It seems hard to go a week without hearing the term ‘Cryptocurrency’ doesn’t it? Cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange, but is digital and uses encryption techniques to control the creation of monetary units and to verify the transfer of funds.
It has been with us since 2009, when probably the best known version called Bitcoin came into existence. Since then, we have slowly but surely been heading towards a cashless society, and thousands of different types of digital currency (approximately 4,500 to date) have been created around the globe.
Combine this with the rise of the Fintech industry, and the ease with which your average person can access and trade in crypto, and it’s not surprising that it’s causing such a storm – especially when it’s spurred on by Elon Musk making a fuss on Twitter!
Cryptocurrency risks and regulations
As we know, every investment opportunity is not without a level of risk, but you could argue that cryptocurrency carries a higher risk than most. Unlike traditional money, cryptocurrency is not backed by a bank, if you take a close look at any bank note, you’ll see the words ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of X pounds’. When the Bank of England was founded in 1694, this promise meant that the bank would pay the note bearer the equivalent value in gold, if requested to do so. This helped banks to move people away from physical commodities such as gold, and gain confidence in cash.
This confidence is a long way off with cryptocurrency, and many governments and financial institutions refuse to accept cryptocurrency as payment due to a lack of regulation, security and audit trail in this area. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently published their research findings which uncovered that the holding of crypto assets has increased, however the general understanding of what cryptocurrency is and how it works is declining. Sheldon Mills, FCA’s Executive Director, commented ‘If consumers invest in these types of products, they should be prepared to lose all of their money.' Similarly, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently called on congress to give them more authority to regulate the cryptocurrency market.
Despite it’s complexity and regulatory challenges, crypto continues to gain popularity and is attracting more and more buyers.
If consumers invest in these types of products, they should be prepared to lose all of their money"
Career opportunities as a result of cryptocurrency growth
The Guardian recently reported that UK fintech investment hit a new record of £18bn for H1 2021, and London continues to dominate Europe’s fintech sector. With significantly more ongoing input from the FCA into this market, there is a constant demand for experienced governance professionals. While businesses are continuing to hire traditional governance professionals, such as, Head of Compliance, MLRO and Head of Risk, there has also been more of a focus on specialist professionals with anti-money laundering experience, such as, Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT), Transaction Monitoring, and Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). It’s often desirable that professionals with experience in these areas also have technology skills, for example coding language, or specific software knowledge.
Candidates looking to specialise in this discipline should try and focus on a combination of practical hands-on experience and relevant crypto qualifications from accredited bodies, such as, the International Compliance Association (ICA), and the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS).
Candidates should interview carefully with any start-up, and carry out some due diligence, asking as many questions as possible to ensure there is sufficient funding and a quality strategic plan to support the growth of the business.
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