SBI Holdings Fully Launches VCTRADE Crypto Exchange in Japan

SBI Holdings has opened its VCTRADE platform to investors in Japan, becoming the first such example of a bank-operated cryptocurrency exchange.

The financial group, one of the largest in Japan, launched its crypto trading platform in June. However, the initial launch was restricted only to a select group of pre-registered users.

As of this week, the platform is now open to all Japanese residents aged between 20-70 for the first time, allowing them to trade on a regulated environment across several currency pairings.

The launch is significant because it represents one of the first successful attempts of its kind from a mainstream bank to establish a cryptocurrency exchange.

The platform has been plagued by delays and setbacks, and even with its launch, access for corporate customers remains unavailable. Over two years in development, the platform passed initial user and security tests, ahead of accepting new user accounts and deposits this week.

When VCTRADE launched back in June, it did so with a single currency pairing of Yen against XRP, a move that is consistent with the bank’s support for the Ripple protocol for cross-border settlement in the financial industry.

SBI Holdings partnered with Ripple after suggesting the XRP token will become the ‘global standard’ for virtual currency. In particular, the move could ultimately make it easier for financial institutions in Japan to transact in XRP, a cryptocurrency specifically designed to facilitate interbank settlements.

The SBI platform then introduced support for bitcoin cash and bitcoin respectively, ahead of its full public launch this week, providing users with access to a range of currency pairs.

SBI Holdings first announced the VCTRADE platform back in October 2016, with the Financial Services licensing process taking more than a year from that date to complete.

Following the high profile Coincheck hack in January, developments were further delayed by the need to increase system security measures.

As the first development of its kind to open to investors, the VCTRADE platform could now serve as a case study for other mainstream financial institutions to develop regulated cryptocurrency exchanges.

IBM Working To Develop New USD-Backed Stablecoin

IBM is working with crypto startup Stronghold to develop a new price-stable cryptocurrency backed by the US Dollar, according to reports emerging this week.

USD Anchor, the project pioneered by Stronghold seeks to become the latest so-called ‘stablecoin’ to be pegged to the US Dollar, and backed one-for-one in fiat currency.

Their proposal creates a coin powered by the Stellar blockchain, with transactions verified through the Stellar consensus mechanisms. The dollar backing will be held in Nevada by Prime Trust and deposited in FDIC-backed banks.

Stronghold had initially been set to work with New York-based Signature Bank in backing the deposits. However, according to IBM, Signature Bank have pulled out of the arrangement at the last minute, which will mean deposits being held elsewhere in FDIC-insured accounts.

Welcoming the development, Jesse Lund, head of blockchain for financial institutions at IBM, said the company would be exploring different ways of using the USD Anchor with their enterprise clients.

“What we really want to do is enable all sorts of digital transactional networks to settle their transactions with digital fiat currency on the same blockchain networks...I think you will see some solutions that IBM has been backing making use of this certainly before the end of this year."

Each USD Anchor will represent a claim on an equivalent US dollar amount, providing users with a price-stable utility coin applicable to a wide range of use cases.

Stronghold co-founder Sean Bennett said the stablecoins like the Anchor could ultimately help improve the flow of currency internationally.

“The process for seamlessly managing and trading assets of any form from digital to traditional currencies, needs to evolve. Asset-backed tokens can provide seamless access to all currencies, improving the global movement of money."

The project is the latest to draw support from IBM, one of the most active corporate participants in blockchain development and research.

Explaining the company’s strategy, Lund said the mission was to make cryptocurrencies more applicable in specific use cases.

“What we are trying to do is make digital currencies more relevant for everyday types of transactions, and not just about trading cryptocurrencies.”