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Singapore, a tiny island in Southeast Asia arguably has the best regulatory jurisdiction for Bitcoin startups.

The country has proven itself time and again through innovation and adoption of new technologies in the financial sector.

Even though only 5.5 million people live in the country, its high ranks in healthcare, education, and economic competitiveness could determine the impact of Bitcoin in developed economies in Asia.

According to a recent report by Deloitte, Singapore has left Hong Kong behind in the fintech race – ranking at number two (only behind London), overtaking New York.

Hong Kong was quick dismiss the report after it was ranked fifth for fintech. Three spots behind Singapore.

Hong Kong government claimed that the study didn’t compare financial technology development, but financial and business environments together.

In reality, that is not the case. Singapore has really stepped up their game in recent years when in comes to Fintech. Fintech startups especially the ones working on Bitcoin and blockchain from different parts of the world are either based out of Singapore or have offices in Singapore.

The Deloitte report draws on three indicators for the ranking:

1. Global Financial Centers Index (GFCI) – considers the business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure, human capital, and reputational factors.

2. Doing Business (DB) – presents indicators on business regulation and the protection of property rights.

3. Global Innovation Index (GII) – indicates the innovation of different cities.

The main reason why Singapore has managed to surpass New York is because of the strong support from the government, as evidenced by the S$225 million committed to the development of FinTech projects.

Government’s other initiatives include the Regulatory Sandbox, Strategic Electronic Payments, International Technology Advisory Panel and Talent Development.

Dr. Paul Sin, Deloitte FinTech Consulting Partner said, “While market competition can effectively drive the development of enterprises in the industry, support from the Government for innovation is an effective accelerator for the development of FinTech. This explains why Singapore is leading Hong Kong in all the three indicators.

The geographical proximity and technology-forward ideologies among Singapore and Hong Kong have often seen the two cities pitted against each other as rivals in industry.

However, analysts and participants of the financial industry in Hong Kong and Singapore are seeing an increased cooperation between the two countries. More interestingly, startups and companies from each country is looking to the other for partnerships.

In a publication, The Business Times points out several examples that signal a collaborative effort from both sides. For example, Singaporean Fintech startup Bambu, a financial robo-advisory firm, has turned to Hong Kong as a part of its expansion effort and opened its first overseas office in the city this month.

Hong Kong and Singapore both recognize the value of supporting and promoting Fintech,” said Accenture managing director Jon Allaway who oversees the services giant’s Fintech innovation lab in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hong Kong’s selling point is it is the gateway to China; Singapore is the gateway to all of ASEAN. They both have complementary strengths so while many like to pitch the scenario as one against another, it’s not that at all. Both can and will succeed.” he added.

Disruptive technologies such as blockchain will likely threaten the existence of some traditional financial organizations. As a result, strong support from the government is necessary to sustain a leading position in the global fintech race.

Singapore being Singapore has taken some proactive measures in order to stay ahead in the blockchain race – such as the establishment of the blockchain platform for trade financing, skipping the time-consuming processes including private financing, educating the market, and individual sales.

The country also makes it extremely easy for small and medium businesses to acquire loan financing and helps businesses innovate.

Deloitte believes that all these initiatives by the government could make Singapore a serious contender for the global No.1 spot in fintech.

Bitcoin in Singapore

 

Thanks to all the hacks and scams that took place in the early years of Bitcoin – it made most of the countries wary of the cryptocurrency. Singapore was one of them, but not for long.

It all began in December 2013, when the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank and financial regulator, suggested in an email to Coin of Sale, a service for brick-and-mortar merchants to accept Bitcoins, that it would not regulate the acceptance of bitcoin by businesses.

MAS called participation in such transactions a commercial decision in which the Authority should not intervene. Then just after a month, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) became one of the first regulatory bodies in the world to make a determination on how digital currencies should be taxed.

The IRAS ruling stated that individuals who made money through Bitcoin investments, would be taxed at the current zero percent capital gains tax rate.

That meant all the digital currency transactions involving real money or services, such as buying and selling bitcoins with dollars or paying for services with bitcoins, would qualify for GST (Goods & Services Tax).

Businesses that choose to accept virtual currencies such as Bitcoins for their remuneration or revenue are subject to normal income tax rules,” states the IRAS. “They will be taxed on the income derived from or received in Singapore. Tax deductions will be allowed, where permissible, under our tax laws.

