Gold-Standard Rules Sought by Billion-Euro Bitcoin Broker

Bitcoin should be regulated similar to gold — which benefits from simpler compliance rules than stocks or bonds — according to Austria’s biggest broker of the digital token.

While cryptocurrency transactions in the European Union above 10,000 euros ($12,310) should be subject to anti-money laundering rules, applying more onerous financial standards could stunt the emerging market for digital cash, the founders of Bitpanda GmbH said.

“Regulation provides us with more legitimacy,” Bitpanda co-Chief Executive Officer Eric Demuth, 28, said in an interview. “We’ve wanted to be regulated, but so far have been told that we cannot be.”

Financial markets and regulators globally are struggling to classify and govern digital tokens created by entrepreneurs that challenge traditional, central bank-backed currencies. That’s sparked some of their creators to seek out rules to put the industry on firmer ground and lend it credibility.

The prices for a single Bitcoin and an ounce of gold should move closer together as the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike McGlone.

“Just 11 months ago, gold and Bitcoin were the same price; now they’re on the road to convergence,” McGlone wrote in a note on Monday. Bitcoin rose 9.1 percent to $9,826 apiece at 11 a.m. in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gold fell less than 1 percent to $1,317.11 an ounce.

Austria’s finance ministry said last month it’s looking at the trading rules for gold and derivatives as inspiration for drawing up regulations on cryptocurrencies.

While policy makers often see gold as a potential vehicle for criminals or tax cheaters, they don’t impose special capital requirements on the precious metal: banks can account for it as risk-free like cash or government bonds. Retail sales of gold are also exempted from VAT in the EU, and traders don’t have the capital and conduct rules that their peers do in stock and bond markets.

For a look at how some banks are backing away from Bitcoin dealers, click here.

Even as Austrian central bankers warn about the risks that cryptocurrencies pose in money laundering, Vienna-based Bitpanda has been expanding its links with government institutions. The company sells Bitcoin vouchers via the state-owned postal service and said it recently inked research deals with the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Technical University of Vienna.

The absence of rules seems to have not stunted growth. Bitpanda’s retail brokerage will “easily” surpass 1 billion euros in turnover this year, Demuth and co-CEO Paul Klanschek, 31, said. Most of the 600 million euros transacted through its venue last year occurred in the fourth quarter.

The company, which opened a London office last month, charges an average commission of about 1.5 percent.

“Regulation should come from the EU level,” said Klanschek, who’s been investing in Bitcoin since 2010 and studied finance at the Vienna University of Economics. National regulators will have a hard time developing expertise to look at cryptocurrency holdings, he said.

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