Back in 2013, OKCoin was considered the second biggest Chinese based Bitcoin exchange. Following the Chinese government’s ban for trading crypto, OKCoin had to halt its operation in China during summer 2017. Till 2017, China was responsible for the vast majority of Bitcoin trading, led by exchanges such as OKCoin, Houbi, and BTC China.
In light of the recent announcement about OKCoin bringing token-to-token trading to 20 New US States, we spoke to Jim Nguyen – OKCoin’s VP Marketing to discuss how the company has evolved over the years, the current progress it’s making, and future goals for expansion.
What would you say are the major differentiating factors that put OKCoin in a better position to be accepted by US regulators, compared with other exchanges?
OKCoin’s track record as one of the first and largest exchanges and our strong emphasis on both product and legal engineering makes us well suited to engage and work with US regulators.
We have been delivering a safe, secure, and reliable trading experience to our customers across the world since 2013. We are proud of our blockchain experience and track record, especially as it relates to customers’ fund security.
From a legal engineering perspective, we have worked with regulators from around the world. Though, in the USA we specifically didn’t provide any service to US customers until July of 2018 as a registered MSB with FinCEN. We regularly benchmark our AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) programs and are confident that they are at the highest industry standards.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced while working with US regulators to approve token trading?
The market has been waiting for regulators’ rules to be formed, and understandably they are taking their time to analyze the ecosystem and make sure they implement the right rules to encourage growth and stability. Yet, regulators’ general position on token listings and categorizing is unclear, which is quite challenging for the entire industry.
We should also not forget that in March 2013 highly applicable “Convertible Virtual Currency” guidelines were issued by the US Treasury’s FinCEN department. These guidelines deal with anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism financing, and trade & economic sanctions.
How do you strike a balance between the need for privacy and autonomy for those who trade cryptocurrencies and the need for ID verification to comply with regulators and achieve an MTL license?
As a regulated convertible virtual currency exchange, our commitment to customers and regulators is obvious. We build and maintain a system that ensures complete privacy and autonomy, while at the same time enabling us to abide by all KYC (Know Your Customer) rules and ensure that transactions conducted on our platform are legal and legitimate.
What are your thoughts on Gemini’s new stable coin, GUSD? Do you foresee OKCoin adding GUSD to your exchange alongside TUSD and Tether?
While we cannot discuss specific product plans, we’re very encouraged to see all the development and innovation in the ecosystem as it relates to building bridges and reducing friction between traditional assets and crypto assets.
US regulators have deemed that both Bitcoin and Ethereum are not securities. Still, tokens like XRP and many others have either not been adequately evaluated, or are leaning towards being labeled as securities. How do you plan to manage your growing portfolio of tokens with the knowledge that the majority of tokens in the crypto space still fall within a legal grey area between utility and security?
The distinction between utility and security is an important one. We have a set of strict rules in evaluating whether a token is a utility or a security token, including the Howey Test, proper due diligence, and project assessment from both compliance and legal perspectives. Our goal is to offer a mix of both types of tokens to provide the most comprehensive array of trading options.
As cryptocurrencies reach mainstream awareness, are you noticing a difference in the demographics of users who sign up to OKCoin? How has your platform changed its marketing strategy from 2013 to 2018 to accommodate this new demographic?
It’s fantastic to see a wider set of users gain interest in crypto. The growing fits genuinely within our mission, and it’s great to look at our efforts globally pay dividends. However, it’s still early, and our industry collectively still has a long way to go. Our strategy continues to focus on user education, working with regulators, and providing the best suite of products.
How do you see the rise of security tokens influencing user growth for OKCoin?
The rise of security tokens (STO) will take time. We have seen regulators hinting at their directions with general guidance recently. Yet, reliable infrastructure for security tokens has yet to be established. We are aware of the development of a potential STO, but concrete actions have not been taken. We don’t see that STO’s will imminently and meaningfully impact customer growth on our platform.
Most cryptocurrency exchanges started off by predominantly serving retail traders. As institutions set their sights on the crypto space, do you see OKCoin shifting more focus to institutional traders?
We aim for a balanced market structure on the OKCoin platform, which serves both retail and institutional clients. While our team has significant experience in the institutional trading space, OKCoin focuses on establishing a healthy market structure rather than catering to a specific group of customers. By offering a safe, secure, and trusted exchange for fiat-to-crypto and token-to-token currency trading in a licensed, regulated environment, our platform is ideally suited to any traders, whether retail or institutional.