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Study: Crypto Wealthy Still Prefer Exchanges to Wallets

Study: Crypto Wealthy Still Prefer Exchanges to Wallets

Bitcoin is now cresting in the midst of a huge rally that seems to have no letdown in sight yet, and the attention must surely turn to the Bitcoin whales at some point, especially with regards to security and the safety of their funds.

But strangely enough, current data from Binance Research seems to suggest that even with more secure options available to institutional investors and wealthy Bitcoin owners, accounts with large Assets Under Management (AUM) or those with more than USD 25 million in digital assets are still preferring the services of exchanges, instead of custodial services or even their own wallets, either hot or cold.

This data from Binance looks at Q2 2019 and finds that the top four methods were exchanges, followed by cold wallets, hot wallets and then custodial services such as BitGo.

Binance itself, although one of the world’s most popular exchanges, self-described as having some of the best security features in the industry, has been a victim of cyber attacks, losing funds in the process. Binance was fortunate enough to cover the losses after the hack this year with funds set aside for exactly such emergencies. But other exchanges like Cryptopia and QuadrigaCX have not been so lucky, with hacks — alleged or otherwise — spelling their end as they both now are embroiled in expensive litigation battles with former clients now turned creditors.

The Binance Research report shows that clients still end up storing funds on exchanges, although “partially” stored in cold wallets via “third party custody services”.

The biggest reason for this is that they trade “high turnover” digital assets and simply choose to avoid deposit and withdrawal fees, as well as commissions for transactions:

“One of the potential explanations is that market participants with high turnover buy/sell frequently digital assets and need to keep funds on exchange as the exchange platforms typically charge some additional fees to withdraw along with better liquidity of centralized exchanges.”

Custodial borrowing and lending platforms were only used by a third of clients surveyed, but these tend to have a longer-term view than traders.

 

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Bitfinex Assures Users All Secure After Deposits and Withdrawals Shutdown

bitfinex

Crypto exchange Bitfinex has assured its users that all is well after temporarily shutting down deposits and withdrawals according to a Tweet.

The shutdown was described by Bitfinex as being necessary “due to the outage of one of [their] network providers,” and although services had been suspended, the platform made it clear that all funds were in safe storage.

. @bitfinex : due to the outage of one of our network providers we temporarily paused deposits and withdrawals. Funds are safe in cold storage. Situation should be restored ASAP. Apologies for inconvenience.

— Paolo Ardoino (@paoloardoino) May 31, 2019

However, this is not what users probably wanted to hear in light of recent headlines concerning the company. The exchange allegedly attempted to cover missing funds totaling USD 850 million by raiding its Tether reserves in order to pay out customers. Between May 2015 and August 2016, Bitfinex was reportedly attacked by hackers who stole BTC 1,500 in 2015 and USD 72 million worth of Bitcoin in 2016.

Bitfinex had its Bitcoin data removed from CoinMarketCap’s price average earlier this month due to a 5.5% premium the exchange claims over the market average, which was thought to be the result of recent events.

However, users would be hoping that the shutdown was simply a hiccup and not something with more complex overtones. Bitfinex has now presented a motion to dismiss the charges against them entirely. According to the exchange, a subsequent hearing has been scheduled on the motion for 29 July 2019.

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South Korean Crypto Exchanges Combine to Tighten AML Security

South Korean Crypto Exchanges Combine to Tighten AML Security

South Korean exchanges Coinone, Corbit, Upbit, and Bithumb have joined in implementing heightened levels of anti-money laundering (AML) security in view of high-level hacks over time.

Despite the country’s high level of regulation, requiring companies offering cryptocurrency products to implement AML security, hackers have proven to find ways of infiltrating some exchanges’ safeguards.

The four exchanges will focus on activities such as voice phishing, pyramid schemes, and other illegal trading activities. A new system will ensure a register of suspicious wallets which may be used for illegal activity.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that these four exchanges “…are now able to instantly check any wrongful transactions made at other exchanges and take necessary measures, such as blocking their own related accounts. The cooperative step against money laundering via cryptocurrencies is expected to boost the soundness of the industry and to better protect consumers.”

South Korea enjoys a cryptocurrency system similar to Japan where exchanges cooperate for the betterment of the industry. This was illustrated at the end of 2018 where seven exchanges combined to sign an accord for the “Agreement for the creation of a sound cryptocurrency ecosystem”.

