Business 29 June 2018

Erik Gibbs

Uphold moves closer to becoming legal US crypto broker-dealer

Since U.S. regulators appear to be somewhat reluctant in opening up the cryptocurrency trading market, some companies have found new ways to offer their services. Among these is Uphold, a cryptocurrency-based financial services platform, which announced its plans to start listing initial coin offerings (ICO) through its securities division.

Uphold, which has customers in more than 180 countries around the world, recently entered into an agreement to purchase JNK Securities, a broker-dealer based out of New York. With the purchase, Uphold would receive all of the company’s assets, as well as its broker-dealer registration. The registration, meanwhile, would enable Uphold to offer cryptocurrency transactions. The firm would also have the added bonus of being able to market to JNK’s existing customer base to attract a new segment of institutional investments.

The deal still requires approval by the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). If FINRA gives its thumbs up, Uphold will list the tokens for ICOs as well as other cryptocurrency assets that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has determined to be securities.

According to Uphold CEO Adrian Steckel, “We have kept a close eye on statements from global regulators regarding virtual currencies and tokens and believe that many crypto assets (particularly ICO tokens) may be treated as securities in some cases. Through our new securities division, we would be able to offer sales and trading of ICO tokens and fractional equities and provide other exchange services, under the oversight of the SEC and FINRA.”

Uphold’s move is similar to one taken earlier this year by popular exchange company Coinbase, which recently purchased three companies whose licenses will greatly expand the company’s offerings. It now controls a broker-dealer license and registrations to operate as an alternative trading system (ATS) and a registered investment advisor (RIA). Overstock, the online retailer, also recently purchased a financial services company and its ATS registration will allow Overstock to operate an ATS through its tZero subsidiary. As with Uphold, all deals must first be approved by FINRA.

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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