bank. Shortly thereafter, regulators issued additional guidelines regarding the management, IT, and security requirements set for crypto-related businesses seeking licensing. Importantly, BaFin states it intends to create more rules focused on operational risks in the near future.
Stifling Bank Participation
This “to-be-announced” approach is enough to keep Germany’s major banking institutions on the sidelines for now. In fact, only tech-focused service providers contributed to the space so far. Next-generation banks, such as SolarisBank, continue to slowly propagate the sector. Solarisbank opened a location in Germany in December 2019.
Lack of Banking
In a recent interview, Matthias Winter, partner at Eversheds Sutherland Germany discussed how the lack of banking is a real issue facing the market. He explained that there is “no legal reason why” banks are hesitating to take on crypto clients. Winter described “confusion” as the main hurdle the industry needs to overcome. Additionally, he spoke on how banks function on a risk versus reward premises and opening a checking account for crypto-firm leaves them exposed to future regulatory changes
Notably, Winter also spoke on how the changes could affect the market. If, or rather when, BaFin clarifies these inconsistencies, there will be a gold rush to the market. In essence, banks would need to acquire crypto custody firms to gain access to the technology as fast as possible.
Crypto Storage Deutschland GMBH
To find examples of how this market confusion wreaks havoc on the industry, you need not look any further than Crypto Storage Deutschland GMBH. This firm underwent a real struggle when they decided to open a branch in Germany to take advantage of the new regulations. Executives went to no less than 15 different banks before they were able to get a basic checking account.
Discussing the tribulations, Stijn Vander Straeten, CEO of Crypto Storage AG cited a plethora of difficulties his firm encountered. Straeten described a scenario where you are up against the institutional banking arm. He explained that crypto companies aren’t “making them money by asking for checking accounts“, and as such, they are not a priority by any means.
White-Label Solution for Banks
Notably, Crypto Storage AG recognizes the need to secure digital assets. The firm currently offers a white-label solution for banks that want to offer the services to their clientele without taking on the risks associated with emerging markets.
Germany Moves Forward – Crypto Custody License
German regulators appear to be moving, albeit slowly, closer to the digitization of the markets. Every day that passes signals more growth and development in the country’s blockchain sector. Hopefully, in the coming months, BaFin provides banks with the specifics they need to give firms access to banking essentials. If not, Germany risks falling behind in the global race to tokenization.