Top Stories 2018: The Crypto Round Up

The crypto space dominated headlines over the past 12 months and WatersTechnology looks at some of the top stories.

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Cryptocurrencies have had a disastrous year, to say the least. The value of bitcoin has plummeted by over 85 percent since its peak at $19,780 per coin in December 2017. After briefly dipping below 3k, the volatile currency is at around $3800 as of the time of this writing.

On the flip side, 2018 has seen more appetite for digital assets from institutional factions, primarily driven by the fintech community. This year has witnessed bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) make headlines in June following the latest attempt to list the product on the Cboe BZE exchange. It’s seen the introduction of major custodians shift its weight behind digital assets in providing custody services and saw the explosion of digital currency exchanges propping up from all angles.

Another side to this is tokenization, which took a major blow towards the end of the year with the shelving of the Royal Mint project, prompting more questions over the value of technology than offering solutions.

In the past 12 months, WatersTechnology’s coverage has also provided an eagle-eye view of the regulatory developments and perspectives of the crypto space. Among the headlines, the team covered reactions from Securities and the Exchange Commission (SEC), the launch of the UK’s Crypto Taskforce and the tightening of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC’s) budget on oversight of digital assets.

As 2018 comes to an end, hold tight as 2019 is set to have a whole lot more in store for the crypto space as regulatory clarification is expected to emerge and more heavyweight institutions look to wet their feet. 

Here are just a few of our most-read crypto stories from the last 12 months.

1. Bitcoin Advocates Seek to Navigate ETF Maze 

Anthony Malakian provides comprehensive insight into one of 2018’s most contentious crypto developments when VanEck and SolidX banded together in June to apply to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to launch the first bitcoin ETF in the US on Cboe’s BZE exchange. The filing reignited a debate over the value crypto products have and the industry’s readiness to embrace the nascent technology.

2. Custody Seen as Crypto’s Next Major Battleground 

Custodianship is one of the primary roadblocks to hold back the crypto industry. Wei-Shen Wong unearths the real reasons behind custodian’s hesitance to get their hands dirty and the importance of their role in pushing this space forward.

3. Tokenization: The Flipside of the Coin

The shelving of the Royal Mint project in late October prompted questions over the value of digitizing traditional assets, the readiness of the industry to embrace the technology and the willingness of EU governments to associate themselves with this unregulated territory. This piece by Josephine Gallagher maps out the roadblocks for implementing such projects and what to expect for 2019.

4. Senior Staffer Says Bitcoin, Ether Are Not Securities 

June 14 saw a breakthrough in one of the leading issues concerning cryptocurrencies: definitional clarity. James Rundle honed in on William Hinman’s, director of the division of corporation finance at the SEC, public statement that Ether and Bitcoin, two of the most popular cryptocurrencies, are not classified as securities.

5. Crypto Incognito: New Regulation Targets Cryptos Bad Reputation 

Amelia Axelsen unlocks the truth behind data anonymity when trading cryptocurrencies on a blockchain and looks at how 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5) is expected to introduce new know-your-customer (KYC) protocols for centralized exchanges or custodial wallet providers when the law goes into effect in January 2020.

6. The Fast and the Curious: The Latency Barrier for Institutional Crypto Traders

In an industry dependent on real-time market insights and data, crypto exchanges are struggling to shed their latency issues. Emilia David digs deep to uncover the challenges facing digital-currency exchanges aiming to prove themselves to institutions in an increasingly competitive market.

7. Budget Cuts Constrain Crypto Oversight, Market Resiliency Activities

In May, Emilia covered CFTC commissioner Brian Quintenz’s keynote address at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Sifma), where he highlighted the negative impact of budget cuts to the regulator’s ability to police fraud and manipulation across the crypto markets.

8. UK Strengthens Fintech Strategy with Australia Pact, Crypto Taskforce

March saw one of the most progressive initiatives taken in response to the growing concerns over digital currencies and assets. Here, Josephine writes about how the UK launched the Crypto Asset Taskforce, bringing together the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Treasury and the Bank of England under one umbrella.

9. CME Defends Bitcoin Futures Approach 

James covered the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group’s launch of its futures contracts in December 2017 and followed up with coverage in February over the backlash the exchange received for the process used to list the product,

10. Prop Shops Lock on to Crypto Markets 

As most institutional banks are hesitant to express public interest in the crypto markets, the proprietary trading firms and vendors have taken the lead in pushing the industry forward. James spoke to some of the largest prop shops, providers and exchanges in March to highlight some of the key drivers in this space.

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