This week, the popular token issuance platform, Securitize received approval from the SEC to operate under the coveted transfer agent status. This status allows the firm to now register securities trades. While the company already took such actions via its blockchain protocol, it now operates in this capacity under the SEC blessings. These developments place Securitize in an exclusive class of regulated tokenized securities platforms operating in the US.
The move makes Securitize the first official registered transfer agent in the country. The firm now operates a full token issuance ecosystem under SEC approval. Currently, the company issues, manages, and trades tokenized securities on its Alternate Trading Systems (ATS) platform.
Preparations Pay Off
Securitize took around 6-months meeting with SEC officials prior to filing for the status. The meetings focused on how Securitize’s smart contracts operate. Importantly, the firm wanted to be sure that the SEC had a full grasp of its proprietary technology, and how it incorporates into Securitize’s overall company infrastructure.
While the preparations for the filings took almost half a year, the efforts weren’t in vain. The firm received approval as a transfer agent in just ten days after its official filing. Discussing the developments, the CEO of Securitize, Carlos Domingo described the milestone as an important step towards showing investors the space is now regulated.
Domingo also took a moment to explain how the new status will benefit a host of other types of investors. In particular, Domingo pointed out the SEC’s recent approvals of Reg A+ token issuers. These blockchain investors will require the assistance of a transfer agent such as Securitize to finalize transactions.
There are some major advantages gained through the integration of a blockchain-based transfer agent system. For one, the costs are reduced significantly. For example, a traditional transfer agent can charge around $150 per transaction. Securitize plans to eliminate these charges altogether.
Securitize will remove these charges, but there will still be fees for management, dividend, shareholder votes, and interest payments. These payments help the firm to continue development on its groundbreaking platform
Securitize on the Rise
Securitize continues to expand its capabilities. To date, the firm has hosted eleven official token issuances. These issuances have a combined value of over $200 million. Notably, close to half of these tokens currently trade on secondary markets via the companies ATS.
Secondary trading is an important concern for the growing tokenized securities markets. A lack of secondary trading platforms left liquidity concerns. In response, many firms started development on in-house secondary trading platforms. Today, investors have a host of regulated options to consider.
Securitize Gets Official
Now, Securities has the positioning to expand its lead in the marketplace. This latest SEC approval showcases how the regulatory body continues to warm up to the concept of blockchain-based crowdfunding. You can expect to see a host of other token issuance platforms seek similar approval in the coming weeks in a bid to stay competitive in this ever-expanding market. For now, Securitize remains the only platform to hold this status.
Darius Liu, Chief Operating Officer for iSTOX – Interview Series
What is iSTOX?
iSTOX is the first regulated capital markets platform in any major financial centre to support the one- stop issuance, custody and trading of digitized securities. Drawing on the power of advanced smart contract and distributed ledger technology to streamline the issuance and trading process, iSTOX seeks to redefine private capital markets by allowing investors and issuers to connect and transact directly. Compared with traditional trading venues, iSTOX is a more flexible, affordable and inclusive alternative, and offers investment options that were previously inaccessible.
iSTOX’s key shareholders include the Singapore Exchange (SGX), Asia’s leading international multi- asset exchange; Heliconia, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings focused on investing in fast growing companies; and Phatra, a leading Thai investment and private bank and a member of Kiatnakin Phatra Financial Group. Other key shareholders include Japan-based Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings (Tokai), a well-established Japanese financial services firm, and more recently Hanwha Asset Management, a leading asset management company in Korea.
Before iSTOX, you worked for GIC, which manages Singapore’s foreign reserves. How did this experience inspire you to launch iSTOX?
Actually, before I worked at GIC, I worked as a policymaker in the Singapore government, including a stint at the Ministry of Finance. Thus, my experience spans both policy making and asset management / investment within a commercial context. I can therefore relate to considerations from both sides of the fence (government and industry):
- On one end, the government wishes to promote industry transformation and innovation, while maintaining stability and protections for users.
- On the other hand, industry players see gaps in the market, and inefficiencies in current process In the case of capital markets, this takes the form of frictions arising from legacy processes involving multiple intermediaries. While technology exists to bridge the gap, the capital market space is a regulated arena – industry players often see regulation as an impediment to innovation.
Having experience in both spaces made me see that regulation is the friend – and not the enemy – of innovation. The innovation I’m talking about is innovation by serious, long-term players looking to add value to the economy as a whole. There is a gap in the market and working with regulation can add value. That led me to believe that iSTOX was an idea that was not only sound conceptually, but feasible from an execution standpoint.
The concept of digitized securities, as well as the whole capital market end-to-end infrastructure layer built on a blockchain is a new concept, both in terms of technology and operating model. The sandbox has been useful for iSTOX to start operating in a “live” environment with real issuers and investors, while simultaneously co-creating the regulatory environment together with MAS. This gave assurance to us, MAS and market participants that the iSTOX platform is stable and secure.
