Mario Draghi. "It's too soon... Cash is still popular". Getty Images
The cryptocurrency market is a fact. Nobody can ignore the growing numbers of coins, the companies behind them and the ICOs that helped bring them to life. In order to make this market more accessible to the wider public, regulation is needed. And for proper regulation, the cryptosphere depends on the word of decision makers - heads of state, who in turn take counsel from the chief executives of their national financial systems.
While some top regulators view the evolving new market with suspicions, others are more supportive and look forward to integrating the market into the global finance system. Most of these people are considered anonymous. Some of them are mere humble civil servants.
These are the people who can change the world by saying only a few words. By making just one decision they can create global shockwaves. Meet the movers and shakers of the cryptosphere, the people who have the best chances of influencing the global crypto trend. The world’s top 20 regulators ranked - this is BLOCKTV's official countdown.
“Distributed ledgers have not yet been thoroughly tested and require substantial further development before they could be used in a central bank context.” These are the words of Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank since 2011. Draghi, to put it mildly, is not the biggest supporter of cryptocurrency, or possibly any move forward.
“It’s too soon to talk of a means of payment for the future. We need to think further”, "Cash is still very popular". These quotes are reflective of what Draghi thinks of crypto. When faced with questions about crypto regulation, Draghi usually sticks to the same line: Crypto is not secure enough yet, and it is not up to the ECB to regulate or ban crypto coins. Draghi was ranked by Forbes as “the 8th most powerful person in the world”, and a year later was dubbed “the second greatest world leader” by Fortune magazine. As such a top financier, he could have exerted his influence in favor of regulating cryptocurrency, but Draghi prefers to absolve himself from the responsibility, and just keep observing the market. Dragging will not get you anywhere, Mr. Draghi.
Andrew Bailey. "If you want to invest in Bitcoin, be prepared to lose your money". Getty Images
At number 19 stands Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. The UK is considered the world’s 5th largest economy; however, Bailey shows no sign of intending to regulate cryptocurrency in the Kingdom. A doctor of History, Bailey joined the Bank of England in 1985 and has held several senior financial posts since then. Bailey is hardly a crypto enthusiast; Last year he refused to recognize Bitcoin as a currency or a digital asset, saying: “if you want to invest in Bitcoin, be prepared to lose your money”. Will Bailey, as the head of the FCA, go ahead with cryptocurrency regulation? At the moment such a scenario seems highly unlikely, but the UK may follow other countries if a regulatory trend emerges. Bailey himself doesn't seem to be the man who will take this bold initiative.
Hester Maria Peirce. "Progress should not be bound by limits of lawyerly imagination". Getty Images
Hester Maria Peirce is a commissioner on the US Security Exchange Commission (SEC). Nominated by President Donald Trump in early 2017, Peirce is a crypto friendly face among the tough SEC board. Peirce holds a BA in economics from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a JD of law from Yale. She also has some experience in politics, as a former staffer for Senator Richard Shelby (D-AL).
Last August, a day after the SEC rejected 9 Bitcoin ETF proposals, Peirce was the commissioner who announced that these rejections will be reviewed. The cryptosphere reacted with a standing ovation and Peirce was immediately thrown in the spotlight as the friendliest voice to crypto to ever come from within the SEC. In May Peirce addressed the issue, saying: “we must be careful not to let our lack of familiarity with new technology breed anxiety, and therefore bad regulation”, adding that “the law deserves respect, but technological progress should not be bound by the limits of the regulator’s lawyerly imagination”. It is this kind of statements that gives hope that even the US may soon acknowledge the need to regulate cryptocurrency.
Lesetja Kganyago. "Banks need to embrace fintech or they will disappear". Getty Images
Who’s gonna take Africa one step ahead? At number 18 we have the perfect candidate, Lesetja Kganyago, Governor of South Africa’s Reserve Bank. South Africa leads the continent in crypto activity, with “Bitcoin” being the most trending term in the country on Google search. Kganyago, who has degrees in international trade and public administration, has expressed openness to innovative technologies on a number of occasions. “Banks need to embrace fintech or they will disappear”, he said in early 2018. Two years earlier, he stated South Africa is “willing to consider the merits and risks of blockchain technology and other distributed ledgers”. South Africa is working slowly, but with Kganyago as the face of its financial conduct, it may be heading the right way.
