UK regulator looking to hire series of cryptocurrency specialists

Quick Take

  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has posted two job listings for candidates with in-depth crypto knowledge
  • The UK regulator has been working on a number of crypto-related projects and is set to issue extensive guidance on the space in the coming months
  • The hires could be a sign that the regulator is gearing up to provide greater scrutiny of digital assets and potential abuses

The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is getting serious about cryptocurrencies.

According to a job posting, it is looking to hire a Crypto Intelligence Associate to join its Intelligence Services Team. It is also seeking a "Crypto-asset Specialist Supervisor" as part of its efforts to build "a new team" dedicated to digital assets within the Financial Crime department, according to its LinkedIn job posting.

The FCA, which serves as the UK's financial regulatory body, is looking to boost their involvement in cryptoassets and cryptoasset-related businesses.

Most notably, the regulator is currently working on providing comprehensive guidance on cryptoassets, aiming to provide “regulatory clarity for market participants,” and to instruct “whether the cryptoassets they use are within the regulatory perimeter.” The consultations period ended in April and the policy statement is set to be published this summer. The publication will also help the companies see what regulations apply to their business and whether they require any regulatory authorisations. 

And it's slowly making headway too, having approved the UK's first crypto asset manager earlier this month.

But by concentrating its hiring efforts in intelligence and crime divisions, the FCA may be looking at hardening the relatively laissez-faire stance it has adopted in the UK until now.

Indeed, the regulator is already set to tighten its scrutiny of the space. Per this week's announcement, the FCA will also be in charge of maintaining a “strong AML [anti-money laundering] regime” for cryptocurrency companies, following new laws set out by the UK government, scheduled for January 2020. The FCA also recently proposed a ban on the sale of cryptocurrency derivatives and exchange-traded notes to retail investors, saying the assets are “ill-suited” for consumers who lack understanding of the products. 

The responsibility may lie with the FCA's new crypto-crime team, which is expected to have direct contact with high-risk companies, involving "regular anti-money laundering visits," according to the new job description. It also notes that the recruit will report "on how firms manage various financial crime risks," and the controls in place.

Meanwhile, the position of crypto intelligence associate is described as involving "considerable amounts of liaison and stakeholder management" with different government agencies. The aim is to obtain information on "crypto assets, financial and economic crime linked themes and the role of various processes [] in regulating this activity," and to help the FCA make informed decisions about specific cases.

Regulatory uncertainty is a commonly cited concern for major institutions. Additionally, the Spanish police have argued for tighter anti-money laundering controls around crypto, after discovering that bitcoin ATMs were being used to launder drug money.

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