Coinbase has launched its bitcoin wallet, exchange and merchant services in the UK.
The UK is only the second country, after the US, to gain access to the San Francisco-based company's bitcoin trading platform – Coinbase Exchange.
Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong said the decision to launch in the UK was partly influenced by his trip to London last year.
"The interest in the UK is at a different level than it is elsewhere in Europe. We got the sense that the demand there was really high … [and] London is a financial capital of the world, so it was a logical next step," he explained.
Users in the UK can now trade bitcoin on the Coinbase Exchange in two new currency pairs – BTC/GBP and BTC/EUR.
Customers are now able to add GBP and US dollars to their Coinbase wallets via wire transfer and can add euro using SEPA. The company's merchant tools are also available in the UK.
The exchange launched in select states in the US three months ago and Armstrong said he was more than pleased at how well it has performed to date.
"We're already the biggest exchange by volume in the US and number three or four in the world, depending on the data you look at. I think launching in the UK will help improve on that and increase the liquidity on the platform," he said.
Banks and regulators
Armstrong said the two major issues Coinbase has faced when trying to expand into other countries are trying to get banks to cooperate and navigating regulatory environments.
The CEO explained his company has a banking partner in the EU region (although declined to name it), which agreed to support GBP payments.
He said working with regulators in the UK was time consuming, but he gave credit to the financial regulatory body, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA):
"The FCA has been really great to work with. I think they're being very forward thinking in this space right now. The UK regulators were very easy to work with and I think are setting a good precedent for how other countries should look at this."
Coinbase is in talks with regulators and banks in a number of other countries with a view of expanding access to its exchange and wallet even further.
"One of our goals is that we want to try to be, as a wallet at least, available in 40 countries by the end of this year, which is a pretty ambitious goal – we're in 24 right now. But I think that will certainly be possible," said Armstrong.
His company, which has raised a total of $106m to date, currently employs 105 people across the globe, boasts 2.1 million users and provides bitcoin payment processing services to over 39,000 merchants.
Armstrong explained that Coinbase's strategy is threefold: "Our strategy is: Launch the exchange, make it the most liquid exchange in a bunch of different countries. Launch the API, make it easier for people to build all sorts of applications, and the third thing is our consumer wallet, so we're expanding that to a bunch of developing and first world countries."
"If we can get all of those three things done, I think we're going to be able to help move the bitcoin ecosystem forward."
UK image via Shutterstock