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Silvergate suspends cryptocurrency payments network; why does it matter?

Igor Grigorchenko

News editor

Mar 7, 2023 at 06:47

Regulatory pressure has led to the crisis of one of the most important banks for the crypto sector. Silvergate is a system bank for the global cryptocurrency infrastructure; it converts payments into fiat and crypto, serving major cryptocurrency companies and exchanges. Let’s look at what happened and what the potential dangers are.

What happened

Silvergate Bank announced the termination of its Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN) cryptocurrency transfer network. The SEN network, one of the bank’s most popular offerings, provided round-the-clock payments between investors and cryptocurrency exchanges.

“Effective immediately, Silvergate Bank has made a risk-based decision to discontinue the Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN). All other deposit-related services remain operational,” Silvergate said in a statement.

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After Silvergate reported uncertainty about the viability of its business, many cryptocurrency exchanges and companies, such as Coinbase, Paxos, Circle, and Gemini, began officially refusing to work with the bank.

Chronology of events

Reports of problems with the bank followed this chronology:

  • The U.S. Justice Department’s Fraud Control Unit is investigating Silvergate’s dealings with crypto exchange FTX and related hedge fund Alameda Research. This was reported by Bloomberg last week, citing its own sources.
  • On March 2, Silvergate Capital Corporation’s market capitalization plummeted 49% amid news that the bank had delayed publication of its annual report to the SEC. The company said it needed “additional time” to complete its audit.
  • Silvergate Bank announced that it was shutting down its Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN) cryptocurrency transfer network.
  • A number of major crypto exchanges are already experiencing problems converting crypto into U.S. dollars as Silvergate Bank’s settlement network has been shut down.
  • The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is monitoring the situation at Silvergate Bank. White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre stated this during a briefing yesterday.

What are the implications?

The first news of potential problems with Silvergate, the crypto industry’s most important bank, came last week, stopping the Bitcoin price rally, which had reached $24k by then. The negative news surrounding this important infrastructure bank has already caused the price to drop to $22k, causing FUD in the market over the implications of another potential fall of a major crypto-related company. Silvergate itself has lost about 60% of its stock price amid problems with its regulatory investigation.

Nevertheless, some market participants are expressing optimism about the possibility of Silvergate being replaced by new players. Amid all the problems with current payments, two major companies have already expressed their intentions to do so in the near future:

  • BCB Group founder Oliver von Landsberg-Sadie announced his intention to fill the hole left by the closure of the Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN) by providing members of the crypto market with a seamless U.S. dollar transaction service. London-based BCB became one of the first regulated cryptocurrency payment integrators to receive a financial exchange license from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Oliver said that, unlike SEN, BLINC’s payment platform is not subject to the restrictions of a single credit institution. This is ensured by BLINC’s decentralized design, which offers access to multi-currency transactions from multiple banks in Europe, Switzerland, and the UK.

  • American crypto exchange Kraken confirmed its intention to open its own banking institution to convert fiat into crypto in the near future, despite the complicated regulatory environment and claims of regulators. 

According to a fresh message on Twitter, a specific date for the opening of the bank has not yet been determined, but every customer of the exchange can already sign up for notifications about the launch of the banking service.

Brief conclusion

This situation creates great difficulties (especially for large U.S. investors) to exit crypto for the U.S. dollar. Also, the situation has affected some exchanges, whose customers have lost the ability to work with the U.S. dollar; now they cannot withdraw their money to the lir bank accounts. The bank, which was engaged in conversion, stopped its work because of the regulator’s pressure. 

The situation creates a lot of uncertainty and nervousness in the crypto market, which has already had a negative effect on the price of Bitcoin. We can only hope that this will not lead to another major crisis.

It will take some time for the industry to readjust and somehow adapt to this stressful situation. One possible solution is the use of alternative players, who will soon enter this market: BCB and Kraken Financial.

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