Since IRAS applies no capital gains tax in Singapore, those businesses that buy the digital currencies with long-term horizons will be exempt from paying taxes. The authority takes into consideration the purpose, the frequency of transactions, and the holding period when determining if the gains should be taxed.

While other fintech hubs are still struggling to come up with proper regulations, Singapore managed to achieve that feat back in March 2014 – the country took an official regulatory stance on digital currencies for the other countries to follow.

MAS announced its plans to regulate digital currency businesses operating in Singapore in order to keep away any potential risk of money laundering schemes or terrorism financing that leveraged the anonymity of digital currencies.

It also indicated that intermediaries who bought, sold or facilitated the exchange of digital currencies for other currencies would be required to verify customers’ identities as well as to report any suspicious transactions to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office. This is now a common practice in other countries.

However, MAS did not consider Bitcoin and other digital currencies as securities or legal tender and hence Bitcoin avoided regulation under Singapore’s Securities and Futures Act or Financial Advisers Act.

In August 2016, Singapore central bank proposed new rules for Bitcoin startups. The proposed framework require applicable companies to obtain a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and divides payment activities into several categories.

Digital currency exchanges would be covered by a provision overseeing startups that provide “money transmissions and conversion services”.

The MAS said:

The scope of currency conversion activities is intended to encompass the business of exchanging of currencies at a rate of exchange. In addition, it is likely that under the [Proposed Payments Framework], virtual currency intermediaries which buy, sell, or facilitate the exchange of virtual currencies, such as bitcoin, will also be considered to undertake [money transmissions and conversion services].

Under the same framework the MAS also proposed creating a “National Payments Council” that would steer policy and coordinate with industry stakeholders. Its membership would be drawn from both the public and private sectors in Singapore.

Singapore has been very clear regarding the regulations on digital currencies from the very beginning. For instance, Temasek Holdings, a government-owned Singapore investment company, ran a “Bitcoin experiment” where about four hundred of its employees -ranging from drivers to board members – learnt how to use bitcoin wallets to donate to charity. This little experiment led to many venture capitalists to take notice of Bitcoin.

Needless to say, this was and still is a great news for businesses accepting Bitcoin in Singapore. They have officially formed a trade association, the Association of Cryptocurrency Enterprises and Startups, Singapore (ACCESS). It aims to promote Singapore as one of the premier bitcoin business locales in through education and dialogue with the government.

Regulations are necessary to integrate Bitcoin into the traditional financial system and help manage the risks involved in cryptocurrency transactions. There is no doubt Singapore has done a fantastic job so far. More on this later in the article.

Central Bank Adds Blockchain CEOs to Advisory Panel

An new advisory panel was launched by the MAS for the most recognizable leaders in the blockchain industry.

The 15-person International Technology Advisory Panel (ITAP) has the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters; CEO of SolidX, Daniel Gallancy; and managing director of R3CEV, Tim Grant.

The idea of ITAP is to have in-depth discussions on a wide range of applications of blockchain and other fintech trends.

The first meeting was attended by by Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the monetary authority, Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Members engaged with industry professionals, academics, and students in four-panel discussions at the meeting that explored the potential impact of blockchains on domestic commerce.

This is just goes to show Singapore is not afraid to go an extra mile to develop itself into a financial center. The next ITAP meeting is scheduled for 2017.

Central Bank’s own Blockchain based Digital Currency

Number of other countries have said that they are working on their own digital currency. We have heard it from China, South Africa, the UK and more. All the countries are in the “development stage” of the digital currency whereas Singapore will soon test it.

In November last year, MAS announced it could issue digital currency using a blockchain-based interbank payment system.

These national digital currencies will be independent of Bitcoin, but will be built on the blockchain to prevent against fraud and money-laundering.

The planned proof-of-concept will be supported by blockchain consortium R3CEV, as well as eight banks and an unnamed local stock exchange.

MAS managing director Ravi Menon said the test could come to include other central banks. He further credited the bank’s desire to remove cost and friction from traditional bank transactions as the motivation for the effort.

Menon said, “Today, banks have to go through correspondent banks to intermediate these payments. It takes time and adds to cost. This project marks the first step in MAS’s exploration of ways to harness the potential of central bank-issued digital currency.”

As per the Bloomberg report, the trial would find banks depositing cash as collateral with MAS, which would then issue a digital currency to participants. The digital currency could then be exchanged among participants in the system and later redeemed for cash.

