According to a report in the UK’s Financial News on Tuesday, popular high-street lender Nationwide is evaluating its crypto policy.
As the world’s largest building society (basically a bank without shareholders), Nationwide announced plans to “monitor the situation regarding cryptocurrencies,” including heightened vigilance in areas where its consumers may be targeted by scammers.
In a statement, the company stated that actions will include banning suspicious payments and delivering “tailored scam warnings.”
The United Kingdom’s crypto crackdown
Cryptocurrency lenders such as Santander, NatWest, and Barclays have joined a fast growing list of financial institutions and banks in the United Kingdom that are putting the pinch on cryptocurrency.
Many governments are either prohibiting crypto exchanges, restricting transactions, or boosting their monitoring of cryptocurrency transactions.
When it comes to its customers dealing with cryptocurrencies, UK banks have never been overly thrilled.
The most recent crackdown began in January, when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of the United Kingdom announced a ban on the trading of cryptocurrency derivatives, claiming that these products were “ill-suited” for regular clients.
The FCA responded in March by saying that crypto firms will now be forced to submit annual financial crime reports to the regulator, in the same way, that other financial services firms must.
In June, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) raised the stakes by issuing a list of more than a hundred unregistered crypto-asset firms that it claimed constituted a risk to consumers.”
Mark Steward, head of enforcement and market monitoring at the Financial Conduct Authority, said, “We have a number of firms that are clearly conducting business in the United Kingdom without being registered with us, and they are dealing with someone: banks, payment services firms, consumers.”
When the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called for heightened vigilance, banks and other financial institutions were quick to respond.
Customers of Barclays, one of the United Kingdom’s top five banks, will no longer be able to use their debit or credit cards to make payments to Binance, one of the world’s major cryptocurrency exchanges, as of Monday, according to the bank. Clients can still withdraw monies from the exchange, notwithstanding this restriction.
The action occurred just a few days after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning to consumers, stating that the exchange was not permitted to conduct regulated activities in the country, such as spot trading.
While another well-known financial institution, NatWest, hesitated at a complete ban, it has instead set a limit on the maximum daily amount of money that customers can send to any bitcoin exchange.
Additionally, it has suspended payments to a “small number of cryptocurrency asset firms,” according to a Financial News spokeswoman, who did not identify the firms affected.
Meanwhile, high-street lender Santander is re-evaluating its policy regarding cryptocurrency exchanges, after reporting a “significant increase in the number of customers looking to buy cryptocurrencies” over the past several months.
In a statement to Financial News, a spokeswoman for Lloyds stated that cryptocurrency payments on credit cards were not permitted and that other payment methods were evaluated on an individual basis.
What is the driving force behind the FCA’s actions?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) argues that its efforts are in reaction to an increased danger of money laundering and serious criminal activity.
Earlier this month, the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom released its annual assessment, which found that “criminal use of technology is increasing, and the use of crypto assets to launder money has increased across a wide range of crime types.”
When it comes to Binance, the FCA has joined a growing number of regulators around the world (including those in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, and the Cayman Islands, where Binance is registered) that are taking a negative attitude towards the cryptocurrency exchange.
In the United Kingdom, however, it appears that the warnings regarding the dangers of bitcoin transactions are falling on deaf ears, at the very least.
According to a survey commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority, only one in every ten persons was aware of its warnings. And, of those who had seen them, 44 percent stated that they would have no impact on their plans to purchase or hold cryptocurrencies in the future.