The exchanges, Upbit, Bithumb, Korbit, Coinone, Gopax, Coinplug (Cpdax), and Hanbitco, stated the accord’s aim was to not only to create a healthy ecosystem but also to prevent crime and protect investors by creating a sound ecosystem and preventing money laundering.

Financial Services Commission (FSC) head of financial innovation, Kwon Dae-Young, has declared that the aims of the government are always the same regarding cryptocurrency, maintaining that the integrity of the space is vital:

“We are trying to institutionalize [cryptocurrency exchanges] but before we do, we have to answer the question of how to deal with the damage and tears of many virtual currency investors. We must see if any of the projects that can help the people in their daily lives have been presented. Trust and authenticity are important.”

 

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Japanese Crypto Industry Granted Self Regulatory Status

Japan’s cryptocurrency industry self-regulators, the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA),  has been approved by the national Financial Services Agency (FSA) to be officially recognized in its regulatory position, effective immediately.

As reported by Bitcoin News in August, JVCEA applied for recognition from the FSA after establishing a 16 member strong team of licensed cryptocurrency exchanges and producing a nearly 1,000-page report on self-regulatory guidelines for crypto trading platforms to adhere to. Following the USD534 million heist that took place on the local Coincheck platform earlier this year, JVCEA is looking to prevent further incidents by imposing themselves as security inspectors.

Alongside monitoring security measures, JVCEA will handle other specific tasks such as evaluating the integrity of initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The FSA details in its terms of acceptance that the new regulators must issue each cryptocurrency exchange working guidelines, as well as elaborate on the anti-money laundering (AML policies). It must also enforce a set of rules that protect investors’ assets.

JVCEA has already published its key guidelines for cryptocurrency exchanges online, which have gone into full effect now the FSA has officially approved. Officially sanctioned insider bodies already exist in industries such as securities brokerages.

Speaking to Reuters anonymously, an FSA official said that self-regulation of the industry would be more efficient than the Japanese government, with industry leaders more equipped to deal with the fast-paced changes, adding ”It’s better for experts to make rules in a timely manner than bureaucrats do.”

Currently operating with 15 employees, the new watchdog plans to increase this to 20 by next month.

The FSA’s approval keeps Japan on track with some of the most progressive cryptocurrency regulations of any country. Last year it became the first nation to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges, requiring them to register with the FSA.

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Coinbase Trading Volume Drops Sharply Versus Offshore Crypto Exchanges

Coinbase, the largest Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the United States, has seen a steeply declining trading volume during 2018, amid what many consider to be a bear market.

Coinbase’s trading volume has declined 83% during 2018, compared to 73% for Bitstamp, another major USD exchange. However, overseas exchanges like OKEx and Binance that have more relaxed regulations have actually seen steady or rising volume during 2018.

Essentially, Coinbase’s trading volume has been declining more rapidly than all the other major exchanges in the world, indicating a shift of customers from Coinbase to overseas markets. This might partly be due to Coinbase only having six cryptocurrencies listed on its main exchange. For example, Kraken has 23 cryptocurrencies listed and its trading volume hasn’t dropped as fast as Coinbase. More crypto trading pairs seems to translate to higher trading volume on an exchange, since it taps into a wider user base.

Regulations are probably the biggest problem for Coinbase. It was recently forced to send customer info and trading histories to government authorities, spooking some traders. OKEx and Binance are regulated in different jurisdictions, with a less invasive and more comfortable environment for crypto traders. OKEx has seen its volume increase during 2018, with nearly USD 6 billion of trading volume in July 2018 versus less than USD 5 billion in January. Binance’s trading volume has dropped from USD 15 billion to just over USD 10 billion during the same time, not as severe as the drop from USD 20 billion to USD 3 billion per month for Coinbase.

Coinbase has gone from being one of the biggest crypto exchanges in the world by volume to having nearly the same volume as Kraken and Bitstamp, with many crypto exchanges outranking Coinbase. It has acquired Paradex in an effort to diversify and increase the number of currencies offered but has a long way to go to reach the 610 currencies that OKEx offers. Due to regulations, Coinbase might not ever be able to offer the same order of magnitude of options as exchanges like OKEx and Binance.

There has been a lot of news recently about the Bakkt cryptocurrency exchange, backed by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) which owns the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). With Coinbase trading volume declining so sharply, Bakkt appears to be in a prime position to become the leading crypto exchange in the United States when it launches later in 2018.