Singapore is also planning to create a national “know-your-customer” platform (more on this later) that will help banks avoid redundancy in customer data collection and reduce compliance costs. Menon revealed that the basic building block of that system will be the government’s MyInfo service, which collects personal details of Singaporean residents.

Interestingly, The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has joined hands with the Monetary Authority of Singapore on fintech and Bitcoin regulation.

As mentioned earlier, Singapore believes that clear regulations and sustainable partnerships with other countries is the way forward in Bitcoin and Fintech market.

MAS and R3 Collaborate to Build a Blockchain Lab

It looks as if Singapore will leave no stone unturned to reach the first position in fintech. The country continues to impress world financial superpowers.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has been focusing on blockchain for several years now. Recently they announced a partnership with enterprise distributed ledger startup R3CEV to launch a distributed ledger technology (DLT) Center of Excellence in Asia. The DLT lab will focus on expanding the emerging blockchain technology across the region.

In the past central bank of Singapore has already inked partnerships with India and South Korea. Now MAS will develop an R3 Asia Lab to bolster the technology and its use cases.

Monetary Authority of Singapore believes fintech related solutions can not only improve settlement efficiency and transparency, but also reduce costs.

As per R3, placing operations in Asia will make them efficiently work with the members local clients, and stimulate technology development in the region.

R3 said that the new office would be staffed by both its technology experts, as well as those from member firms. To date, more than 70 global banks are now part of the effort.

David Rutter, Group CEO of R3 said:

As one of the world’s leading fintech hubs and a key global financial center, Singapore is the ideal location for our Asia lab,

We are honored to have the support from the MAS, and we look forward to working closely with them as we continue to research and develop applications that can help regulators and financial institutions improve efficiency, transparency and reduce costs.

It is not only Singapore that is going after blockchain. Central banks worldwide including U.S., China, South Africa and India are looking at the technology to replace the existing system.

The question is what are central banks planning to do distributed ledger technology?

Here’s what – Last year, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, DBS Bank and Standard Chartered Bank developed a blockchain app for invoice financing.

In many countries, invoice financing is commonly used by companies to improve the cash flow. Companies borrow from banks and financial institutions after furnishing pending customer invoices as collateral.

This new app will allow banks to digitize the invoices and upload them onto a decentralized ledger as digital asset. This blockchain based decentralized ledger will act as a common data repository that can be accessed by all participating banks to check the status of applications/invoices for financing etc.

The use of blockchain will help the banks and companies to maintain confidentiality and conduct due diligence at the same time if need be.

Fraud is also prevented using distributed ledger. These invoices are verified by banks to ensure that the same invoice is not financed multiple times. In addition to financial risks, the application also cuts down the time required to process the payments.

Collaboration with R3 will help Singapore come up with more blockchain based applications.

R3 said it’s happy to work with Singapore’s central bank and help spread DLT throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The non-exclusivity of R3’s technology choices leaves the option open for members to contract with Singapore-based systems integrators and fintech firms to implement production-ready systems, therefore streamlining implementation of DLT in the region” R3 said.

IBM to open Blockchain Innovation Center in Singapore

After R3, it is IBM’s turn to invest in Singapore.

IBM is all set to open the first Centre for Blockchain Innovation in Singapore in collaboration with the government to attract more technical talent from the country.

IBM will be working with the main economic planning agency, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to accelerate blockchain adoption for finance and trade.

One of the projects is together with PSA International – one of the world’s largest container transshipment ports owned by state investor Temasek Holdings – aims to connect fintech with global trade and logistics using, you guessed it, blockchain.

IBM are known to have initiated the execution within the transnational container shipment the early stage trials of blockchain technology and bitcoin-to-fiat payments.

Chief fintech officer of the MAS, Sopnendu Mohanty, said that the financial sector is ideally placed to play a leading role in Singapore’s vision of becoming a Smart Nation.

Given that technology is a key enabler of financial services, MAS is pleased to continue to work with companies like IBM to promote technology innovation in finance, and encourage the adoption of safe and efficient technology with the financial industry.” Sopnendu added.

KYCK! and IBM announce a KYC project on Blockchain

At last year’s Singapore Fintech Festival, IBM Bluemix Garage unveiled that Singapore FinTech startup KYCK! is to use its blockchain in a project to fast-track the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) on-boarding process in financial organizations.

