Ripple Acquires Iceland Crypto Trading Firm Algrim

Ripple, has announced its acquisition of Iceland-based crypto trading firm Algrim, with the goal to further expand its presence in Europe and help provide a better service to customers. In addition to that, the firm is expanding its engineering team with the new acquisition.

The new acquisition and expansion in Iceland will help advance Ripple’s global reach, as well as bring in strategic partners and financial institutions to RippleNet. Currently, the crypto firm has over 200 customers signed on to RippleNet with over a dozen customers leveraging XRP in cross-border transactions.

However, no financial details about the acquisition have been made public. Moreover, this is Ripple’s first expansion in Iceland. At the moment, Ripple has offices in San Francisco, New York, London, Mumbai, Singapore, São Paulo and Sydney.

According to the news, Ripple welcomes six new engineers to Ripple’s ranks, who will focus on integrations with partner crypto exchanges. The new team will also focus on the ongoing development of Ripple’s On-Demand Liquidity (ODL) product which utilizes XRP for production cross-border payments.

The ODL payment service allows companies to transfer funds from one currency to XRP and from XRP to another currency. As such, companies are able to avoid opening a bank account in countries they want to send payments to. According to the company, more than a dozen customers are using XRP for cross-border transactions.

Christopher Kanaan, SVP of Engineering, has stated that the team addition will be pivotal in continuing the development of their ODL.

“We’ve been committed to sourcing expert crypto and trading talent in key global markets since day one, and the acquisition of the Algrim engineering team is a successful example of doing just that.”

The former Algrim team will include seasoned industry executive Dadi Armannsson, and will help provide Ripple with more than a decade’s worth of experience building trading platforms. Over the last two years, Algrim has spent time to develop its crypto trading platform integrating over 30 markets. Prior to this, the team spent over a decade building traditional trading platforms and foreign exchange trading algorithms.

Algrim CEO Dadi Armannsson has affirmed in a statement that joining Ripple was natural as both firms share a vision to facilitate the widespread adoption of blockchain technology and digital assets.

“We are big believers in XRP and the XRP Ledger, and eager to help build the future of payments at Ripple,” he further added.

Both team acquisitions point to Ripple’s strong market momentum and focus on attracting and developing the best in engineering talent.

The news follows Ripple’s announcement on Friday of its acquisition of Logos Network – an incubator that invests in businesses building in the XRP ecosystem – adding eight new engineers to the Xpring team, who will focus on exploring and building XRP-related decentralized finance (DeFi) products. This acquisition streak displays Ripple’s strong market momentum and focus on attracting and developing the best in engineering talent.

Harbor Gets Approval from FINRA for Broker-Dealer License

Harbor Square Investments, the subsidiary of tokenized securities platform Harbor, has received a broker-dealer license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), according to a report from CoinDesk.

Crypto Broker Dealer License Issued

Receiving a broker-dealer license as a cryptocurrency-centered company is not easy. U.S. regulators have worked with cryptocurrency companies with a lot of reservations. For over a year, the SEC and FINRA have delayed making a decision upon approving licenses for some 40 cryptocurrency companies.

The main concern of the regulators is the risk cryptoassets present for investors. As a broker-dealer, a company can buy and sell securities on their own and in the name of their clients. In the digital asset space, a broker-dealer who provides digital assets as securities can potentially market them to institutional investors.

Considering the technically complex and relatively new way of dealing with digital assets, these companies face strict requirements from the SEC and FINRA. According to Harbor CEO, Josh Stein, the novelty of the cryptocurrency technology has been challenging for the regulators to process their application.

Whenever broker-dealers deal in the name of their clients, questions around custody, safekeeping and private key access arise. Regulators had to understand the new paradigm before approving any licenses.

“It took the regulators a long time to get a handle on the space and understand it and its implications,” Harbor CEO Josh Stein. “This was very new for the SEC and FINRA, and they wanted to do it right.”