Louis Morisset. "We welcome this type of innovation". Getty Images
At number 16 is Louis Morisset, President of the Canadian Securities Administrators since 2015. Morisset speaks highly about the future of crypto, but the organization he heads released statements warning the public from the abundance of risks involved in crypto trade. A Law graduate from the University of Montreal, Morisset remains positive on the prospects of crypto, saying “the technology behind cryptocurrency has the potential to generate new capital raising opportunities for businesses, and we welcome this type of innovation”. Oh Canada, be the home and native land for crypto traders.
Chui Jong-Ku. "Make the crypto transaction system stable and strengthen the protection of traders". Getty Images
Chui Jong-Ku serves as Chairman of South Korea’s Financial Services Commission since July 2017. He has accumulated decades of service in the Korean financial community. His previous job was the Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of Korea.
South Korea is widely considered one of the friendliest countries to crypto, and Chui has been the leader of the country’s exploration of the cryptosphere and attempts to regulate it. These experiments may prove far-reaching to the rest of the world, as the Koreans continue to venture boldly into crypto and actually test crypto-related innovations. According to some estimates, South Korea accounts for roughly 30% of the global crypto trade. In June, following the hacking of the Seoul-based Bithumb exchange, Chui said: “we need to make the crypto transaction system stable, and strengthen the protection of traders by virtual currency handling businesses”, thus demonstrating South Korea's intentions to move further in developing a financial system that supports crypto trade.
Eva Kaili. "We aspire to make the EU a leading player in the field of blockchain". Getty Images
Eva Kaili is a Greek member of the European Parliament and a vocal supporter of an orderly regulation for cryptocurrency. This 39-year-old journalist-turned-politician apparently wants to be the fresh face of blockchain in the EU. She was the first MEP to draft a parliamentary resolution calling for “open-minded, progressive and innovation-friendly regulation”. This puts her at the forefront of EU policy towards cryptocurrency.
A former TV anchor in Greece, Kaili obtained an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Piraeus. She is a strong supporter of blockchain technologies, but she also plays the responsible politician, taking into consideration the damage that can be caused to many sectors if blockchain was to be fully adopted, saying: “we aspire to make the EU a leading player in the field of blockchain, and as regulators, we need to make sure that all this effort will be embraced by the necessary institutional and legal certainty”. The EU remains behind other world powers in blockchain, but with Kaili, it may be pushing forward soon.
At number 13 is the gentle but tough face of Japanese regulation. Meet Toshihide Endo, commissioner of Japan’s Financial Services Agency. 59 years of age, Endo holds degrees in law and economy. He joined the Japanese Finance Ministry in 1982, and this year he took over the top position from reformist Nobuchika Mori. In his previous role, Endo tightened regulation on the country’s financial institutions and introduced stress tests for all banks. Upon his appointment, Japan’s Finance Minister assured the public that he was “putting the right person in the right place”.
We tend to agree with that statement. Japan has been consistent in its growing pro-crypto policy and it seems inevitable that Endo will keep the country’s strong position on the crypto market. Just recently, refering to the crypto market, Endo said explicitly: "We have no intention to curb it excessively. We would like to see it grow under appropriate regulation".
Steven Maijoor. Cryptophob. Getty Images
Steven Maijoor, Chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority since 2011, is a European regulator who's afraid of ICOs, and appears to be extremely skeptic and full of concerns towards the cryptosphere. Previously a prominent figure in Dutch economics, Maijoor, a doctor of Economics, issued a warning to investors in cryptocurrency, that they risk losing all their investment money. This stands in contrast to views expressed by other prominent EU regulators. On the issue of regulating crypto, Maijoor remains neutral at best, saying that “while the so-called ICOs can give you services in return for the coin you buy, this happens in a very unregulated space”.
Christopher Giancarlo. "A thoughtful regulatory approach". Getty Images
We head back to the US for our number 11. Meet Christopher Giancarlo, who may well be the guardian-angel of crypto in the US. Chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Mr. Giancarlo told the Senate upon his appointment: “We owe it to this new generation, to respect their interest in this new technology with a thoughtful regulatory approach. We must crack down hard on those who abuse our young enthusiasm for Bitcoin and blockchain technology for their own personal gains”.
