DLT and cryptocurrencies
FinTechs belonging to this category offer financial services using crypto currencies. This category also includes FinTechs utilising blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) upon which Bitcoin and Ethereum are based, among others. FinTechs develop and do research in this field in order to create new services – e.g. crypto currency exchange markets, wallet providers, NFTs-related services, new payment services, "smart contracts" or new clearing and settling services.
Attitude of the country towards financial services using crypto currencies
Using crypto currencies for the banking business is a relatively new trend. It is not yet used by most of the companies or people and the actual scope of application still must be figured out. In Austria, 14% of people invested in Bitcoin and co, last year. There are reports that some “traditional” financial institutions do not like it when customers want to transfer profits from crypto exchanges to their accounts or vice versa send a transfer to an exchange.
Obligations and requirements to provide financial services using crypto currencies described above
Pursuant to Section 32a Austrian financial market money-laundering act (Finanzmarkt-Geldwäschegesetz – "FM-GwG"), service providers with respect to virtual currencies who intend to offer their service pursuant to Section 2 no. 22 FM-GwG in connection with virtual currencies pursuant to Section 2 no. 21 FM-GwG on a commercial basis in Austria (domicile/registered office in Austria) or from within Austria must apply for registration with the FMA in advance.
Additional comments regarding the legal situation for financial services using crypto currencies or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
In addition to the national regulation of crypto assets, the EU regulation on markets for crypto assets (“MiCA”) is expected to come into force in 2022. Insofar as distributed ledger technology-based tokens are subject to this regulation, they and related services may then in principle only be issued by regulated and/ or licenced companies.
Market size for financial services using crypto currencies and biggest companies in this business area
In 2021, the market for financial services using crypto currencies was still growing. Several online broker services, including Trade Republic and Scalable Capital, started offering the ability to trade crypto currencies in 2021.
Additional comments regarding the economic situation for financial services using crypto currencies or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
Companies in the business area of crypto currencies which have the necessary technical and regulatory expertise are hardly established yet. However, a competition for the most efficient, customer-friendly providers who promise market participants protection, legitimacy, and security (race to the top) is already visible. On the other side, a competition between European legislators for the lowest regulatory requirements (race to the bottom) may emerge, too. In such a competition, pure FinTech companies and established banks also compete with foreign crypto exchanges. Here, market participants must keep in mind that the passporting of a crypto custody permission is not (yet) possible and crypto asset providers need the permission of Austrian regulators to address the Austrian market.
The most prominent and assumingly the most discussed blockchain project is the invention of the Digital Euro, a digital blockchain-based version of the Euro currency. The Digital Euro will probably be issued by the European Central Bank, although the details are still being worked on. Blockchain-based currencies will be a hot topic over the next couple of years.