Business 31 January 2018

Jasmine Solana

Russia’s Sberbank eyes taking cryptocurrency trading overseas

For years, the Russian government has been very vocal in opposing the use and exchange of virtual currency in the country. But state-owned banking and financial services company Sberbank is looking to change all that—by taking its cryptocurrency trading products overseas.

To avoid violating domestic rules, the Moscow-based bank is reportedly planning to offer cryptocurrency trading to international customers, according to Reuters. Sberbank Head of Global Markets Andrey Shemetov said despite state laws that bar Sberbank from trading cryptocurrencies, the bank is keen on giving what its clients have been asking for.

“Swiss laws allow cryptocurrency trading, and we are working on infrastructure to start offering these services through our Swiss subsidiary,” Shemetov said at a briefing on Tuesday, according to the news outlet.

State-controlled Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia and third largest in Europe. It has a branch in Switzerland, the Sberbank (Switzerland) AG, with headquarters in Zurich.

“In Russia, we cannot trade [cryptocurrency], but we want to satisfy the interests of clients, and we believe that we must have access to a wide range of products,” Shemetov said, according to TASS.

The plan, according to the bank official, is to offer the Sberbank trading products “only to legal entities” and small number of customers. The bank is “looking at all of the cryptocurrency pairs that are the most liquid, [and] their names are known.”

“We will see what’s interesting to the clients, where is some liquidity… Obviously, we will not go into a low-liquidity crypto,” Shemetov said.

The announcement comes amid repeated warnings from the Russian central bank over cryptocurrency investments. In December, central bank officials flagged the current conditions in cryptocurrency markets as a “bubble,” and warned investors risked heavy losses from their exposure to digital assets. Russian authorities have been adamant against legalizing digital currencies such as Bitcoin as a means of payment in the country, although there are pending bills that could pave the way for regulating cryptocurrency transactions without fully banning them.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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