It is understood that by using the blockchain technology, banks will be in a better position to enhance operations for on-boarding customers, reducing the time and expense that is normally required.

According to IBM, utilizing the Hyperledger Project Fabric can lead to enhanced identity verification and secure data protection. The open source Fabric architecture will enable “immutability, traceability and privacy” across a permissioned distributed ledger network.

Once the verification is done, KYCK! will then input the information into the third party KYCK! system before onboarding an account.

KYCK!, a startup founded by three Singaporeans (all former sales traders) enables users to access brokerage demo accounts and secure onboarding opportunities. With this new project, it intends to use the platform to provide brokerages video conferencing and encrypted document applications to secure new customers.

Darryl Tan, co-founder of KYCK! said that the startup is lucky to have partnered with IBM. It will allow the company to bring their ideas to life.

Working with the IBM Bluemix Garage, we have seen how blockchain can improve operational efficiency, increase transparency and reduce transaction risks. We hope that financial institutions will see an improvement in their current customer onboarding processes and the overall customer experience.” Darryl added.

The Onboarding Process

The co-founders of KYCK! Started working on the project after they experienced significant friction related to customer onboarding process. The idea is to improve onboarding through the use of emerging technology – blockchain.

The blockchain solution KYCK! uses will be secured through the IBM High-Security Business Network (HSBN). The companies explained this will enable KYCK! to curate sensitive data without fear of a breach.

IBM has seen a lot of enthusiasm from entrepreneurs since they launched its blockchain platform and Bluemix Garage in Singapore.

The application of blockchain is showing great promise across a broad range of business applications. It is a technology that establishes accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes.” said Alan Lim, Practice Lead, IBM Blockchain & Bluemix Garage, ASEAN.

Since we launched an IBM Bluemix Garage focused on blockchain in Singapore this year, we have seen more and more startups and entrepreneurs come through our doors with a curiosity and passion for how they can apply blockchain as a competitive differentiator.

Blockchain is one of the more than 150 advanced services and APIs available to developers on Bluemix. Bluemix has rapidly grown to become one of the largest open, public cloud deployments in the world. It features advanced technologies like, cognitive computing, cloud data analytics, blockchain and Internet of Things protocols.

The Singapore Bluemix Garage is one of the latest to join the IBM global network of eight garages globally. It serves as a hub for developers, product managers and designers to come together to rapidly design and develop successful applications on Bluemix.

Blockchain Strategy for Asian Banks At Singapore Conference

Asian banking giants are preparing for a two day conference, Blockchain For Finance Conference, Asia Pacific on June 20-21.

Singapore will be the host of the conference where the likes of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, China Construction Bank, Mizuho and OCBC Bank will be announcing how they will engage with Blockchain technology in the future.

All the industries will discuss and evaluate the use-cases and proof-of-concept prototypes of blockchain-based applications.

The conference is being organized by FinTech Network, a UK-based advocacy group which “exists to facilitate and advocate the adoption of innovative and disruptive financial technologies.”

The event will also see joint participation from Singaporean governmental authorities, with the MAS due to discuss how the “recent influx of patent filings” relating to Blockchain could impact the financial services industry.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Tests Digitized Checks in Singapore

If the reports are to be believed, Tokyo based MUFG, Japan’s largest bank could become the first bank in the world to issue its own digital currency, later this year.

The bank has chosen blockchain technology as the core infrastructure toward testing the digitization of checks using Singapore’s regulatory sandbox installed by the MAS.

The proof of Concept testing is the result of a joint venture between the bank and Hitachi. The two companies developed a blockchain-based infrastructure to issue, transfer and collect electronic checks.

During the test, the bank issued and settled checks while the Hitachi Group’s companies in Singapore received the electronic checks and then deposited the funds.

According to Hirofumi Aihara, general manager at MUFG’s Asian Systems Office, the project is to digitalize entire check processing – from issuing checks to clearing checks. What we commonly see today is the paper only process where a bank first issues the check to the customer which is then deposited to a bank to complete a transaction.

Aihara said, “From a bank’s perspective, we need to process these papers manually, including checking for fraud etc.

Needless to say the check process as we know it is paper-reliant and a time consuming process. The digitized process will have shorter settlement times, as compared to the traditional means which could take up to two days.

Of course we can digitalize checks without blockchain,” Aihara stated, adding “but blockchain has very powerful features”, Blockchain’s functionality would help eliminate fraud by checking for the duplication of check issuance in a transaction.

