Kiffmeister’s #Fintech Daily Digest (03/01/2021)*

The February Global Fintech Monthly Monitor is now out, covering all of February’s crypto and fintech news that’s fit to print! 

Tether hit with 500 Bitcoin ransom demand — but says it won’t pay

Hackers have threatened to release sensitive company documents supposedly belonging to USDT stablecoin issuer Tether unless the firm sends a 500 Bitcoin (BTC) ransom to a specified address. Hackers purportedly threatened to leak documents that would “harm the Bitcoin ecosystem” if their ransom demands are not met. Tether has already stated that it will not pay the ransom. Some of the purportedly leaked documents seem to show that Tether was in cahoots with their banker (Deltec Bank) to hide the purported fact that USTD was not backed by US dollar cash equivalents but by a mix of Bitcoin and equity stakes in exchanges.  

Bitcoin could become the “currency of choice for international trade”, says Citi

Citi’s researchers believe bitcoin could evolve into an international trade currency, helping to simplify global trade. But a number of issues – including concerns over scalability and potential regulatory backlashes – stand in the way. The report, entitled “Bitcoin: At the Tipping Point”, charts the evolution of bitcoin from a form of payment to its current status as a store of value. The authors forecast that bitcoin’s core properties combined with its global reach and neutrality could see it morph into the “currency of choice” for international trade in around seven years.  

Online Retail Giant Rakuten Allows People to Load Payment App With Cryptocurrencies

Rakuten customers can now load up Rakuten Pay accounts with crypto-assets. In order to commemorate the latest crypto service, Rakuten is also offering bonus points to people leveraging “Rakuten Cash” via crypto assets. Users exchange their crypto holdings for Rakuten Cash, the firm’s own virtual currency, directly on the Rakuten Wallet app, which, in turn, can be used to make purchases on the platform, and there’s no fee for swapping crypto to Rakuten Cash. 

Klarna Secures $1 Billion Through Latest Equity Funding Round 

Payment processing and global retail banking platform  Klarna secured $1 billion through its equity funding round to accelerate international expansion and further capture global retail growth. The company’s valuation is now $31 billion and it is claiming to be the highest-valued private fintech in Europe and second-highest worldwide. Klarna offers point-of-sale loans for online and in-store purchases through its mobile app. These loans allow customers to buy now and pay later at popular retailers.

The Kalifa Review of UK FinTech

The UK government-commissioned Kalifa Review outlined a strategy to support the growth and adoption of fintech across the United Kingdom. It called for a bespoke regime for crypto-assets should adopt a functional and technology-neutral approach, in line with the principles of the current regulatory framework, as well as the concept of “same risk, same regulation”, while being tailored to the risks arising from crypto-asset-related activities. It should also be flexible enough to deal with future challenges such as decentralised finance (DeFi). It also recommended the implementation of a “scalebox” that would enhance the existing regulatory sandbox and support partnerships between incumbents and fintech or regtech firms. It also recommended the creation of unified data standards, a national digital ID infrastructure and a move toward open finance.

* The views expressed herein are those of the author and should not be attributed to the International Monetary Fund, its Executive Board or its management.