We are confident of transitioning out of the sandbox to serve a larger number of users. We expect to graduate from the MAS Fintech Regulatory Sandbox into full operational status soon this year.
Singapore has many existing gaps in the private capital markets that results in accredited investors being underserved by the current financial market. Could you share with us what these gaps are and how iSTOX solves this problem?
Investors today face a challenge. Low rates of return within the public markets continue to drive strong global demand for high-growth pre-IPO start-ups, exclusive hedge funds and other private market opportunities. In 2018, for example USD $778 billion worth of new capital flowed into private markets. In the case of private equity alone, net asset value grew more than sevenfold since 2002, doubling market cap growth of equities in the public market.*
Despite all this, the private capital market system itself has remained highly fragmented, inefficient, complicated and costly. For investors, this has resulted in limited access to a closed group of well- connected and privileged investors. And even for those that do have access to private capital markets, the antiquated and fragmented nature of the current system means they must go through multiple intermediaries to gain the investments they seek.
Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon. The rise of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and smart contracts, combined innovative business models and forward-looking regulation now make it possible to bring new kinds of capital markets platforms to investors.
In the case of iSTOX, this has resulted in the first regulated capital markets platform in any major financial centre to support the one-stop issuance, custody and trading of digitized securities. iSTOX seeks to redefine private capital markets by allowing investors and issuers to connect and transact directly under a safe, MAS-regulated environment. By coupling this with an innovative and accessible business model, iSTOX opens private markets opportunity to a broad range of accredited investors.
iSTOX enables investors to access previously inaccessible investments which includes exclusive funds. What are some of these funds and why should investors take note?
Most of us are familiar with the mutual fund offerings from banks. Many are products with fairly high upfront and ongoing fees. There are some funds which have a track record of positive returns across different market conditions. For instance, the top global macro and private equity funds.
Such funds are generally only open to large institutional investors like the biggest asset managers or sovereign wealth funds. They do not market even to high net worth individuals and have relatively small fund sizes (compared to many mutual funds) which makes their offering even more scarce.
Also, they tend to have long lock-up periods like 3 years or more. If investors want the returns offered by these funds, or the return streams to add to their portfolios for return enhancement or diversification, there is currently no way. But with iSTOX, it will be possible.
Alternative investment products will also be available to investors. What are some of these products?
We have also shortlisted some very exciting opportunities for the new year. These include a discretionary fund that builds returns through mezzanine deals and private debt financing, as well as a range of debt, fund and equity-linked issuances across a range of sectors (including real estate, entertainment, and lifestyle).
Where are user funds held?
Funds which you transfer into your iSTOX account reside in a customer segregated account held with DBS, Southeast Asia’s biggest bank. Your funds are interest-bearing, and you will have access to your funds through your online iSTOX Wallet. Digitized securities are minted if you make an investment and after funds have been debited from your iSTOX Wallet. These securities are custodized with
ICHX Tech Pte. Ltd., the operator of the iSTOX platform.
Investors who open an account with iSTOX before February 1st, 2020, receive certain exclusive benefits. Could you share with us what those perks are?
Select investors enjoy a certain number of guaranteed allocations in primary market issuances and waiver of fees associated with primary market subscription and secondary market purchases for a limited period of time.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about iSTOX?
I would like to share a bit about the iSTOX philosophy as well. Where we are now, what we do, it comes down to the belief to provide investors with greater accessibility, freedom and flexibility, with a desire to bring about improvements to the world.
We believe that all investors can and should have the capacity to build and manage their portfolios with the same freedom and flexibility now available to the very wealthy. In addition to generating good returns, investors should be able to freely engage with industries, technologies and causes that fire their passions, provide them exposure to potentially transformative developments in technology and society, and allow them to improve the world around them.
We believe that access to opportunities like high-growth pre-IPO start-ups, exclusive hedge funds and Asian unicorns can and should be open to far, far more investors. While technological limitations and other barriers previously locked out all but the very wealthy and well-connected, the new advances that are starting to make themselves felt in financial markets will fundamentally change this equation. We believe the financial industry should embrace these changes.
We believe that DLT and smart contract technology will open new worlds of possibilities when it comes to how investing works. These possibilities will include but will certainly not be limited to assets that can be traded and owned in fractions for greater liquidity and access, including real assets like buildings, aircraft, wind farms and more. Investors deserve access to these innovations as well as others.
Smartlands Hires London Strategic Consulting to Assess UK Market
This week, Smartlands, an institutional-grade tokenization platform announced the hiring of London Strategic Consulting. The firm seeks to utilize London Strategic Consulting’s market analysis to better position the company for the mainstream adoption of security tokens. The news demonstrates an increased pace of adoption for these regulatory compliant tokens within the UK market.
