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MAS Defends Strict Crypto Licensing Regime as In-Principle Approvals Issued

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“The licensing process is stringent,” Menon said. “And it needs to be because we want to be a responsible global crypto hub with innovative players, but also with strong risk management capabilities,” Ravi Menon, Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director, said at the Financial Times Crypto and Digital Asset Summit on Wednesday.

The head of the republic’s central bank also acknowledged that regulators need to provide clarity to the industry, Bloomberg reported.

The city-state, once touted as among the most crypto-friendly nations, has seen its lustre fade amid the rise of rival crypto hubs like the UAE, where Singapore crypto exchange Bybit recently said it will open its global headquarters, whilst also announced it would build a regional hub there. Market leaders FTX and Binance are also setting up shop in the gulf nation. Last month, Dubai implemented its first law to regulate virtual assets whilst establishing the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA).

Singapore is seeking to position itself as a global crypto hub, but is also wary of the risk that emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies can pose. Multiple cryptocurrency exchanges have relocated to Singapore in recent months, but only a handful have succeeded in obtaining a digital payment token (DPT) license from the MAS.

In January, MAS barred crypto providers from promoting their services to the public via any means except through they own websites, social media accounts, and/or mobile applications, citing the unsuitability of cryptocurrency trading for the general public.

But yesterday, Revolut Singapore and Luno were awarded in-principle approvals to provide digital payments token services in the city-state. While MAS has received over 170 applications for the license, only a handful have been awarded.

Revolut said in a statement that it is “committed to establishing Singapore as one of the cornerstones of its global business and will establish several global product hubs from here.” The neobank’s customer base in Singapore has grown six-fold since the onset of the Covid pandemic, and its revenue run rate has more than doubled in the past 12 months, Revolut said.

Luno’s Sherry Goh, the exchange’s country manager for Singapore, said that Luno “firmly believe[s] that regulation brings clarity and protection to businesses and consumers, and obtaining the IPA is just one of the first few steps in our long-term commitment to the progressive and sustainable development of Singapore as a global financial hub.”