Tinkoff, Russia’s Top Digital Bank, Says It Wants To Offer Crypto

Tinkoff, Russia’s largest online bank, wants to offer cryptocurrency trading to its clients, but says this will take time due to the tough stance of the country’s central bank.

Oliver Hughes, CEO of Tinkoff, said Thursday that “qualified investors who know what they are doing” want to invest in cryptocurrencies.

“There is no mechanism for us to offer them that product in Russia at the moment because the central bank has a very difficult position,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

A Bitcoin ATM in a grocery store in Russia.

Yegor Aleyev | TASS via Getty Images

Russia granted legal status to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin in 2020, but banned the use of digital assets in payments, saying that only the Russian ruble could be considered legal tender.

Earlier this week, Russian central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina told CNBC that digital currency was the “future of our financial system.” But he was referring to central bank digital currencies rather than cryptocurrencies.

Unlike cryptocurrencies, which are designed to be decentralized, CBDCs are issued and controlled by authorities. Like China and the US, Russia is exploring a digital version of its currency.

Alexander Shulgin, CEO of Russian e-commerce firm Ozon, said a digital ruble would help his business.

“If everyone has the opportunity to pay with digital currency online, it is (an) easier transaction for companies like us,” he told CNBC on Thursday, also speaking from the forum.

Governments have become increasingly wary of cryptocurrencies, due in large part to their use in illegal activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

Digital assets are also incredibly volatile, with the price of bitcoin falling from an all-time high of $ 64,829 in April to a low of $ 30,001 the following month.

Hughes said he acknowledges concerns about the use of cryptocurrencies in money laundering, as well as retail investors “who see cryptocurrencies shining right now and perhaps make poor investment decisions.”

But he added that professional investors are getting excited about the asset class.

“Hopefully this will evolve over time and we can achieve the central bank’s goals, making sure there are no money laundering issues, making sure we protect investors, but also offer products responsibly,” Hughes said. .

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