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[Q&A] Gibraltar Continues Formulating Policy on Cryptocurrency & Blockchain Tech

AllCoinsNews had the opportunity to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology with Paul Astengo, the Senior Executive at Gibraltar Finance, specifically  regarding regulatory policy the Government of Gibraltar was formulating in the space. As an EU financial centre, Gibraltar was one of the first to formulate regulations on egaming and has had a lot of success in that area.

1. You said there was a learning process for your office and everyone involved in regard to developing an understanding of the technology. What intrigued you about bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and the Blockchain tech to get the ball rolling?

My first serious exposure to this area came at PayExpo 2014. The crypto world was there in force and I had a number of meetings with people eager to understand Gibraltar’s position. Up until that point I had a passing interest fuelled primarily by the bad press and dramatic stories that had been published. I determined that I should look seriously at an opportunities this area might provide and start by learning from those that appeared to have first hand knowledge. That event coincided with the release by the Isle of Man of an interesting press release. Gibraltar is constantly exploring new business opportunities to provide diversification and growth in our economy, it is how we prosper. Crypto is a much wider issue that has potential to impact on a variety of areas. It is evolving very fast indeed. On my return to Gibraltar I learned that locally based professionals were also taking an interest in the subject. Albert Isola, Minister for Financial Services and Gaming constituted a small working group to do some preliminary research with a view to presenting him with an informed view of the potential and pitfalls of encouraging this business in Gibraltar.

2. How could the technology potentially serve Gibraltar, as an online gaming center and in other areas?

As I mentioned this topic is not just about the cryptocurrency space. There are a range of applications for this technology and of course bringing more choice to consumers. It has social benefits as well as economic benefits and of one thing I am sure the pace of change and development is incredible and there are some very talented people involved.

3. What is the substance of the public consultation document? [do you have a link?] Why did it take a few attempts to come up with it?

The report has evolved and, I would imagine, it will continue to do so it is not a case of several attempts as such. The lead in the group came from Joey Garcia (Gibraltar lawyer), David Parody (a consultant previously Deputy CEO of the Financial Services Commission) and myself. We engaged with local professionals and also leading lights in this arena looking at the areas we felt were fundamental in informing our report. The consultation document was issued to throw the net wider and involve all elements of the financial services industry in Gibraltar. Important that we listen and adapt and inform our position. We believe that we have achieved a balanced and workable document that will allow us to take a worthwhile decision.

4. How long do you think it will take the Gibraltar cabinet to formulate policy in regard to cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain technology?

I am not certain but it is an important decision and will be discussed appropriately and thoroughly at cabinet level. The important thing is to take the right decision not a hasty one.

5. You talked about Gibraltar being a gateway to the European Union. Could this result in Gibraltar becoming a sort of cryptocurrency or blockchain tech hub?

Gibraltar is part of the EU. This is very important to us. Financial services firms licensed in Gibraltar can passport as of right and reach the market of in excess of 500 million people. Our success is predicated on three very solid foundations:

-The strength of our reputation as an onshore EU financial services centre of choice.
-The Regulator regulates in a way that is rightly protective of our reputation and that of license holders but yet allows that all important entrepreneurial flair to flourish.
-The speed at which we can get firms to market.
-Gibraltar has enjoyed some tremendous success in our chosen markets and should the decision be taken to move into this area we would no doubt look to welcome firms to the jurisdiction. We always look for quality rather than quantity.

6. How important is regulating the technology and digital currencies to its acceptance in Gibraltar? [Bear in mind, many in the cryptocurrency ecosystem see regulation as a form of centralization and therefore counter to the model]

Very important but we believe we have created a base proposition that would provide the right level of protection to the consumer and the jurisdiction but at the same time be supportive and encouraging of business. In our discussions with industry we understand that it is not a question of whether we should regulate or not but what form that regulation should take. We are encouraged by feedback that the serious players want to work in a suitably managed and controlled environment. Gibraltar was the first jurisdiction to regulate egaming and now hosts the very best companies here it is a model that delivers benefits across the board.

Journalist, policy analyst, and evangelist of new, disruptive technologies including big data analytics, Internet of Things, and cryptocurrencies. Internet industry veteran with regional c-suite experience, and journalist credentials earned at, Internet World magazine, and Mecklermedia Corporation.
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