BVNK interview at FMLS 2022: Chris Harmse talks regulated crypto payments

Rick Steves

The 10th anniversary edition of Finance Magnates London Summit has taken place between 21 – 23 November 2022 at the Old Billingsgate, London.

FMLS 2022

The conference accommodated a varying array of industry panels, workshops and fireside chats led by pioneers of the financial services, crypto, payments and fintech industries.

Among them was BVNK, a UK-based payments startup that provides crypto-enabled payments to global businesses

FinanceFeeds spoke with Chris Harmse, who co-founded BVNK after a decade in cross asset (Equity, FX, Rates) capital markets.

BVNK at the intersection of crypto and fiat in a regulated way: EMI and VASP licenses

BVNK launched in September 2021 and leverages partnerships with leading names within the ecosystem such as B2C2, Genesis, Modulr, Fireblocks, and Copper.

The goal is to allow customers to bridge between fiat currencies and digital assets to make payments borderless, instant, and secure.

At its core, BVNK is a payments business, but it innovates by building crypto payment products such a crypto gateway for brokers and merchants to accept crypto payments without the hassle of converting crypto to fiat and back. The firm also boasts a global settlement network that allows merchants to do cross border payments through an upgraded infrastructure using all regulated fiat-backed stablecoins.

This puts BVNK at the intersection of crypto financial systems and fiat systems in a highly regulated and compliant way, Chris Harmse told FinanceFeeds Editor-in-Chief Nikolai Isayev, adding that on the fiat side the firm is regulated through EMI (Electronic Money Institution) licensing, while on the crypto side of the business, the firm holds a VASP (Virtual Asset Services Provider) license in Spain.

BVNK earlier this week announced the acquisition of SPS Ltd, an FCA-regulated EMI which opens the door to a broader product offering: a one-stop payment solution for businesses that includes e-money services, e-wallets, and multi-currency accounts for merchants.

“Bad actors in crypto doesn’t mean crypto is bad”

The conversation then moved from BVNK to the current sentiment within the crypto industry. An “unfortunate turn of events”, he said about the collapse of a number of big players, including Celsius Network and most recently, FTX.

Chris Harmse pointed to a number of reasons that led to the ‘crypto winter’, including startups that scaled to quickly to outright fraud, but the existence of “bad actors in crypto doesn’t mean crypto technology is bad”, he affirmed, while also taking the opportunity to remind the audience that BVNK wasn’t minimally affected by these events.

The startup does not associate itself with the volatility of asset prices, quite the contrary, as its business relies on providing conversion between fiat currencies and cryptos through fiat-backed stablecoins. Still, the collapse of a few digital asset industry giants due to failures in risk management and even fraud is notably leading to a period of slowdown in adoption.

“We’re seeing a natural skepticism from end users”, Chris Harmse admitted. “We need time for things to settle down.”

Focus will go back on the real use cases of crypto

Regulation will hopefully bring back trust to the space and BVNK is “obviously following regulation closely”. Chris Harmse applauded Europe for coming together with the MiCA regulation, and lamented the United States’ current regulatory environment, namely the infighting and the SEC’s regulation by enforcement practice.

“At the end of the day regulation is good”, he continued, pointing out that it needs to be “well thought out, clear, and globally adopted” in order to “avoid regulatory arbitrage”. Unified regulation is thus the way to go.

As to the key themes for crypto in 2023, the quick answer was “regulation” and how agencies react to what’s currently happening in the space. We’ll also be dealing with the contagion effect as the ‘crypto winter’ continues and at the same time, the focus will go back on the real use cases of crypto.

“We are really well positioned. Our business is building around the payments use case. There’s obviously speculative use cases that have come to crypto. In boom markets these things come out. At the end of the day, the payment use case is an upgrade of traditional payments infrastructure.”

BVNK will be relaunching a few products and services and is currently working on further products, still in their proof-of-concept stage. In the meantime, the firm will continue to work with highly regulated financial institutions to bring about compliant payment services for brokers and merchants.

Read this next

Retail FX

AvaTrade seals sponsorship deal with F1’s Aston Martin team

Dublin-based forex broker AvaTrade today announced that it has concluded a sponsorship deal with Formula One’s Aston Martin Cognizant team that entails sponsorship rights and other marketing benefits.

Executive Moves

M4Markets onboards Invaxa CEO Marios Antoniou as COO

Seychelles-regulated brokerage firm M4Markets has appointed Marios Antoniou, who has a colorful career within the foreign exchange industry, in the capacity of its Chief Operations Officer.

Digital Assets

GK8 now allows clients to control their digital assets as they would their fiat

“As the institutional market is increasingly turning to self custody, our policy engine empowers them to automate transactions, approvals, and even crucial workflows, while providing the highest degree of security, consistency, governance and control.”

Digital Assets

Retail CBDCs in the UK: “Welcomed” by CryptoUK and R3, but “Dystopian” for ETC Group

“At this stage, we judge it likely that the digital pound will be needed in the future. It is too early to decide whether to introduce the digital pound, but we are convinced preparatory work is justified”, said the BoE and HM Treasury.

Institutional FX

Centroid taps Iress API to provide retail brokers with real-time market data

“It has always been a challenge to have an efficient, elegant solution for market data and order execution for retail brokers, but with Iress we have found absolutely the right partner to add to our client offering.”

Digital Assets

Ramp launches FCA-approved off-ramp product, onboards Brave, Trust Wallet, Ledger

“To obtain and maintain our FCA registration, we must meet and operate within their strict anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards. This is a huge achievement for us, as compliance is a cornerstone of our business and what we stand for.”

Institutional FX

State Street launches FIX API for Fund Connect ETF platform

“Expanding from proprietary APIs to the FIX industry standard will bring us closer to our goal of 100% digital interactions. This is another example of innovations we’ve brought to our operating model as we celebrate 30 years of servicing ETFs since the launch of SPY.”

Industry News

HollyWally opens office in Portugal to bring B2B2C wallet-as-a-service platform to Europe

“We looked at a number of centers for startups throughout Europe and were attracted straight away to Lisbon. There is great Government support and enthusiasm for startups, it’s well positioned between our Asian and US offices, it’s a cost-effective city in which to base a fintech and it’s a beautiful place.”

Retail FX

Eightcap integrates Acuity’s economic calendar for trade ideas on MT4 or MT5

“By incorporating Acuity’s cutting-edge AI technology into our platform, we are able to offer our clients a powerful new tool that will help them stay ahead of the markets. We are committed to providing an extensive range of tools and educational resources that will enhance our clients’ trading experience and allow them to trade smarter.”

<