All-Round Services for Digital Issuance

With a broker-dealer license, Harbor plans to provide a comprehensive A-Z solution for digital asset issuers.

“We’re going to provide the technology platform to manage the fundraising, the technology to manage investors, the technology to tokenize and enable liquidity,” Stein said.

Up until Harbor’s license approval, the firm could only make introductions to partner broker-dealers. The firm had no possibility to handle key processes, such as performing due diligence, which now changes with the broker-dealer status.

Harbor’s licensing marks an important step in the regulatory landscape, as other broker-dealers for digital assets may appear on U.S. soil. Stein suggested that it’s a positive sign for the industry – and said more crypto broker-dealers may break through as the SEC and FINRA gains exposure to digital assets.

“The regulators are saying: ‘Hey, this is a regulated activity that a broker-dealer should go do. They should go sell these digital securities, because that’s perfectly legitimate, appropriate and within the regulations.’That’s a big deal for the whole industry.”

Bittrex Deploys Chainalysis Software for Transaction Flagging

Bittrex, the U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, has partnered with compliance firm Chainalysis to deploy its real-time monitoring software for transactions to flag suspicious activity across blockchains.

Chainalysis’ software titled KYT (Know Your Transaction) covers blockchains of the biggest coins – Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, DAI, among other cryptocurrencies traded on Bittrex.

Chainalysis KYT allows the exchange to monitor large volumes of cryptocurrency activity and identify high risk transactions on a continuous basis. Using real-time data with alerts and filters for level of risk exposure, Bittrex can identify transactions that require the most immediate attention.

Even though Bittrex is already compliant with U.S. regulations, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer John Roth explains that Chainalysis’ software provides a different but necessary insight by leveraging their existing knowledge and expertise.

“Having real-time information coming in from which we can make risk decisions is really an amazing step forward, and frankly one that’s not available to traditional financial institutions,” Roth said.

Bittrex’s adoption of Chainalysis KYT comes after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June advised its 37 member countries to begin tracking complete customer details on every transaction handled within 12 months.

Chainalysis KYT automates the assessment of money laundering risk, helping exchanges like Bittrex meet regulatory demands. The software currently covers 25 cryptocurrencies, which representing represents the majority of trading volume, while the company will continue to onboard additional cryptocurrencies in the near future.

The key feature is the automation of the process that helps high-volume exchanges stay compliant in an efficient way. Jonathan Levin, Chainalysis’ chief security officer, said KYT automates much of Bittrex’s review process.

“The key to supporting a large exchange like Bittrex is building features that enable them to automate their compliance process, prioritize their workflow, and customize their alerts to speed up how fast they can do due diligence,” Levin said.

While the software flags transactions with the highest risk, a Bittrex compliance analyst still needs to determine if the threat is valid and file a suspicious activity report with regulators. Bittrex’s compliance team also participated in rigorous training by Chainalysis, which provided advanced techniques in risk management workflow.

Automotive Giant Daimler Completes Transaction on Marco Polo Blockchain Network

Automotive group Daimler has just executed its first transaction on the international blockchain-based Marco Polo trade finance network, according to a press release on Wednesday. The Marco Polo network has proven its capability for practical use with this pilot transaction between these two top industrial corporates.

Founded by startups R3 and TradeIX, Marco Polo is built on R3’s Corda blockchain platform. The network focuses on delivering real-time connectivity, improving transparency in trading relationships as well as reducing hurdles to accessing capital.

Automotive group Daimler AG and engineering firm and machine builder Dürr AG digitally processed the data transfer to secure payments from a commercial trade transaction on this platform, using Corda blockchain technology. German bank Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) – a founding member of Marco Polo – provided the financing and the payment commitment.

Generally, the process of securing payments from foreign commercial trade transactions with traditional instruments is rather complex and time-consuming. This is due to the use of different systems as well as a large number of intermediaries: for instance logistics providers, insurers, customs authorities. Substituting the paper based system with a blockchain-based networks facilitates the process and boosts transparency. Assisted by distributed ledger technology (DLT), such processes can be accomplished within minutes instead of days.

