Bitcoin wallet startup Circle has been granted an electronic money license from a top UK financial regulator.
The approval from the UK Financial Conduct Authority – the first of its kind for a digital currency startup – allows Circle to establish a business relationship with London-based bank Barclays.
As a result, Circle is now able to store pound sterling on behalf of its customer base – similar to how it holds dollars for its customers in the US. Further, UK customers can now send money to and from their bank accounts.
“We support the exploration of positive uses of blockchain that can benefit consumers and society,” a spokesperson for Barclays told Reuters.
Circle outlined the announcement in a new blog post, which also detailed the company’s thesis on creating a more social payments platform. For example, customers can include digital media like emojis when they transfer funds.
Co-founders Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire wrote:
“With Circle’s UK launch, we’re bringing this global vision another step forward. For the first time ever, any consumer in the US or UK can instantly send value, without fees, and with the convenience of sending an email or text. US dollars and pound sterling are becoming more digital and global, and we’re gearing up to bring the same capability to Euro-zone consumers.”
The E-Money license extends past the UK, opening the doors to the rest of the European Union for Circle. The startup indicated that it has plans to add support for euros later this year as part of that planned expansion.
The move also earned praise from the government. In a statement, MP Harriett Baldwin, economic secretary to the UK Treasury, framed the move as part of a broader push for more FinTech firms to make their home in London.
“Britain’s FinTech industry is growing all the time and I am proud the government is playing its part,” she said. “Circle’s decision to launch in the UK and the firm’s new partnership with Barclays are major milestones.”
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Circle.
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