Capital markets News

DBS eyes Hong Kong digital asset license, with domestic volumes up 70%

DBS bank

Singapore’s DBS Bank is looking to start digital asset trading in Hong Kong. It was one of the first banks to start crypto trading globally, launching its Singapore-based DBS Digital Exchange in late 2020.

“We are planning to apply for a license in Hong Kong so that the bank could sell digital assets to our Hong Kong customers,” said Sebastian Paredes, CEO of DBS Bank (Hong Kong), according to Bloomberg.

Paredes said the bank is cautious, but once it has a greater understanding of the planned framework, it will explore participating. 

In a policy statement at the end of October, Hong Kong’s government signaled a cautious but slightly more open approach to offering crypto-assets or virtual asset services to retail investors.

However, in DBS Bank’s home territory of Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is keen to protect retail investors as much as possible.

“As the regulators get their minds around the retail offerings, and different regulators are looking at it differently, we will consider what is the right thing to do,” said group DBS CEO Piyush Gupta today during an earnings call. “Keeping in mind suitability, appropriateness. Recognizing the crypto crash that happened in the last year. So we need to be thoughtful about that.”

DBS Singapore digital asset volumes grow 70%

For now, DBS Digital Exchange is only open to accredited and professional investors, which the group DBS CEO believes is a market of tens of thousands rather than millions.

Nonetheless, he said volumes are up by around 70%, more so for Bitcoin (80%) than Ethereum (60%). However, given the crash in crypto valuations, that means the monetary value is flat. The CEO added that revenues are small but will be up 60%-70% this year.

“Being an exchange from a regulated entity is a benefit in this environment when a lot of other exchanges are coming under question and scrutiny. So we’re going to be staying the course,” said Gupta.

“We think there is a lot of opportunity in the space going forward,” he added.

Meanwhile, DBS is also involved in other institutional activities. It is a backer of Partior, the blockchain-based payments firm it co-founded with JP Morgan and Temasek. It also executed repo transactions on JP Morgan’s blockchain and is experimenting with DeFi alongside JP Morgan, SBI and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

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