Giancarlo’s approach towards crypto isn’t limited to statements only. Under his Presidency, the CFTC published a large number of consumer educational materials on cryptocurrency, including written statements, podcasts, webinars, briefings for senior citizens and a website dedicated to Bitcoin. Giancarlo said that the CFTC has never conducted such outreach for any other financial product. He also pushes the CFTC to analyze data on crypto trade, in search for frauds and manipulations. Respected by both Presidents Trump and Obama, Giancarlo definitely represents an optimistic view of crypto. It remains to be seen whether his views would become popular in Washington DC, but American crypto traders can safely trust his intentions.
Mark Zuckerberg. "I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies". Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg needs no introduction. The CEO and co-founder of Facebook is no official regulator, of course, but he seems to have a lot of influence over the blockchain industry. In May 2018, Facebook announced that it’s setting up a small pioneering team that will focus on blockchain and its potential implications. This team is headed by David Marcus, former PayPal CEO who also lead the Messenger app team in Facebook. It was also rumored that Facebook is considering buying Coinbase, the biggest crypto exchange in the US, where Marcus is a board member since 2017.
Given the enormous political power that Facebook holds, we can only imagine what would take place, should the tech behemoth announce a massive entrance to the cryptosphere. Zuckerberg already declared crypto research his personal challenge of the year. This was followed by a Facebook ban on crypto ads, for fears of “misleading and deceptive promotional practices”. The ban was later removed.
Sometimes it seems Zuckerberg is merely reacting to competition from other companies, most notably Telegram, that managed to raise 2 billion dollars for their ICO. Whatever his motivations are, Zuckerberg is set to become a key person in the crypto market’s road to meet mainstream users. In a post to mark the new year, Zuckerberg wrote: “there are important counter-trends… like cryptocurrency, that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services”. We are waiting to see the outcome.
Elvira Nabiullina. "We do nnot legalize pyramids". Getty Images
For our number 9 we turn to Moscow and the headquarters of Russia’s central bank. Meet Elvira Nabiullina, the central bank’s chairwoman – and the first lady of the opposition to crypto. A former minister and personal advisor to President Vladimir Putin, Nabiullina refuses to acknowledge any potential benefits of cryptocurrency. “We do not legalize pyramids”, she told the International Bankers Forum, and on another occasion she elaborated: “the use of cryptocurrency as a surrogate for the Ruble in trading in goods and services, has a risk of undermining the circulation of money. We will not allow the use of cryptocurrency as surrogate money”.
With such an attitude, it may seem that Russia will not be regulating crypto in the near future - even though Moscow was strongly rumored to be flirting with the idea of a national cryptocurrency. Nabiullina categorically opposes even the equation of cryptocurrencies to fiat money because of its decentralized character. In 2017, British magazine The Banker named her “central banker of the year, Europe”. If Nabiullina will not be instructed otherwise, the Russian market for cryptocurrency will remain in deep freeze.
Valdis Dombrovskis. "Europe MUST embrace this innovation". Getty Images
At number 8 we have Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s Vice President for the Euro and Social Dialogue. A responsive observer, the 47-year-old Latvian official is the person in charge of proper regulation of Europe’s financial markets. He is also the man in charge of promoting a global regulatory approach, and this is why it is no big surprise that he shows a lot of interest in the evolving crypto market.
Dombrovskis also seems the most crypto-enthusiast among top EU officials. Dombrovskis served the as Prime Minister of Latvia for more than 4 years, and resigned his post after a shopping mall fire in the capital Riga caused the death of 54 people, saying that “the government takes full responsibility for the tragedy”. So, he appears to be a responsible statesman with a lot of interest in crypto.
Referring to blockchain, Dombrovskis said it “holds strong promise for financial markets. To remain competitive, Europe must embrace this innovation.” Looking at the market, he differentiates between various coins, and in order to avoid risks of money-laundering, he proposed that “virtual currency exchanges and wallet providers should be subject to the Anti-Money Laundering Directive.” For now, the EU still represents only a small share of the global crypto trade, and while Dombrovskis cannot make revolutionary decisions on his own, he may very well turn out to be the driving force behind a possible future change in the EU economic regime.
Jones. Co-regulated market. GFSC
Our number 7 rocks – as it represents the tiny rocky territory of Gibraltar. Meet Sian Jones, the lady who looks to cryptonize Europe. 65 years of age, this tech entrepreneur and policy advisor has become a presenter for Gibraltar’s ambition to become the most crypto-friendly country in the world. Jones moved from Britain to Gibraltar for that very purpose. Since November 2017, she is the person leading the DLT policy for the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission.
