Europe drives institutional crypto adoption: Blockchain Expo Amsterdam

Europe remains fertile ground for the cryptocurrency ecosystem to flourish compared with harsher regulatory environments, according to prominent speakers at Blockchain Expo Europe 2023 in Amsterdam.

Cointelegraph attended the event held at the RAI Amsterdam convention center for the second year running, with the Blockchain Expo forming part of a larger Tech Expo event being hosted in the Netherlands.

The event has typically attracted prominent mainstream industry players from the financial world to showcase how blockchain technology is being leveraged to power innovative new products and solutions across a myriad of industries.

From finance, logistics, healthcare and marketing, blockchain technology and Web3 functionality continues to be a key growth area for different industry players.

MiCA bodes well for institutional adoption

Regulatory matters remain front and center, as was evident in a fireside chat featuring Coinbase institutional sales co-head James Morek and Zodia Markets co-founder Nick Philpott.

Trendmaster co-founder Chris Uhler, Zodia Markets co-founder Nick Philpott and Coinbase co-head of EMEA and APAC institutional sales James Morek onstage in Amsterdam. Source: Cointelegraph

Philpott described the European Union’s Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulations as a progressive regulatory measure to guide the growth of the sector while protecting users.

“Institutions feel more comfortable knowing that there is a framework within which they can operate, which is at odds with what is happening in countries like America.”

Philpott’s reference to the United States’ regulatory landscape centered on a cloud of uncertainty over the cryptocurrency ecosystem. This has been primarily driven by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s separate enforcement actions against key industry players, including Coinbase, Ripple and Binance.US, for alleged securities violations.

Morek, who heads up Coinbase’s institutional sales in the EMEA and APAC regions, also highlighted the establishment of clear regulatory parameters across the EU and in the United Kingdom, which have helped crypto-related firms continue to do business.

Off-the-record conversations also suggest that major players like Coinbase continue attracting interest from institutional clients looking to gain exposure or custody of certain cryptocurrencies outside the United States.

Related: EU’s new crypto law: How MiCA can make Europe a digital asset hub

This includes many potential clients, ranging from traditional fund managers, large corporations, private banks and a variety of businesses. Morek told Cointelegraph that Coinbase currently serves over 1,300 institutional customers globally.

Legal frameworks that have long allowed companies to have both onshore and offshore entities continue to be an important element in allowing cryptocurrency exchanges and companies to offer services in different jurisdictions.

Philpott also highlighted the United Arab Emirates as a fast-growing crypto and Web3 hub actively looking to attract the biggest firms in the industry. Binance has already established a foothold in the UAE, while Coinbase was reportedly exploring setting up a base of operations in the jurisdiction earlier in 2023.

A tokenized future

Tokenization remains a drawcard for various institutions, including mainstream banks and financial firms looking to issue and manage debt and investments.

Cointelegraph also spoke to Martijn Siebrand, digital assets ecosystem manager of Dutch bank ABN AMRO. He shared insights into ABN AMRO’s recent issuance of a digital green bond using Polygon’s layer-2 Ethereum scaling technology to raise 5 million euros ($5.3 million).

ABN AMRO’s Martijn Siebrand fields questions from the crowd during his presentation on day one of the conference. Source: Cointelegraph

Siebrand said that blockchain technology is proving to be a useful tool for banks to better serve capital markets:

“It’s funny, if we have now talks within the bank, people say capital markets have been there for a long time already yet we haven’t seen many innovations. This could be one major change where a lot of banks are investing in.“

Siebrand added that ABN AMRO is already showcasing its blockchain-based digital bond exploits at conferences and exhibitions to both capital market players like mainstream banks, as well as private companies looking to raise funds:

“We see two tracks. We have the institutional one serving traditional capital markets. But we also have the chance to help clients that are too big for crowdfunding but too small for capital markets.”

Siebrand added that tokenized debt offerings can be useful for companies that want to avoid selling equity. However, jurisdictional regulatory frameworks need to be further developed before ABN AMRO can create a working roadmap to further its blockchain tokenization offerings:

“We think that private markets involving private issuances, which are one-on-one or with two or three investors, that will be easier to to scale than the institutional one.”

NFTs remain valuable for institutions

Mia Van, EMEA lead for blockchain and digital assets at Mastercard, delved into the value of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) for institutional users. The sector has produced $1.9 billion in sales volumes over the past year, according to Van, with the average number of Web3 wallets increasing despite sellers dominating NFT marketplaces in recent months.

According to Van, luxury brands such as Breitling and Louis Vuitton actively use NFTs to provide digital twins of items that prove their provenance. Meanwhile, mainstream brands like Adidas and Nike continue to explore NFTs and metaverse activations that give users ownership of objects in both the physical world and metaverse environments.

Related: NFT-styled debit cards the future of Web3 — Animoca founder on $30M Hi investment

Mastercard is also becoming part and parcel of the Web3 ecosystem. Earlier this year, Animoca Brands announced a $30 million investment in neobank platform Hi. A unique offering of the platform is a customizable NFT-styled crypto debit card. Users can stylize their Mastercard with NFTs they digitally own, allowing them to show off that prized Bored Ape in the physical world.

Van would not be drawn to comment on Mastercard’s blockchain and digital asset strategy and partnerships.

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