The American business magazine, Forbes, recently crowned London ‘the world’s most influential city’, paying special attention to the role it plays in leading innovation in technology. The accolade comes on the coattails of Chancellor George Osborne announcing the launch of a major new trade body for the UK FinTech industry, in London’s Canary Wharf.
At the beginning of the month, the European Banking Authority (EBA), the institution charged with overseeing the European banking sector, proposed guidelines for a regulatory regime for virtual currency. The report has now been presented to the EU Council, Commission and Parliament for consideration. The report also issues guidelines for national supervisory bodies.
Goldman Sachs received an $800,000 fine from US regulators a fortnight ago for failing to meet the guidelines for trading within a private forum. Private trading platforms, commonly known as dark pools, now account for 15% of all US trading over 40 closed exchanges. Regulators are beginning to take note and see how they can limit the risk involved.
Last Thursday, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced that it is not currently looking to regulate virtual currency. This is a significant announcement as there previously was uncertainty over how state officials, particularly in Japan, would react following the collapse of the leading Japanese Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox and the loss of over $420 million worth of Bitcoins.
The inaugural London Technology Week comes to a close today. Featuring over 200 events, the week-long showcase has shone a light on many of the innovative companies who are thriving in London. More broadly it has underlined the growing sense that London is fast becoming one of the leading tech centres in the world. Former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who joined London Mayor Boris Johnson in launching the event on Monday, went as far as declaring that London is now a real challenger to Silicon Valley. Beyond the fanfare, an important thread of this week has also been the growing discussion about the challenges which need to be addressed if London is to truly cement its place as a global tech leader.
The Financial Times recently reported that the amount lent by peer-to-peer websites internationally was almost $3bn in 2013, up from around $100m in 2007. There has been an equally impressive growth in the estimated number of crowdfunding websites, which have grown from 1,100 to 2,700 in the last year alone.
Last week the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is responsible for UK financial regulation, outlined plans to launch a policy hub for start-up companies including those in the virtual currency sector. Head of the FCA, Martin Wheatley (pictured), stated “it’s an imperative for the regulators to be standing on the right side of progress”.
A number of news stories over the last few days once again illustrate the momentum that virtual currencies are gathering towards increased legitimacy amongst regulators and consumers.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has unanimously approved the use of Bitcoin for political donations after months of debate on the issue. Commissioners imposed several conditions. Among them: No anonymous bitcoin contributions will be allowed, and campaign treasurers must scrutinize the donations for "evidence of illegality."
Investors should consider risks associated with virtual currencies, including bitcoin, before trading in them, two U.S. regulators warned on Tuesday.
A £500 million initiative to boost the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, which still represent just one per cent of car sales in Britain, will be launched today by Nick Clegg.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he wanted to encourage drivers to ditch petrol or diesel vehicles by making it cheaper and more convenient to drive cars which run on green alternatives.
At least £200 million is being set aside to fund grants of 25 per cent, up to a maximum of £5,000, towards the cost of an ultra-low emission car.