According to the announcement, the fact that this process can be streamlined and made faster and simpler is what convinced both Dürr und Daimler to go through with the pilot project.

The successful trade transaction involved an order and delivery agreement for a balancing system from Dürr subsidiary Schenck via the Marco Polo network. Payment was secured by a conditional payment commitment by Daimler’s bank.

As soon as the ordered equipment was delivered, the related order fulfillment data was uploaded onto the network and automatically reconciled with the previously agreed transaction data, thus triggering an irrevocable payment obligation.

Jürgen Vogt, director treasury controlling, analytics & standards of Daimler AG has expressed in a statement that the company is continuously working on the digitization of their business processes. He strongly believes that the optimization potential inherent in trade finance transactions is high.

Susanne Schlegel, CFO of Schenck and Dürr Division Measuring and Process Systems has also stated:

“We focus on efficiency increases not only with regard to our machines and systems, but also to our business processes. The successful pilot project between Daimler and LBBW demonstrates the intrinsic efficiency potential of digital trade finance processes. Innovative platforms and technologies such as Marco Polo and Corda allow us to reduce complexities in order fulfillment – to the benefit of all participants.”

As for LBBW, which joined the Marco Polo network as a founding member last year, this was already the third pilot transaction via Marco Polo, following the two previous business deals with industry partners Voith and KSB.

Matthias Heuser, head of international trade and payment solutions of LBBW, explained that it is the institution’s goal to collect practical experience with such innovative technology as well as further advance the development of a trade finance ecosystem based on DLT.

He further stated:  “For the first time in this transaction, we successfully tested the complete execution in the bank’s management systems – this is an important step towards reaching full production maturity. The excellent cooperation with two major, internationally active companies with highly sophisticated technology know-how was key to the success.”

Kik to Shut Down App and Focus on Its KIN Cryptocurrency

Kik Interactive, the Ontario-based startup behind the popular mobile messaging app Kik, is considering shutting down the messaging app, according to local reports.

Following reports that the company’s crypto-focused subsidiary Kin had laid off 70 employees, CEO Ted Livingston announced Monday that Kik will also be shutting down its core messaging service. The company’s CEO stated that the company had made a deliberate decision in order to focus on fighting a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling.

“Instead of selling some of our Kin into the limited liquidity that exists today, we made the decision to focus our current resources on the few things that matter most,” he wrote in a blog post, further adding that this meant shutting down the Kik app.

He further added that the company would reduce its crypto operations to just 19 core developers in an effort to ensure that KIN can scale to become the true currency of the internet going forward.

The company first launched Kin in 2017, raising $100 million through an initial coin offering (ICO). The coin had become one of the most used cryptocurrencies in the world, with 600,000 monthly active spenders.

Meanwhile, Kik has been wrapped in a legal battle with the SEC over the issuance of its KIN tokens. From May to September 2017, Kik offered and sold 1 trillion digital tokens called “Kin.” More than 10,000 investors worldwide purchased Kin for approximately $100 million in US dollars and digital assets — over half of this sum coming from investors located in the United States.

However, Kik’s offer and sale of Kin was not registered with the SEC, and investors did not receive the disclosures required by the federal securities laws.  In response to that, CEO Livingston had decided to fight the ruling and therefore shutting down its messaging app in order to fully concentrate on the legal battle.

Despite the messaging app shutting down, Livingston pointed out that the core developer team is pivoting towards further developing the KIN token.

He explained:

“Kin is a currency used by millions of people in dozens of independent apps. So, while the SEC might be able to push us around, taking on the broader Kin Ecosystem will be a much bigger fight. And the Ecosystem is close to adding a lot more firepower.”

Ever since the legal disputes in June, Kin’s token has dropped from $0.000036 to $0.0000105 as of today, according to data provider Messari.