Crypto adoption is expanding apace across Asia, with major global exchanges inking partnerships and making acquisitions on the continent.
Major crypto exchanges originating from Asia as well as from the West have shown an increasing interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
Coinbase launched in Japan last year, joining the selected group of exchanges to offer crypto trading services to native customers. Binance, the world’s leading crypto exchange by trading volume, has forged a series of new partnerships in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
The growing interest in global crypto exchanges in Asia could be attributed to the crypto craze in the region, despite regulatory uncertainty in several countries. The Asia-Pacific region is currently the hub for the majority of crypto growth. Countries such as Singapore and Thailand have seen a great boom in crypto adoption both as a retail payment as well as a form of investment.
Mastercard Asia-Pacific executive vice president Rama Sridhar said in an interview with TechAsia that compared to the global market, “adoption rates for emerging payment options have always been better within the Asian region.” A survey conducted by Mastercard across 18 markets in 2020 suggested 94% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are considering using emerging payments methods.
Jackson Mueller, director of policy and government relations at Securrency — a financial markets infrastructure company — sees the prominence of digital payment and peer-to-peer market growth as one of the key reasons behind Asia’s growing influence as a crypto hub. He told Cointelegraph:
“Southeast Asia has been a hotbed for payments activity for some time now. It comes as no surprise to see significant growth in the number of crypto firms, exchanges and volume of peer-to-peer activity in the region.”
“It’s also important to note that we’re just beginning to see the emergence of crypto assets frameworks in the region, alongside ongoing efforts to improve current domestic payments systems, interlink these systems with neighboring countries, and promote capital markets development,” he added.
According to a Chainalysis report, Asian markets accounted for 43% of global cryptocurrency activity or $296 billion in transactions between June 2020 and June 2021. The report further highlighted that the Central and Southern Asia and Oceania crypto market is the fourth-largest in the world, and transaction activity there increased 706% in the same time frame.
Here we’ll take look at some of the top global crypto exchanges and service providers with a growing presence in Asia.
The leading global exchange by trading volume had a roller coaster of a ride in terms of regulations in 2021. After seeing a series of compliance warnings from nearly a dozen countries, Binance mended its way toward the end of the year. The exchange forged several new partnerships, but its growth in the Asia region was something that got everyone’s attention.
Binance acquired an 18% stake in Singapore’s securities exchange Hg Exchange. However, the exchange withdrew its crypto license, which many claimed was due to non-compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering guidelines. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao called the reports as fear, uncertainty and doubt, or FUD, and maintained that Singapore remains one of the top priorities for the exchange.
The exchange is now looking to reestablish its presence in Thailand after an early warning in 2021. The crypto exchange partnered with Gulf Energy Development PCL, a Thai holding company run by billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi.
Binance is looking to open a crypto exchange in a joint venture with a consortium led by MDI Ventures, an investment arm of Telkom Indonesia.
Apart from its dominant presence in South East Asia, Binance is also penetrating West Asia and the Middle East with a recent MOU with the Dubai World Trade Center Authority.
Binance chief regulatory liaison officer Mark McGinness told Cointelegraph:
“We are keeping all of our options open, and we are currently considering a number of cities that meet user needs, our needs as a company, and of course, regulatory requirements. The crypto regulatory framework of the jurisdiction is a key consideration. Naturally, we would like to operate where the regulations are clear, workable and ‘pro-crypto.’”
The first United States crypto exchange to go public in 2021 is looking to expand to a global market. The exchange has been rapidly ramping up its presence in South East Asia and building new crypto infrastructure. In terms of regulatory headway, the crypto platform acquired an operating license in Japan last year. Coinbase officially launched in Japan in August 2021 after it had partnered with banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Japan is one of the first countries to adopt crypto and one of the biggest crypto markets by trading volume.
Singapore was one of the first destinations for Coinbase outside the U.S., with the firm starting its services in the country in 2015. At the time, the exchange had not revealed any expansion plans to other Asian countries.
Despite the regulatory uncertainty in India, crypto giants and venture capital firms have been eyeing the Indian market for quite some time. In July 2021, Coinbase made its intentions of expansion in India clear and said it is setting up a new office there and hiring hundreds of new employees.
Kraken, a global crypto exchange originating from the U.S., has had quite a success in the Asian markets. The exchange’s services are available in over 45 Asian nations, and it has grown to become one of the leading western exchanges to gain a footing in the Asian market.
Kraken also relaunched in Japan in 2020 after closing its services in 2018, citing rising operating costs and the need to concentrate its efforts on “other geographical areas.” The exchange became a licensed “Crypto Asset Exchange Service Provider” in the country in line with domestic regulatory requirements.
Crypto.com, a global crypto trading service provider with its headquarters in Singapore, is primarily known for its $500-million venture arm fund to support early-stage crypto startups. However, the exchange has a strong footing in the Asian market despite its primary sponsorship partnerships in the United States.
The platform launched its flagship crypto Visa card that allows people to spend their crypto at Visa merchants in Asia first, followed by the rest of the global market, which indicates the popularity of the crypto ecosystem in Asia.
Messari’s report on the Asian crypto landscape revealed that leading crypto nations in the region such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore have deep liquidity pools. The region is also a top crypto spot market and accounts for more than 90% of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) futures trading volume. The nature of traditional finance has also played a key role in becoming a crypto hub, where capital controls in China and South Korea pushed people toward crypto, while low yields in Japan played a catalyst in fast crypto adoption.
Apart from major crypto exchanges that avail their services in Asia and looking to expand further, many mainstream global payments processing giants such as Visa and Mastercard also see great potential in the Asian market. In November 2021, Mastercard partnered with three leading crypto service providers in the Asia Pacific to launch crypto-funded Mastercard payment cards.
Countries such as India and Pakistan, where there is still no clarity over crypto regulations, are not lagging behind either. The Indian crypto market grew 641% from July 2020 to June 2021 and attracted $638 million in crypto funding, while Pakistan has seen a similar rise in crypto adoption. According to an FPCCI report, Pakistanis held $20 billion in crypto in 2020–2021. Jawad Nayyar, co-founder of Pakistani fintech firm PropTech, told Cointelegraph:
“Over the last five years, cryptocurrencies have gone from a Ponzi scheme to a gambling tool and a highly volatile asset to now finally being recognized as a legitimate virtual asset of value in the region. In times of monetary expansion, high inflation and a huge currency devaluation, the private sector now considers cryptos as a hedge against such economic adversaries.”
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