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Is Coinbase’s Singapore Approval a Sign of Things to Come?

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US-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has received an in-principal approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to provide digital payment token (DPT) services in the country.

According to the company, the development is a “significant milestone,” with the exchange already having built up with a significant presence in the city state by hiring nearly 100 employees in Singapore prior to the announcement, with product engineers forming the largest bulk of hires.

Sign of things to come?

While regulators in the city-state have remained cautious about crypto investing among the retail crowd, Singapore’s welcoming approach has helped the financial hub attract digital asset services-related firms from China, India and elsewhere in recent years, making it a major centre in Asia.

Crypto Isn’t Going Mainstream Anytime Soon, Ensures MAS
MAS wants to protect retail investors from the speculative nature of crypto market, and more “friction” is on the cards.

“We see Singapore as a strategic market and a global hub for web3 innovation. The MAS is a lighthouse regulator for the region, with a rigorous and pro-business approach that balances responsible innovation and customer protection,” said Hassan Ahmed, head of Southeast Asia and CEO of Coinbase Singapore

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Ahmed also said that Singapore is a “key institutional market” for the exchange in Asia, with the city state also serving as Coinbase’s Asia-Pacific “tech hub” where a local team is responsible for its international expansion efforts and “platform localization”.

Since 2020, about 180 crypto companies have applied for a payments licence to the Monetary Authority of Singapore. However, only 17 in-principle approvals and licences have been issued – among them to and DBS Vickers – as the country continues to tighten its grip on the industry.

MAS Response to Parliamentary Questions Shows Limitations of Payment Services Act
Not all activities related to digital payment tokens (DPT), which is the term the Monetary Authority of Singapore uses to refer to cryptocurrencies, are regulated in the city-state, MAS has warned.

Expansion in APAC

Coinbase has seen an interest in expanding through the Asia Pacific region. According to Ahmed, the exchange believes that Southeast Asia is a “crypto-forward region” and a “hotbed of innovation” for trends such as web3 gaming.

In August, Coinbase announced its official launch in Japan with banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). Last week, the exchange announced plans to expand its retail focused services in Australia to institutions.

Can Southeast Asia Kickstart Web3?
Southeast Asia may be an ideal incubator for the still-nascent Web3 space despite the recent market downturn.

Coinbase’s competitors, including Huobi and FTX, have also recently announced new developments despite the market downturn. Last week, Huobi announced that Hong Kong based firm About Capital Management had purchased the entire shareholding of Huboi Global, with the new fund potentially kickstarting expansion plans for the exchange.