Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Coinbase CEO ponders banking features after Silicon Valley Bank crisis

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The broader cryptocurrency community continues to debate the ongoing fallout following the closure of three major American banks, with calls for neobank services for the industry on the cards.

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which has traditionally served startups across several innovation sector industries, was shuttered by California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation on March 10.

The reasons surrounding the closure are still coming to light, but the news caused shockwaves through the industry, primarily driven by USD Coin (USDC) issuer Circle having over $3.3 billion of its $40 billion reserves locked up in the bank.

Signature Bank, which also serves cryptocurrency firms, met a similar fate on March 12. The New York Department of Financial Services took possession of the bank to prevent further bank runs as customers scrambled to pull funds from SVB and Signature.

The closure of SVB was particularly hard-hitting, with the USDC stablecoin briefly losing its $1 peg driven by major uncertainty around the effect Circle’s exposure would have on its ability to manage redemptions.

Related: Silicon Valley Bank collapse: Everything that’s happened until now

USDC has seen its peg creep back up to the $1 mark after Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire announced that the stablecoin issuer has lined up new banking partners in the United States.

Given the tumult of the past few days, the cryptocurrency ecosystem is now taking a closer look at ties to traditional finance institutions that serve fiat currency deposits, withdrawals and monetary flows.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong took to Twitter on March 13, saying the American cryptocurrency exchange has previously considered features that could potentially bypass or serve to bridge gaps exposed in the latest mainstream banking failure.

Ryan Lackey, chief strategy officer of cryptocurrency insurance firm Evertas, questioned whether the exchange had considered offering neobanking services to high-net-worth individuals and businesses:

Armstrong replied by saying that Coinbase would need to add a number of features and opened the door for comments in the thread:

“Definitely something we’ve thought about. Need a few more features like outbound wires, multi-user support etc. Non-fractional reserve “banking” is definitely looking more attractive right now.”

Coinbase confirmed that it had around $240 million held at Signature Bank on March 10 but expects to recover all of its cash holdings.

The closure of SVB and Signature Bank caused fears of widespread runs on regional banks across the United States over the weekend. A Bloomberg report also suggests that the United States Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are weighing up the creation of a fund to cover deposits at ailing banks.

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