The blockchain system is very easy to implement with banks because there is no need to have a central database to manage check processing.

MUFG also added that blockchain can also be applied towards “payment and supply chain finance in non-financial sectors in the future.”

The coin, whenever it comes out, will be called “MUFG Coin”, the bank confirmed.

Investments are already pouring in

There is no denying the fact that Singapore’s technology-forward initiatives and its prominence as a center for finance makes it one of the world’s foremost fintech hubs. Its proximity as a gateway into Asia further works as an advantage.

So much so, the MAS recently unveiled its FinTech regulatory sandbox, a space wherein FinTech startups and companies can experiment with financial processes or services with regulatory safeguards.

Venture capitalists and investment firms from around the world have not missed the opportunity to invest in Singapore. Their interest is increasing in blockchain technology based applications.

Singapore is considering to offer special concessions targeted towards fintech companies in order to attract more investment.

The deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, himself announced that the Central Bank of Singapore is looking into the possibility of easing regulations for Venture Capital investors. The relaxed regulations will be applicable for investments made towards fintech startups and businesses.

In a statement, the deputy Prime Minister said,

MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) is looking to significantly simplify and shorten the authorization process for new VC managers… Further, to the extent that there are contractual safeguards to provide sufficient protection to a VC’s sophisticated investor base, MAS is also looking to exempt VC managers from business conduct requirements that are currently applied to asset managers in general.

Singapore already has a strong fintech ecosystem with over 300 firms, 20 global banks and insurance companies. Many of these companies are working on blockchain technology-based applications for use in mainstream financial industry.

Blockchain based Matchmaking Platforms

There are plenty of singles in many countries around the world, including Singapore.

A recent report by Channel News Asia, plenty of singles in Singapore prefer joining a dating agency or enlisting the help of a professional matchmaker despite dating apps having become increasingly popular.

Social Development Network accredits dating agencies, notes that the number of events organized by these agencies had risen by 23 percent in 2015. In 2016, it was increased by 21 percent to 15,393 participants.

Fox 10 reports that though online dating apps like Tinder, Grindr and OKCupid are spreading, some singles are putting the phone down for a more traditional way of turning to a matchmaker to find love.

But why are we talking about dating in an article related to Bitcoin and Blockchain?

Well, there are some factors that make traditional matchmakers important – including the shock when you see someone waiting for you who does not look like the person you’ve been talking to. There is a growing need for vetting due to the high level of misrepresentation in the system.

Could blockchain solve this problem? Probably.

Matchpool is a decentralized dating and matchmaking protocol, which uses group dynamics in order to help as many participants as possible to find love.

It can also be used as a more generic platform for any kind of paid membership community, which can clearly define two sides of a desired interaction or market.

Trust, Transparency and Decentralization

Any crypto-based platform is built on Blockchain network. For example, Ethereum which also allows the use of smart contract features. In a nutshell, there is no central power, the database is maintained by the network of users.

When matchmaking apps like Matchpool puts the security, identity and community management of their platforms in the hand of users, it ensures a greater level of trust.

This trust coupled with the level of additional transparency that cryptocurrencies bring through being hosted on the Blockchain, could very well work in favor of the matchmaking apps.

The apps also guarantee privacy of users. According to Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum, Blockchains are politically and architecturally decentralized – no one controls them and they have no infrastructural central point of failure – but they are logically centralized (one commonly agreed on state and the system behaves like a single computer).

This system is more expensive to attack and destroy or manipulate because they lack sensitive central points.

In the broader sense, every human interaction needs trust. That trust can be achieved by a mutual friend and we reward people to share their network for all sorts of purposes that involve human interaction and which require trust. It can be between employees and employers, or loving couple or even to order a plumber.” says Yonatan Ben Shimon, founder of Matchpool.

We enable people to utilize their close bonds on one hand in order to help others and let other people connect with people like them on the other hand much easily and smoothly for all kind of purposes.

Bitcoin Remittances in Asia

One of the most obvious use cases for Bitcoin is remittances. A person can easily send money from one Bitcoin wallet to another. There are 230 million migrants that send $430 Billion in personal funds back home each year.

Only a few years ago, startups were founded to with the sole aim to kill Western Union. Most of them did not succeed, but Bitcoin has made it possible.

The 160-year old Western Union is the world’s largest money transfer company, and has a market cap of nearly $10B. If Bitcoin fans are to be believed, Western Union will soon die because of their underlined business model ‘make money through remittances’ is heading for failure.