London Strategic Consulting (LSC)
London Strategic Consulting (LSC) is a non-profit consulting firm. Importantly, the organization is student-run. The choice to work with the LSC comes as part of London’s corporate social responsibility program expands. The LSC provides tracking and forecasting services to companies seeking deeper insight into their industries. As such, the LSC determined that tokenized securities are to be the next major trend in the blockchain sector.
Smartlands cooperated with the LSC to assess the digital securities space in the UK. The group is to provide Smartlands with a fresh perspective on how, and how soon, security tokens are to disrupt the UK financial sector. In turn, Smartlands will utilize this data to best determine its role in the digitization of the UK economy.
Security token adoption in the UK has been on the rise. The use of blockchain technology provides investors with more efficiencies, scalability, and transparency in the space. Most importantly, tokenization provides much-needed liquidity to the market.
Smartlands – Progress in Motion
Speaking on the partnership, Yaroslava Tkalich, Smartlands CMO called the work of the student body “marvelous.” She explained that it was necessary to focus the study on the UK markets first. This strategy allows Smartlands to tailor their plans to fit the nuances of the UK market directly. Tkalich also stated that after the UK, the firm would begin to expand its research to include global trends in the space. Specifically, Smartlands is interested in collective investment funds and other structured products currently under development.
For its part, the LSC is to identify any issues of mass adoption. These concerns are to focus on both issuers and investors in the blockchain sector. The LSC is to report any innovative new financing and capital raising models discovered and their impact on the current market trends. This data will help to build a bridge between legacy finance and the new digital economy.
The LSC report should provide Smartlands with the critical data needed to lay out a comprehensive approach towards the UK market moving forward. The firm intends to focus its development efforts on these key aspects. To date, the LSC pointed out that distribution, structuring, issuance, primary listing, secondary trading, custody, portfolio management, advisory, and market-making are the key areas requiring additional attention in the UK blockchain sector.
There is no doubt that Smartlands took the proper approach towards discovering the latest asset tokenization trends. In this manner, the firm can develop new marketing practices and business models to further its overall goal to be the dominant tokenization platform in the UK. Importantly, these plans fall in line with the company’s international expansion strategy. For now, Smartlands appears to be ready to make some major adjustments in an effort to remain the industry leader.
Securitize Enables Investors to Allocate their Retirement Savings via AltoIRA.
The security token issuance platform, Securitize achieved a major milestone for the entire security token community this week. The firm successfully enabled the very first-ever investment into a security token offering (STO) from an individual retirement account (IRA). The news demonstrates further security token adoption by traditional investment firms and a desire by more investors to participate in this expanding sector of finance.
Discussing the important milestone, Carlos Domingo, Co-Founder, and CEO at Securitize explained the overall excitement surrounding the project. He spoke of the importance of facilitating direct IRA investments to open the market. Domingo described how the new strategy provides millions of investors with direct access to new capital connected to the Securitize platform. He also took a moment to touch on what the developments meant for other digital securities issuers.
In order to make this revolutionary concept a reality, Securitize created a strategic partnership with the alternative investment firm – AltoIRA. The firm directly integrating Securitize’s DS Protocol in order to automate the entire process. In this manner, interested parties can directly invest their IRA savings into alternative assets such as security tokens. Notably, the new system is far more cost-effective than traditional IRA investment methods.
Discussing the maneuver, Eric Satz, CEO at AltoIRA explained how “thrilled” his company was to be a part of the first-ever direct investment into digital securities via an IRA. He hopes that the integrations will help investors achieve a truly diversified portfolio moving forward. Lastly, he spoke on the limited market exposure security tokens received to date. Currently, around only 2% of all alternative assets are held within retirement funds such as IRAs and 401ks.
Part of the reason for this lackluster market penetration is that traditional custodians lack the digital infrastructure to participate in these new markets. Now, AltoIRA users can enjoy access to tokenized private equity, venture capital, and real estate. Also, these users can now invest directly into cryptocurrency from their retirement accounts as well.
For its part, AltoIRA chose to provide investors with access to the CityBlock Capital fund. The venture capital firm CityBlock Capital is best known for its flagship private fund. The fund has a focus on blockchain startups with the overall goal to simplify access to tokenized finance and digital asset trading.
Robert Nance, Managing Partner at CityBlock Capital explained why they choose to utilize the Securitize platform over the competition. He stated that Securitize is a leading solutions provider in the industry. He also spoke on the ability to unlock untapped liquidity via the use of blockchain technology.
Securitize Your Future
Securitize continues to expand the functionality of the entire blockchain sector. You can expect this latest venture to speed up security token adoption in a major way. Now IRA investors have new opportunities to participate in the new age economy as it develops.
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