Stablecoin Issuer Circle Leads U.K. Charm Offensive Ahead of New Rules

  • Issuer of USDC met with government, regulatory officials

  • Euro and sterling-pegged stablecoins under consideration

Dante Disparte, chief strategy officer at Circle.

Circle Internet Financial Ltd. has conducted a number of “state visits” to the U.K. in the last year, flying over its most senior executives to engage with government, regulators and industry bodies with a view to expanding its business in the region.

The Boston-based payments and financial infrastructure company behind the USDC stablecoin has held both virtual and in-person meetings with a range of U.K. officials and crypto industry executives, some of which included a delegation of the company’s top brass. The latest trip to London was as recent as last month, while another occurred during the relaxed travel period between the Delta and Omicron Covid-19 variants last year. Dante Disparte, closely-held Circle’s chief strategy officer, said in an interview that the firm had sought to take advantage of a shift in attitudes toward cryptoassets and payments innovation provided by stablecoins, where Circle’s work had been “well-received”. A stablecoin is a type of cryptocurrency whose value is tied to an outside asset, such as the dollar, to stabilize the price. They’re used to facilitate trading in the often volatile crypto market, but are also useful as a digital payment mechanism. The trips were undertaken at a key turning point for U.K. regulation of the sector, which had been increasingly risk-averse toward cryptocurrency companies seeking to operate in the country. Circle’s most recent delegation was completed weeks before the U.K. announced it intends to bring forward new legislation for stablecoins, which would see the digital tokens and their issuers brought under existing payments rules.

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Disparte, who was one of the founding executives involved in Meta Inc.’s now-defunct Diem stablecoin project, said there had been “a general sea change” in the U.K. and other countries in their approach to crypto regulation in recent months.

“What we’ve been really working toward is where the U.K. is now, toward a world in which the political and regulatory environment is much more amenable and forward-leaning on innovation in the digital assets market,” he added.

The company has been looking broadly at the possibility of creating new stablecoins pegged to other currencies, such as the euro and sterling, and submitted written evidence on the topic of a central bank digital currency to the U.K. Parliament in October. Disparte said that developing a stablecoin is “an area of further opportunity for the U.K.,” where Circle is already authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority as an e-money institution. “Clearly the operation we have in the U.K. is conducive toward this being an opportune time,” Disparte said. However the firm does not immediately plan to issue a new token, he added, given U.K. policymakers and regulators only recently began to sound “much more permissive” to the concept.

Circle’s USD Coin has a market value of about $51 billion, second only to market leader Tether with an estimated $82 billion value, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

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