Jones also leads the European Digital Currency and Blockchain Technology Forum, advising EU regulators; and she was the founder of CoinSult, a UK-based consultancy firm focusing on the crypto market and regulating it. She has no academic education, yet Jones helped Gibraltar become the base of activity for over 200 blockchain enterprises. Other small countries, most notably Malta, are now following in these footsteps. Jones believes that the crypto market is co-regulated, saying that “the marketplace will determine on its own what a good ICO looks like”. BLOCKTV believes in Jones and the example she has set for the rest of the world.
Anton Siluanov. "Cryptocurrencies are a reality, no point in prohibiting them". Getty Images
“A good, solid specialist”, said Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011 when he appointed Anton Siluanov to the crucial post of Russia’s Finance Minister. Except for a brief period in military service, it seems Siluanov spent most of his life in the Ministry of Finance in Moscow, since the days it was Soviet, eventually becoming its top man. In his capacity as Finance Minister, Siluanov is also the Russian representative in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
When it comes to crypto, Siluanov prefers observing the market and reacting as little than possible, rather than trying to introduce regulation. While promoting legislation in the field, Siluanov consistently warns against the volatility of the cryptosphere, and the immense risk of fraud. He was against creating a national Russian cryptocurrency, Due to the field’s decentralized character. “The state certainly understands that cryptocurrencies are a reality. There is no point in prohibiting them”, he said at the Moscow Financial Forum in 2017, “It is possible to regulate them, so the Finance Ministry will draw up a bill by the end of next year”.
Official regulation in Russia is yet to be announced, but meanwhile, Siluanov keeps up the mixed approach. Yes to regulation, not to everyone, yes to cryptocurrency but not all cryptocurrencies. We are still waiting to see whether Anton Siluanov would lead a regulatory revolution in Russia, that will trigger shock effects in the rest of the world.
Pierre Moscovici. "We don't have to react to Bitcoin at this stage". Getty Images
Meet Pierre Moscovici, the EU Commissioner for Economic & Financial affairs, and a cool, relaxed observer of the crypto market. While other top functionaries mentioned here urge or reject regulation, or avoid stating any clear stance, Mocovici, a champion of French socialism, remains quiet and self-assured when it comes to crypto. In an interview to Bloomberg, Moscovici confirmed that the EU is constantly looking into the market, but added: “we don’t think we have to react to Bitcoin at this stage as a political and technical body”.
The protégé of shamed former IMF Chief and Presidential Candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Moscovici worked his way up French politics, from being a youth revolutionary, through holding the post of National Secretary of the French Socialist Party, all the way to being a cabinet member in two French governments.
Moscovici insists that the EU should take a relaxed approach towards crypto, which basically means wait and see what happens. This stands in contrast to views expressed by other top EU officials. Still, on December 2017, the British press reported that he ordered the EU to make plans to end anonymity for crypto traders, citing anti-money laundering and tax evasion crackdowns. Moscovici will continue to observe, but when the right moment comes, he looks set to lead the EU into full regulation of cryptocurrency.
Yi Gang. A new era? Getty Images
Yi Gang is frequently called “the Silver Fox” for his suave and soft-spoken conduct. He is Governor of the People’s Bank of China, the central financial institution in the hottest country to make business in. Under the leadership of strongman Xi Jinping, China recently shut down all crypto operations and blocked all searches for crypto. Starting in early 2018, China has banned all exchanges and mining operations, however it is still legal for traders to accept crypto. The motive behind these moves remains hazy, with some analysts claiming this may lead to a market-breaking launch of a new official Chinese cryptocurrency.
Yi himself has said before that he found Bitcoin “inspiring” and predicted it will remain in the focus of global attention in the long-term. A fluent English speaker, Yi is one of the very few senior Chinese officials to rise to the top after an extensive period of living overseas, in his case in the US. He never spared the Chinese economy from criticism, although limited and diplomatic in nature. He was the only nominee to the post and his appointment was hailed by President Xi as a “new era” in Chinese economy.
While taking cryptocurrency very seriously, Yi said Bitcoin cannot be recognized by China “in the near future”. In another occasion, Yi said that “Bitcoin is a currency that provides freedom to anyone who uses it”. Even U.S. officials described Yi as “a very strong technical leader with lots of skills”. This leaves us with the profile of a very prominent person, who may in the future be the brains behind a world revolution – but this depends on political resolutions that need to take place in Beijing.