That said, there is a long way for Bitcoin to go. It is evident by the fact that Western Union is still as relevant as it has always been.

Bitcoin is getting in the remittance game, albeit a bit slowly. For instance, in South Korea, Bitcoin has quietly grown to handle about 20% of the remittances being made to the Philippines.

It’s the most successful Bitcoin remittance corridor currently in operation.

Whereas in Singapore, the Bitcoin remittance has been faced with several challenges. Toast, a Singapore born startup used Bitcoin in its remittance process, but found it was a barrier to fundraising, and has since eliminated the cryptocurrency from its model.
Another Bitcoin remittance startup, Coinpip, now focuses only on business payments, and does not currently handle money transfers for personal use.

So why does Singaporean government making it hard for the Bitcoin remittance startups?

Coinpip cofounder Alexander Angerer explains that the Money Authority of Singapore is drafting a new payments and remittance framework and solicited feedback from the public in late 2016.

MAS’ position on remittance is strong, merging currency conversion and money transfer into a single regulated activity.

There is still time for Bitcoin to fully replace the current remittance system in place. Part of the problem is unawareness about Bitcoin. As the industry continues to mature, we will definitely see more and more people sending money back home using Bitcoin.

Blockchain is Singapore’s priority

All the strict regulations are Bitcoin specific, but the technology behind Bitcoin (blockchain) is getting all the support from banks and governments.

Singapore has made blockchain technology one of their top priorities. Back in 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially launched Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, a project aimed at rallying the collective efforts of people, businesses and government to work together in order to “support better living, create more opportunities and support stronger communities” by harnessing technology.

A Smart Nation needs a Smart Financial Center, said Ravi Menon. To achieve that MAS has been actively supporting fintech development, creating funding schemes and committing itself to propose a conducive regulatory environment for startups.

A four day annual Fintech Festival organised by the MAS is a great initiative to bring world’s top thought-leaders, financiers, fintech entrepreneurs and policy makers to discuss the future of financial services.

It was during this event, IBM announced collaboration with KYCK! and Menon declared a partnership between MAS, the Singapore Exchange, R3 and eight banks.

In August last year, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), along with HSBC and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, announced the trial of a new blockchain prototype to execute import-export deals automatically using smart contract technology.

Notice how the governments, banks and the financial institutions talk about implementation of block in various sectors, but do their best to ignore Bitcoin altogether.

Why is that? Do the governments think Bitcoin is in a “bubble”? And that is why they want to launch their own state-owned digital currency based on blockchain? Would it really serve any purpose?

Bitcoin vs State

Some argue that Bitcoin and State do not go together. Neither logically, nor economically. Although getting started with Bitcoin isn’t all that difficult.

If you really think about it, State is a hierarchical construction of “trusted third parties” (TTPs). In theory, some social interactions may involve a conflict that may be resolved by a trusted third party (arbiter). In a nation state it is ultimately some government agency.

In case of conflict between a citizen and a government agency (which we usually see time and again), there is another government agency to watch over it. Thus, the agency is watched by its chief, a chief is watched by a court, court is watched by a parliament or a president, and those are being overthrown by an angry mob from time to time.

Bitcoin is an attempt to remove some trusted third parties from equation. That includes all sorts of financial institutions and government bodies. From the Bitcoin perspective, it is a moral hazard to enable control over money supply and monetary flows to a hierarchy of trusted third parties.

Interesting, governments would have most likely gotten control of Bitcoin if it was at all possible, but thanks to its decentralized nature, no one can control the currency.

We have seen in the past when private banks and government agencies could manipulate and destroy entire economies by being able to produce money without limits or censor its use.

Using Bitcoin, people can transact without need for any third party to record and acknowledge their transactions, and what’s more, no one can even become a third party by hijacking the system and imposing controls and rules on its usage.

Bitcoin vs Banks

As for the banks that are hoarding over blockchain implementation in the financial institutions, Jon Matonis – the economist and the former executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation – asks a fundamental question to these banks: “Are these private blockchains going to be able to be used against smaller financial institutions or weaker nations to institute a blockade, just as SWIFT and CHAPS are able to do today?”

As the only global payments settlement network, Swift has blocked Iran from participating; Russia and Israel were threatened with a block.

