New British task force to harness tech behind cryptoassets

LONDON • Britain announced a task force on Thursday to exploit the technology underpinning cryptoassets, such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as part of new plans to help financial technology companies find more customers.

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said he was committed to helping fintech grow and flourish by taking a series of domestic steps and forging links overseas. "As part of that, a new task force will help the United Kingdom to manage the risks around cryptoassets, as well as harnessing the potential benefits of the underlying technology," he told a fintech conference hosted by the Finance Ministry.

Investors have flocked to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin despite wild price swings. Regulators have warned that investors could lose all their money, but see promise in the blockchain technology that underpins cryptoassets.

Britain's announcement comes after finance ministers from the Group of 20 richest economies were unable this week to find enough consensus for global regulation of cryptocurrencies.

British Financial Services Minister John Glen said he expected an interim report on cryptoassets soon, though the initial guidance is that the scale of activity does not pose any significant risks.

"Regulation could be an enabler of a stable, flourishing cryptocurrency sector," he told reporters.

Bank of England deputy governor Dave Ramsden said the central bank has set up a new fintech hub to consider both how the bank understands and how it applies fintech, relevant to its mission.

BENEFIT OF REGULATION

Regulation could be an enabler of a stable, flourishing cryptocurrency sector.

BRITISH FINANCIAL SERVICES MINISTER JOHN GLEN

He said the hub would be a central point of contact for the fintech sector and play a role in the new task force announced by Mr Hammond.

Britain has become a major centre for fintech and wants to reassure the sector of its support ahead of the country's departure from the European Union next March.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'New British task force to harness tech behind cryptoassets'. Print Edition | Subscribe