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Upbit Gets In-Principal Licence from Singapore

LIMASSOL, CYPRUS, November 14, 2023 – South Korea’s largest exchange by volume has been granted in-principle approval for a Major Payment Institution (IMP) licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Upbit Singapore announced that the approval, while provisional, opens up several avenues for the crypto exchange, allowing it to provide digital payment token service under the Payments Services Act (PSA), mainly to institutional investors while waiting for full licensing. 


For Upbit Singapore, the in-principal licence approval is not just a step towards a full licence. Still, it is emblematic of its consistent efforts to cement its position in the Singaporean market. According to Upbit Singapore’s chief operating officer (COO), Raks Sondhi, the exchange has been operating in Singapore since 2018, stealthily setting up its groundwork. Sondhi said, “We have been here and operating in Singapore since 2018. We have been building out the team. Sondhi added, “Our primary business has been on the digital asset exchange business; we will continue to build that out but also focus on the institutional segment and infrastructure projects.” 

The move by Upbit signals its aim to diversify its offerings, catering to institutional investors and participating in more extensive blockchain and digital infrastructure initiatives. Further emphasising the point, Sondhi added, “There are also some other market segments we believe can work well within.” 

The move made by Upbit is in line with a broader trend seen across the crypto industry. Since April, the company has been on a hiring spree by bringing in additional expertise to achieve its goals. These expansionary efforts underscore Upbit’s dedication to becoming integral to Singapore’s digital assets landscape.

A Boost for Singapore’s Growing Digital Assets Ecosystem

Several crypto players seek recognition and regulation in jurisdictions known for their robust financial frameworks. The firm’s compliance chief, Azman Hamid, expressed optimism about the recent developments. He highlighted that the approval stands as a testament to Upbit’s unwavering commitment to building its businesses in Singapore. Hamid said, “We will contribute to further establish Singapore as the leading hub for the next generation of financial businesses… Echoing the sentiments of many in the fintech industry who view Singapore as a major hub for digital innovation.” 

Upbit will join a group of crypto firms with a full MPI digital payment token service licence from MAS upon full approval. This month alone has witnessed the Singaporean counterparts of major crypto giants such as Ripple, Coinbase and Sygnum Bank receiving their respective licence approvals from MAS. Experts at Bitcoin Method mentioned that with Upbit’s approval, the total number of MAS-licensed digital payment token service firms has risen to 15.

Coinbase was fully approved for its MPI licence with crypto trading firm GSR, which secured its in-principle approval on the same day. Coinbase licence came a year after the firm’s initial in-principle approval in Singapore, which enabled it to expand digital payment token services.

In March 2023, Coinbase launched PayNow and FAST bank transfers specifically for Singapore. Singapore’s digital service integrated SingPass to simplify onboarding. Coinbase highlighted that more than 30% of Singaporeans were found to be owners of crypto. Coinbase noted, “Singapore has naturally become a significant location for this industry. Moreover, Singapore is home to over 700 Web3 companies, making it a pivotal market for the crypto and Web3 economy growth.” A day later, the Swiss crypto bank subsidiary Sygnum Singapore branch scored its full MPI licence to offer crypto brokerage services to accredited investors and institutions in the country. 

In March 2022, Sygnum secured in-principle approval to offer three additional regulated activities in Singapore under its capital markets services. Sygnum Singapore Spokesperson said, “This additional licence enables us to extend our service offering to also offer DPT [digital payment token] trading services to our clients.” The company also plans to extend its regulated offering to the Asia-Pacific (APAC) markets.

Ripple finalised its MPI licensing process. Ripple’s chief, Brad Garlinghouse, said, “Singapore has developed into one of the leading fintech and digital asset hubs, striking the balance between innovation, consumer protection and responsible growth.” The company mentioned that 90% of its business was outside the country and will continue to prioritise the Asia Pacific to adopt its crypto-backed products. 

Singapore’s Crypto Background

Cryptocurrencies have become a trending topic, and there is no denying that it has incredible potential to revolutionise the financial industry; however, there are risks. The MAS highly supports fintech innovations, recognises the potential for misuse, and has established new rules and measures to regulate crypto-related services in Singapore. MAS has prescribed crypto, also known as digital payment token (DPT), under the Payment Services Act 2019 (PSA).

The service facilitating crypto exchange is regulated under the PSA, which includes buying and selling DPTs. In 2021, to further align with the enhanced Financial Action Task Force Standards relating to digital assets service providers, the PSA was amended to develop the scope of regulated payment services. From time to time, MAS has clarified whether a particular service or product constitutes cryptocurrency.

As Upbit strides in Singapore’s financial arena, it underscores the country’s position as a leading hub for digital finance and innovation. The Major Payment Institution licence approval by the Monetary Authority of Singapore illustrates the country’s forward-thinking approach to digital assets. Upbit Singapore is making its mark, and the island nation is positioning itself at the forefront of the evolving global crypto ecosystem.


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