He argues if countries can be blocked out of the payments system because they are in a politically incorrect part of the world, then they would also be able to be blocked out of something that’s a permissioned blockchain.

We haven’t really changed anything then if it’s not open access, if all they have done is recreated the cartel.

Banks cannot explicitly say that a permissioned blockchain won’t be used against smaller financial institutions for purposes of a blockade. Bitcoin blockchain on the other hand could easily route around that.

Matonis pointed out that this has prompted both Russia and China to construct their own Asian version of Swift over the past three years.

Disruption never comes from the inside of these banking and financial institutions. It comes from the outside. Just like Uber disrupted taxi industry, Airbnb disrupted lodging industry, Bitcoin will disrupt the banking industry.

This makes banks extremely uncomfortable so they want to bring this disruption in-house – let’s build our own version of digital currency based on the same principles as Bitcoin so that we can control it.

In the future, the largest financial network may not be bank-owned at all and the most circulated currency may not be government issued.” John added.

There is another problem, many fintech executives view private blockchains as off-the-shelf products whereas they are rather ‘byproducts’ of a highly-valued native token with massive network effect – Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is not created to get more chain. The blockchain is created to get more coin.

Bitcoin vs Gold

Bitcoin could be treated more as a reserve asset the way that gold is treated by nations today. Gold eliminates counterparty risk and as such is the ultimate settlement.

Many countries, Germany for instance, are repatriating their gold because they don’t want it all to be in New York.

Matonis points out that Bitcoin would take on a reserve asset role similar to gold. It would be a reserve currency asset class that countries would have on their balance sheets. It’s digital gold.

Buy Bitcoin in Singapore

1. Coinbase

Coinbase is one of the world’s largest US based Bitcoin exchanges. It allows you to buy Bitcoins using three payment options – credit card, debit card or bank transfer.

Once your Coinbase account is verified, you will be given the account information that will be used to make a bank transfer deposit. This is done through Xfers Transfers. Coinbase claims that deposits clear within a few minutes, and that there are no deposit fees. Once you deposit Coinbase charges 1.49% to purchase coins.

If you are buying with a credit card or debit card, there is also a required identity verification. Fees for buying with a credit card or debit card are 3.99%.

2. Luno

Luno is based out of South Africa. It provides secure exchanges where people can buy/sell Bitcoin. They have free deposits and low withdrawal fees.

Luno does not allow users to store Bitcoins in Luno’s wallet.

3. CoinHako

CoinHako is a Bitcoin broker based in Singapore. They accept bank transfers from Singapore or Malaysia and international bank wires. You can also top up your CoinHako account using Xfers, which allows you to buy bitcoins within 10 minutes.

The exchange provides a superfast way to acquire Bitcoin in Singapore with reasonable fees at 0.9%. If you just starting out, you can buy Bitcoin in small amounts without verification.

4. FYB-SG

FYB-SG is the first Bitcoin exchange to be established in Singapore. It allows you to fund your account via online bank transfer for a 0% fee or via cash deposit. Market makers receive a 50% fee discount for a super low 0.3% fee.

The withdrawals and deposits in SGD are quick.

5. LocalBitcoins

LocalBitcoins is an escrow service which also helps to match bitcoin buyers and sellers. The most common method of payment for purchase is cash deposit. However, users may advertise trades for whichever payment method they prefer.

Buying bitcoins via an in-person meeting, secured and facilitated by LocalBitcoins, may be one of the fastest and most private ways to buy bitcoins in any country.

When you use this service, make sure you check the rantings of the seller. Beware of scams and always follow the rules.

6. VirWoX

VirWox is really a Bitcoin exchange. It mainly serves as a way for people to buy Second Life Lindens, a currency used in the virtual world Second Life. You can’t buy Bitcoin with PayPal directly at VirWoX, but it’s possible to first buy Second Life Lindens (SLL) and then trade your SLL for Bitcoin.

This process works perfectly, but in the end will cost you about 10% in fees. This workaround/hack has made VirWoX the easiest and most popular way to buy bitcoins with PayPal.

7. itBit

itBit is a global Bitcoin exchange, licensed with the New York State Department of Financial Services. It also operates a global OTC trading desk, making it easy for customers to buy large amounts (100 BTC and up) of bitcoin.

The exchange has extremely low fees; 0% for market makers and 0.2% for market takers.

8. Mycelium Local Trader

Mycelium Local Trader is like LocalBitcoins. It helps you find local Bitcoin sellers. Once you locate a seller, you meet up in-person and conduct the trade.

