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  • J Huang and S Pettigrove

Coinbase wins Singapore licence approval

Updated: May 3

Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the United States, announced on Monday that it has received in-principal approval for a Major Payments Institution licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). This approval will enable Coinbase to offer regulated Digital Payment Token (DPT) products and services in the city-state, subject to ongoing discussion and ratification by MAS.

About 180 crypto firms have applied to MAS for a licence to conduct DPT services. Coinbase joins a list of only 18 entities that have received in-principal approval, including So far, the MAS has only formally granted 7 licenses, including to the Singaporean arm of Australian exchange, Independent Reserve, which together with an affiliate of the Singaporean bank, DBS, was among the first two recipients.

Some commentators have complained that Singapore's licensing process is too time consuming and burdensome and criticized the MAS's apparent mixed messages on digital assets. Last year, Binance pulled out of Singapore after withdrawing its application for a DPT licence and subsequently shut down its local .SG trading portal.

It appears that Singapore intends to take a measured approach to regulation which supports tokenisation and the growth of the digital assets industry, while addressing potential consumer harms. In August, the managing director of MAS said that the agency was considering "further measures to reduce consumer harm", including introducing suitability tests for customers, restrictions on the use of leverage and lending facilities, and addressing market manipulation.

The MAS's attempt to curb crypto speculation has not deterred exchanges like Coinbase which continue to view Singapore as a regional or even global hub. Coinbase said in its announcement that:

Singapore plays a critical regulatory and commercial role in APAC and beyond, and serves as our global talent hub; we are excited to continue investing and building for the crypto economy here.

Coinbase currently has around 100 employees in Singapore. Yesterday, announced that it had become the 18th firm to win in-principle approval from the MAS for a DPT licence.

We anticipate that the global race by cryptocurrency firms to seek and win licence approvals in a wide range of jurisdictions will continue in the months and years ahead as more jurisdictions consider implementing bespoke licensing regimes regulating cryptocurrency exchanges.


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