Mark Branson. "Cryptomania is everywhere, regulators must face up to it". Getty Images
In the past year, Switzerland has become one of the friendliest countries for blockchain and crypto businesses in the world. This was a result of the creation of clear and relatively simple guidelines for ICOs, balancing between certainty for entrepreneurs and protection for investors. Mark Branson, who heads the Swiss national finance authority FINMA since 2014, has kept the Swiss rules strict.
Branson, a British national who became the first non-Swiss person to lead FINMA, is the man who started building blockchains in the Alps. In 2017 he undertook action against the growing number of fraudulent ICOs in the market. He introduced national crypto guidelines, which helped reinforce trust but also slowed the pace of the creation of new ventures. In order to help bridge the gap between the crypto market and traditional Swiss banks, Branson helped found the first-in-the-world Crypto-Assets Exchange in Switzerland.
Looking at blockchain, Branson said it “gives rise to serious and successful projects, while others don’t”. He vowed to stop any illegal use of funds in blockchain, while making sure the agency he heads maintains its strict neutrality. It was during his time as FINMA director that the small town of Zug became world famous as "crypto-valley", the hub of crypto activity in the country. Crypto valley has attracted blockchain-utilizing residents such as the Ethereum Foundation and Vitalik Buterin.
Branson's FINMA has cleared the way for blockchain innovation. He makes it clear that its strategic goals "are based on providing equal opportunities for existing as well as new business models", Branson sees reality clearly: "Cryptomania is everywhere", he told the International Monetary Institute, adding that regulators must face up to it. We couldn't agree more.
Christine Lagarde. "We need to develop regulatory frameworks to meet an evolving challenge”. Getty Images
Christine Lagarde is a real international political power holder. She is the head of the International Monetary Fund, the international body working to achieve global financial stability, monetary cooperation and economic growth. A regular in Forbes Magazine’s list of world’s most influential leader, and one of the most powerful people in the global financial system and on earth, this 62-year-old health-conscious vegetarian attempts to take leadership over global economy and its moves towards integrating cryptocurrency and the supporting technologies.
A former French Finance Minister, Lagarde is a vocal proponent of introducing global regulation over crypto. Her opinions on the crypto market appear to be balanced, and she keeps pushing forward the world discussion, calling for an “even-handed approach”. In a landmark blog last March, she wrote: “Digital offerings are typically built in a decentralized way and without the need for a central bank… the result is a potentially major new vehicle for money-laundering and the finance of terrorism… we need to develop regulatory frameworks to meet an evolving challenge”. She pledged the IMF will play its part in this effort: “With our near-universal membership and expertise… we are uniquely situated to be a forum for helping develop answers in the evolving crypto-asset space”. Lagarde adds: “crypto-assets know no boundaries, therefore international cooperation will be essential”.
A brave senior power broker with a strong commitment to fighting the illnesses of the new system is exactly the kind of person we think the cryptosphere needs.
Jay Clayton. “We should embrace the pursuit of technological advancement". Getty Images
Finally, BLOCKTV’s choice for the world’s number 1 regulator, with the biggest potential to change the way the global finance system handles crypto trade, is the US SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton. Walter “Jay” Joseph Clayton III was appointed in 2017 by President Donald Trump, He got the job because of his skeptic approach towards regulations, which fitted the President’s own agenda.
Born to a Virginia blue-collar family and raised in Pennsylvania, Clayton is married to Gretchen, a Vice President at Goldman Sachs. A former Wall Street attorney, Clayton specialized in mergers and acquisitions, with a list of respectable clients such as Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.
Clayton is arguably the most influential figure in the US administration when it comes to the crypto market. Along with his SEC team, he is quietly tailoring different structures of regulation that would be allowed in the field. While cryptocurrencies are not intended to be regulated, most of the ICOs, which Clayton sees as securities, are starting to be regulated by the SEC – a move that has shaken the industry worldwide. Clayton has a similar agenda for the blockchain industry. According to estimates in Washington DC, his final goal is to bring the crypto market into the mainstream, in a way that would prevent it from threatening the big Wall Street establishments.
Clayton is also a cyber security enthusiast, who thinks the US government should put in more efforts in defense from such threats. “We should embrace the pursuit of technological advancement, as well as new and innovative techniques for capital raising, but not at the expense of the principles undermining our well-founded and proven approach to protecting investors and markets. Whether Clayton is the guardian angel of crypto or its undertaker, Clayton’s consistent approach strongly stands out. And we are looking for a revolution.