Mycelium charges absolutely no fees. While Mycelium Local Trader works great in highly-populated areas, users in low population areas will have trouble finding sellers.

9. GDAX

GDAX is an exchange by Coinbase. It one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the United States.

Users can fund their accounts via bank transfer, SEPA, or bank wire. GDAX offers good prices and low fees, but their confusing user interface may initially prove difficult to navigate. It is Possible to buy bitcoins from GDAX at 0% fees.

10. Bitcoin ATMs

Bitcoin ATMs allow you to buy Bitcoin with cash. The process is extremely quick, easy and private. That convenience and privacy, costs you 5-10% fee.

There are 3 Bitcoin ATMs in Singapore as of March 2017.

Speaking of ATMs, there are Bitcoin ATMs in Singapore selling Gold and Silver. Yes you read that right.

Quantified Assets, a bitcoin-to-precious metals brokerage, has a prototype machine set up in Singapore’s HackerspaceSG, which it is using as a showcase to offer its front-end interface to all 118 Lamassu operators worldwide.

A customer selects ‘Buy Gold/Silver’ from the ATM’s main screen, creates a QR code and supplies an email address. Quantified Assets then creates an account for them which can be accessed from its site.

The customer scans the QR code and inserts their money – the machine’s interface then shows the current conversion rate.

Finally, the customer receives a receipt for the purchase of the amount of metal their money has bought – this is typically a fraction of a gold bar.

Notably, when the customer inserts the fiat currency into a Lamassu machine, their money is first converted into Bitcoin, which is then processed as a purchase of metal for Bitcoin.

The physical metal itself is stored with “with reputable, fully insured and fully audited storage providers” in Singapore.

Spend Bitcoin in Singapore

There are plenty of merchants in Singapore that accept Bitcoin. Here is the list of few:

1. Dilivrit

Dilivr.it is a mobile platform providing individuals and businesses with on-demand, hassle-free delivery services while filling up the idle time of existing couriers.

2. XX Simplicity

For clothes, perfumes, accessories and more.

3. Artistry

An exceptionally cool Singapore cafe showcasing emerging artists and hosting far-out gigs.

4. CAD Cafe

A great hangout place for coffee and beer lovers.

5. Hospoda Microbrewery

Love craft beers? Look no further.

7. Bullion Star

BullionStar is Singapore’s premier bullion dealer. With a worldwide unique walk-in bullion shop, showroom and vault, we can cater to all your precious metals needs. View, buy, deposit, store, audit, sell and physically withdraw your bullion in one and at the same location.

8. Epic Gear

Epic gears provide software, hardware, repair and maintenance, disaster recovery services as well as all your gaming needs.

9. InternetQ

InternetQ provides mobile, social and app-driven marketing solutions that effectively leverage the massive adoption of connected devices.

10. Otaku House

Otaku House is the leading Cosplay and Japanese novelties retail concept store on Singapore; fusing Japanese toys, anime collectibles, & other nonsensical gifts under one roof.

You can find the full list of merchants accepting Bitcoin at Coinmap.org

To directly search for the products, visit sg.singapore.com and find the sellers accepting Bitcoin in Singapore for a particular product.

There are more than 150,000 merchants accepting Bitcoin around the world. Here is the list of most popular ones including the likes of Microsoft, WordPress, Namecheap etc.

Conclusion

Singapore was one of the first countries to recognize Bitcoin and continue to demonstrate that is the number one country to be in for the blockchain and FinTech sectors. As a result, this tiny island has seen a rapid growth in adoption of the cryptocurrency over the years.

In late 2015, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long cited Bitcoin and Blockchain technology as a sign of future during a speech.

By mid 2016, the Singaporean banking society held its first accelerator program focusing on solutions for the financial sector, particularly with blockchain-based smart contracts.

Later that year Monetary Authority set aside $225m as part of a five-year investment plan in financial technology which was followed by the announcement of the ‘R3 Asia Lab’.

Furthermore, Winklevoss twins are expanding their Bitcoin and ether exchange, Gemini, to Hong Kong and Singapore. Not to forget, Indian and South Korea have already partnered with Singapore’s Central Bank over blockchain and fintech.

Clearly, Singapore is depicting itself as a go to country for fintech and blockchain innovation and intends to maintain its position by creating a prolific fintech ecosystem.