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Coinbase open to London move if regulatory confusion remains in the US

Brian Armstrong, Coinbase CEO, called for more comprehensive crypto regulation, noting a possible move from the US if it doesn’t come soon.

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Brian Armstrong & George Osborne at the Innovate Finance Global Summit/Amelia Isaacs.

“Anything is on the table” for Coinbase when it comes to a potential move away from the US, according to the crypto company’s co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong.

Speaking to former Chancellor George Osborne at the Innovate Finance Global Summit, Armstrong said the UK is currently Coinbase’s second-largest market in terms of revenue.

He called for greater regulation for centralised players in the crypto space, given their nature as financial services businesses, in order to create trust and build consumer protection.

“We're founded in the US, and I think the US has the potential to be an important market in crypto — but right now, we’re not seeing the regulatory clarity we need,” Armstrong said.

“If a number of years go by where we don't see regulatory clarity emerge in the US, we may have to consider investing more elsewhere and relocating wherever is necessary,” he added.

Armstrong noted the benefits of a system like that of the UK where a single regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) — manages both commodities and securities.

In the US, these are managed by separate bodies — the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

He noted “contradictory statements” coming from the heads of CFTC and SEC every few weeks, making it difficult for businesses to operate.

“We just want a clear rulebook. That's what regulators are supposed to do. They’re supposed to give us a roadmap that we all follow,” Armstrong said.

Unlike the US, Armstrong gave the UK high marks for its steps towards regulation, praising the regulatory sandbox, Osborne for setting the UK off in the right direction, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and economic secretary to the Treasury Andrew Griffith MP for carrying this on.

Excited about the future of crypto, Armstrong stressed the need for “sensible” regulation across the board, stating that crypto is “the most important technology that’s out there to update the financial system and fix all the flaws with it”.

When asked where he sees Coinbase and crypto in five years, he skipped ahead to 20 and predicted that crypto could make up 20 per cent of global gross domestic product.

Every payment could be as fast, cheap and mobile as sending a WhatsApp message, Armstrong said.

“There’s a lot of legacy code and a lot of legacy rules and we need to get the lead out so we can begin to innovate the financial services and I think crypto is the best way to do that.”

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