An open letter to all UK banks: don’t let global organisations dominate the UK’s Bitcoin market.
MetaLair.org’s website has been down for nearly two months, so where have we been?
The answer: trying to open a bank account.
Last month we needed to invoice for some work, so we approached a well-known UK bank for an account, which we will refer to as ‘Bank A’, who sent their local branch manager round to see us.
He’d seen the mention of Bitcoin on our website and asked us about it, we gave him an overview of the technology and genuinely extended an offer to help Bank A in understanding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in more detail if they needed it.
There then followed two months of cumbersome paperwork and eventually our branch manager confirmed we were ready to go to the final stage and he’d contact us once Bank A’s AML (anti money laundering) team had given our application a final review.
A week later we received a call from him. As we mention bitcoin and a decentralised exchange on our website he wanted to give us the opportunity to confirm that we would not be handling money or cryptocurrency in an exchange capacity.
We wrote back confirming that this was indeed the case: the decentralised nature of the exchange we are designing passes funds directly between users so we never directly handle any funds ourselves.
We received a call from him a week later saying the AML team had refused our application.
So we took down our website and swapped it for a holding page listing only our consultancy services, and went to another bank, ‘Bank B’.
We needn’t have been so prudent as it turned out Bank B never even asked us for our website URL as part of their checks. Nearly two months later, with a bank account in hand, we’ve now put our full website back up.
Sadly this is not an unusual state of affairs here in the UK. The very vast majority of businesses we’ve spoken to who handle Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have all been refused bank accounts.
“I can’t get a bank account in the UK. Not a single bank, even tiny banks here, even ones from Europe will consider giving me a bank account… The UK’s kind of being left behind.”
- Marc Warne, Bittylicious. The Bottom Line, BBC Radio 4, Sat 7th July.
And this is what concerns us the most; by refusing to work alongside Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies UK banks are stifling innovation in the UK, leaving the market open for other global organisations to move in and dominate the UK. A market the UK should be looking to grow as part of its financial services industry.
The banks are doing themselves a disservice in the long run too; by refusing to work alongside cryptocurrencies they are removing any opportunities they may have to create new services and revenue streams for themselves once cryptocurrency reaches mass adoption.
So we are reaching out to those who can affect change by extending our offer to provide help and support in understanding Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to all UK banks and financial institutions as we believe an enlightened approach to adoption is vital in creating a strong and lasting UK economy.
CTO, MetaLair Ltd
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