(Bloomberg) -- Singapore banks are working with the city-state’s authorities to set uniform standards on screening potential customers from the crypto and digital assets sectors, amid various global fallouts in the industry.
The lenders are collaborating with the central bank and police to fine-tune their vetting approach when opening accounts for service providers in all types of digital assets, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The industry-driven project has been ongoing for about six months, and a report outlining best practices in areas like due diligence and risk management may be published in the next two months, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are not public.
Stablecoin, non-fungible tokens as well as transferable gaming or streaming credits will also be covered under this initiative that focuses on firms providing services in payments, trading and transfers of these assets, one of the people said. Even with such guidelines, the banks will decide whether to accept these clients based on their risk appetites, the people said. The Monetary Authority of Singapore and police are part of the banks-led working group on the project, they said.
The crypto industry has long struggled for ready access to traditional banks, many of whom remain wary of the volatility in digital assets and potential regulatory heat, particularly in the wake of high-profile failures at firms from FTX to Terraform Labs. The collapses of US lenders Silvergate Capital Corp. and Signature Bank, which provided payment services for crypto firms, have also set clients scrambling for new banks.
There are no rules stopping banks operating in the country from doing business with firms handling cryptocurrencies or other forms of digital assets, the MAS said in response to queries from Bloomberg.
“As with any other current or prospective customer, banks are required to conduct customer due diligence measures to understand and manage the risk(s) posed by them,” the MAS said, without commenting on the project. “Banks make their own determination of whether to start or continue a banking relationship with a customer, balancing between commercial considerations and business risk tolerance.”
Even so, some firms in the country had previously faced difficulties opening bank accounts, as domestic lenders were concerned about potential illicit flows and other criminal activities.
Singapore has seen its fair share of crypto scandals from firms that were based in the country, like Terraform Labs and crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital. It is among major jurisdictions that have established a licensing regime for the industry, and has proposed more curbs on crypto trading by retail investors.
--With assistance from Suvashree Ghosh.
(Adds information on the project’s working group in third paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.