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Barclays strikes banking deal with major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase

Arjun Kharpal
  • Coinbase, one of the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets, obtained a bank account with a U.K. lender Barclays.
  • The deal marks the first major partnership between a U.K. bank and cryptocurrency exchange.
  • Coinbase also now has an e-money license and access to the Faster Payments Scheme.
  • The most noticeable update will be Faster Payments which will simplify the process of topping up and withdrawing money from Coinbase for U.K. customers.

Coinbase, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets, obtained a bank account with U.K. lender Barclays BARC-GB , the company said Wednesday, in a move that will make it easier for British customers to use its product.

The deal marks the first major partnership between a U.K. bank and a cryptocurrency exchange.

British lenders have distanced themselves from engaging with cryptocurrency companies and digital coins in general, because of their reputation of being used in illicit activity.

Coinbase, which has nearly 12 million users , also said it was granted an e-money license by the U.K. regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and adds support for the Faster Payments Scheme (FPS).

What does this mean for users?

The most noticeable update will be Faster Payments which will simplify the process of topping up and withdrawing money from Coinbase. Previously, U.K. users had their transactions processed through an Estonian bank, which could take a few days.

"U.K. customers will benefit from faster, safer and seamless bank transfers. We will start with a pilot, giving a small number of institutional users access to Faster Payments. In the coming weeks, we will begin rolling out to all U.K. customers, making the Coinbase experience increasingly easier," Zeeshan Feroz, U.K. CEO at Coinbase, said in a blog post Wednesday.

While U.K. users could top up money in pounds, they were unable to withdraw it easily back to their bank account in the same currency. Instead, it would have to go through a long process, converting the money into euros then back into pounds, leaving some users stung with exchange rate charges.

The e-money license from the FCA will extend to 23 countries within the European Union.

"We believe that this is an important step towards our commitment to making cryptocurrency accessible to everyone," Feroz said.

Regulatory concern

U.K. financial authorities and regulators have warned on cryptocurrencies. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney recently called for greater regulation of cryptocurrencies , calling the huge price moves and volatility "speculative mania."

Meanwhile, a group of British lawmakers launched an inquiry into digital currencies last month to look at the risks posed to consumers, businesses and the government.

Barclays has been one of the larger U.K. banks more open to engaging with cryptocurrencies. As early as last June, it's U.K. Chief Executive Ashok Vaswani told CNBC it was talking to financial technology firms and the regulator about bringing virtual currencies "into play."

Europe growth outpaces world

Coinbase's Feroz said that the EU grew "twice as fast as any of our other markets in 2017" and the U.K. is its largest market in the bloc. He said that the company plans to grow its London team by roughly eight times by the end of the year.

Feroz did not reveal the number of U.K. users in his blog post.



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