Current State of The Crypto Market (September 8th, 2019)

Hackers:  North Korea has denied a recent U.N. report suggesting it was behind major hacks of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges that reaped around $2 billion for the nation’s weapons programs.  Reported by news sources on Sunday that a statement from the National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism accused the U.S. and “other hostile forces” of “spreading ill-hearted rumors.”  North Korea said in a statement “Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK,”.   The U.N. conducted a separate report researched by “independent experts” and presented to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee at the end of July – said that North Korea has used “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” hacks to collect roughly $2 billion, which is laundered over the web.

Key Players:  Walt Bettinger apparently isn’t a betting man. He’s refusing to wager Charles Schwab & Co.’s money on the coming of crypto-currencies. In fact he’s not even taking a seat at the table.  The San Francisco firm most RIAs call home is conspicuously absent from the rush to create crypto-currency trading and custody platforms, even as its next closest rivals, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Pershing, are dealing themselves in on the trend.  Direct trading of crypto currencies just isn’t on the Schwab radar “at this time.” says Rob Farmer, Schwab’s managing director for corporate communications, via email.  “Investors should view these currencies as a purely speculative instrument.”  Asked if he would consider joining the consortium backing Facebook’s new crypto-currency, Libra, Bettinger kicked that can down the road, as well.

Banks & Institutions:  Apple has become a big player in mobile payments since releasing Apple Pay for the iPhone in 2014 and moving deeper into the market with last month’s launch of Apple Card in partnership with Goldman Sachs.  As digital payments evolve, where might Apple head next? Jennifer Bailey, vice president at Apple Pay, said the company is “watching” cryptocurrencies, though consumers shouldn’t expect anything soon.  “We think it’s interesting,” Bailey said in an interview last week. “We think it has interesting long-term potential, but we’re primarily focused on what consumers are using today.”  Apple hasn’t been tied to any cryptocurrency projects and Bailey’s comments mark the first time the company has said publicly that it’s paying attention to the technology behind bitcoin, ethereum and other decentralized currencies.

Binance, the world’s largest exchange by trading volume, has acquired JEX, a crypto-asset trading platform that offers spot and derivatives trading services.   The exchange announced the acquisition on Sept. 2, saying, “JEX will join the Binance ecosystem as Binance JEX and focus on further building the crypto-asset derivatives market.”  According to the announcement, Binance will introduce more utility to the JEX token and further provide Binance users with professional services including futures contracts, options and other derivative products.

Adoption: Stablecoins have a goal of putting an end to the recent volatility of the crypto market — and in doing so, they have opened the door to crypto usage for institutional investors, which has long been considered an important milestone on the road to mainstream adoption. One of the ways that institutional investors are looking to implement crypto solutions is in cross-border payments and remittances.   The RippleNet blockchain is one such product, which aims to reinvent how these payments are made. Recently, its been reported that PNC, the United States’ eighth-largest bank, has become the first in the country to start using the cross-border payments solution xCurrent. Earlier, it was discovered that Spanish banking giant Santander was also looking to make use of the solution from Ripple.