 

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Survey Attests Crypto Exchanges Want Regulations After All

A recent survey from payment company Mistertango indicates that 88% of cryptocurrency exchanges want regulatory standards for the industry, with 55% in favor of know-your-customer (KYC) policies and anti-money laundering checks on users.

Protection from market volatility

So far, 2018 has seen poor gains compared with the latter half of 2017, while the fear of a market crash and major cryptocurrency devaluation is pushing exchanges servicing the industry in favor of regulations. Some 30% of the survey’s respondents cited a significant crash as the biggest threat facing the market.

While 88% of the exchanges did want regulatory overcite over their own activities, 40% said that actually reducing bank-enforced barriers over cryptocurrency funded accounts would help improve the overall acceptance of the industry; it would certainly make it easier for more people to enter the market.

However, 17% of the exchanges see strict regulations as the biggest threat to the industry, pointing to the need for the approach taken implementing the regulations to be well-informed and not overbearing. It is given the generally reported sentiment that the industry discourages regulations.

Understanding the results

Business Manager at Mistertango, Gabrielius Bilkštys, said in a statement that the survey shows the industry is ”crying out for regulation“, describing uncertainty as the biggest fear, requiring a solution to provide stability. The lack of any regulatory consensus globally only adds to this dilemma, making it nearly impossible for cryptocurrencies to progress such as fiat, Bilkštys said.

CEO of exchange CEX.IO, Oleksandr Lutskevych, also weighed in on the results, saying that the industry has taken the opportunity to finally have its say on regulations. Lutskevych noted the widely reported claims that they do not want such regulations has been proven to be far from the truth and that they, in fact, recognize regulations have the capability to lead to the market maturing and moving away from an accusatory image of involvement with illicit activities.

In total, 24 exchanges took part in the survey, based in Europe, Asia, South America and Oceana, which operate with an aggregate trading volume surpassing USD 100 million.

The results were published by Mistertango on Finextra.

 

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Vitalik Buterin Has Harsh Words For Centralized Crypto Exchanges

Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin had harsh words for centralized cryptocurrency exchanges at the TechCrunch Sessions: Blockchain 2018 conference in Zug, Switzerland. He said, “I definitely hope centralized exchanges go burn in hell as much as possible”. He thinks decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are the way of the future.

Vitalik Buterin is particularly critical about how centralized cryptocurrency exchanges have gained the power to decide which cryptocurrencies will become popular. He says “We can really take away this stupid king-making power that these centralized exchanges have where they have this ability to just decide which tokens become big by deciding to list them and then charging these crazy $10 million to $15 million listing fees. The more we can get away from that world and into something which actually satisfies the blockchain values of openness and transparency the better.”

Aside from Vitalik Buterin’s criticisms, in general, there has been animosity towards centralized cryptocurrency exchanges from the crypto community due to numerous exchange hacking incidents, and even more incidents of exchanges acting like a centralized bank and freezing user funds. For example, over 100 pages of complaints have been filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission describing how Coinbase has frozen user accounts and funds and their customer service doesn’t offer any help. This highlights how centralized cryptocurrency exchanges control money, defeating one of the main purposes of cryptocurrency which is to give power over money back to the people.

Additionally, centralized cryptocurrency exchanges usually require identification information from users, removing the anonymity that cryptocurrency was built to provide.

Vitalik Buterin recognizes that the fiat side of cryptocurrency trading is what has caused centralization, saying “In practice, particularly on the fiat to crypto side, it is very difficult to decentralize because you ultimately are interfacing with the fiat world, and the fiat world is one that only has basically centralized gateway. There are valuable services being provided there that are very hard to decentralize”.

Vitalik Buterin is strongly in favor of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges. Binance and Huobi, which are among the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, are planning on switching to decentralized blockchain-based platforms, so they won’t have to deal with government regulations anymore.

A truly decentralized cryptocurrency exchange will be able to offer cryptocurrency trading anywhere in the world without collecting identification information from users, and due to its decentralized blockchain-based nature governments can’t really do anything to stop it. Binance and Huobi were forced out of their native country of China following the September 2017 cryptocurrency trading ban, which is probably why these exchanges are leading the way towards decentralization, to ensure their survival no matter the regulatory environment.

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