The Time for Progress is Now

How MiCA and European Digital Asset Regulation are Paving the Way for Institutional Adoption

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This year, the groundbreaking crypto regulatory regime will take effect in the European Union. Known as the Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCA), it will immediately become a game-changing framework for the industry, likely to influence similar crypto asset regulation around the world. 

Crypto providers and issuers of money tokens that become licensed in what is the world’s first major jurisdiction to introduce such tailored guidelines, will be able to confidently do business in over 27 countries with 450 million residents that collectively represent nearly one-fifth of the global economy. MiCA creates legal certainty, harmonizes rules across the EU, and provides a substantial opportunity for banks and Crypto Asset Service Providers (CASPs) looking to secure a foothold in the region.

MiCA Provides a Path Forward for Crypto Regulation in EU Markets

At around 150 pages, MiCA takes existing best practices and adapts them to provide regulatory clarity surrounding digital assets and their use in payments and other financial services. The rules will take effect in June of 2024 for issuers of stablecoins, and other CASPS by the end of the year.

Any company seeking to operate within the EU will need to be authorized by one of its 27 member states’ financial regulators and have an office in an EU country. They will need to provide clear marketing communications on their services, employ standard security and anti-money laundering (AML) practices and transparently disclose fees, environmental impact and more. In return, they can earn a license that allows them to access the entire economic bloc.

While these regulations for the crypto asset market have teeth for noncompliance (potential million-euro penalties), the added transparency, uniformity and certainty position MiCA regulation as a catalyst for institutional adoption. It’s therefore not surprising, that it has broadly been well-received by the European Union’s crypto industry and should inspire confidence among a wide range of potential users.

What is MiCA and why does it matter?

MiCA Regulation Coverage and Implications

Asset-referenced tokens, e-money tokens and other utility tokens are all covered under MiCA’s scope—and it’s up to market participants to understand the guidelines and put in the work to remain compliant.

These include specific rules around token issuance with an additional requirement to publish and follow a whitepaper detailing its operations. MiCA also bans algorithmic stablecoins, adds requirements for fiat-backed stablecoins and introduces tighter curbs on those not tied to an EU currency (e.g., USD stablecoins). 

Of note, some observers worry these limitations could infringe on decentralized finance applications. Meanwhile, other areas, like NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), remain a regulatory gray zone, with MiCA only applying if the NFT has characteristics similar to one of the covered assets mentioned above. In other words, MiCA rules might apply to an NFT that is like a utility token or a financial instrument, for example an NFT that represents proof of ownership of real-world assets like real estate or luxury goods.

The greater hope is that MiCA triggers new, similar rules in other regions around the world, much like EU rules around online data protection helped produce global standards. At a minimum, some countries will likely explore new regulations so as not to lose those businesses that seek stability and clarity to the EU.

Institutional Asset Custody Under MiCA

Importantly, MiCA accounts for institutional-grade custody of money tokens within its scope of regulations. Previously, CASPs were governed by each individual member state’s AML regulations, which often lacked uniformity and restricted provider operations to those specific jurisdictions in which they held a license. With MiCA regulation, they now benefit from a unified regulatory stance and seamless access to the entire European Union market.

MiCA's stringent regulation and requirements for custodians consist of two main parts. The first mandates that stablecoin issuers be distinct from the custodian, which could be a CASP, a credit institution or an investment firm. The second outlines the controls a CASP must put in place on behalf of clients. These include assurances that client crypto assets remain unencumbered and are not used by the CASP for other purposes, maintenance of a register documenting each client’s crypto positions and an active client agreement documenting fees, security and a custody policy.

MiCA’s clear and detailed regulatory guidelines for tokenized asset custodians position the EU to become a hub for banks and businesses looking to expand into crypto custody.

A New Era of Clarity for Crypto Assets Regulation

Regardless of MiCA’s ultimate influence on the rest of the world, it is a remarkable leap forward for the EU. It also makes it easier for institutional digital asset custodians to operate confidently in the region, an important step in facilitating the broader adoption of crypto and digital money tokens. 

Those banks and financial institutions that serve as custodians must already navigate a dense thicket of security, technology infrastructure, insurance and other considerations. With MiCA, they gain a new level of certainty surrounding complex regulatory requirements that might otherwise constrain their businesses.

Contact us today to learn how to take your EU business to the next level with institutional-grade custody solutions that are safe, secure and compliant.

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