Coinbase granted full license in Singapore

Quick Take

  • The license paves the way for Coinbase to offer a wider range of Digital Payment Token services in the region.

Coinbase, the crypto exchange operator, was granted a key regulatory license in Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore handed the company a Major Payment Institution license, after granting in-principal approval late last year, according to an announcement today. 

The news comes with Coinbase locked in a bitter dispute with regulators in the United States, its home market. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued the company in June for allegedly operating as an unregistered broker and exchange in violation of federal securities laws.

“This license enshrines our commitment to the market and marks the end of our licensing journey,” said Hassan Ahmed, the country director of Coinbase Singapore, in an interview.

“Our experience in Singapore in some ways contrasts what’s going on in the U.S. By providing this level of regulatory clarity and by providing clear rules that the industry has to play by, that’s really important for us as we’re thinking about our international strategy.”

He added that Coinbase has collaborated closely with MAS and provided “a lot of policy input.”

Singapore’s stance on crypto


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The licence paves the way for Coinbase’s Singapore entity to offer a wider range of Digital Payment Token services to both retail and institutional customers in the region, while also cementing its ties with local institutions. Standard Chartered is its local banking partner.  

The company said it has tailored its products to meet local demands by rolling out simple account funding options — including PayNow and FAST bank transfers — as well as fee-free purchases of USDC, the stablecoin.

As a business hub, Singapore is viewed as relatively crypto-friendly, but its stance towards the industry has been tested over the past year by crises at multiple crypto outfits with Singapore links, including Three Arrows Capital, Vauld and Hodlnaut. Three Arrows co-founder Su Zhu was apprehended in Singapore last week after refusing to cooperate with the failed hedge fund’s liquidators.

Yet MAS still appears willing to wave through license applicants. Coinbase joins a dozen or so other crypto operators in the region with full licenses. Wallet firms and both scored MPI licenses over the summer.

“I think Singapore’s a few laps ahead some of these other crypto hubs,” said Ahmed. “They’ve seen both good actors and bad actors go through and now they’re uplifting those regulations.”

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Ryan Weeks is deals editor at the The Block, focused on fundraising, M&A and institutional trends in the crypto space, among other things. He is particularly interested in investigative work — so please send tips! Ryan previously worked at Financial News, Dow Jones as a fintech correspondent in London. Prior to that, he wrote for several different publications, including Sifted, AltFi and Wired. Beyond journalism, Ryan is a keen reader and writer. He enjoys all things active, especially running, rugby, climbing and tennis.