Tinkoff, Russia’s top digital bank, says it wants to offer crypto

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

Oliver Hughes, CEO of Tinkoff, said Thursday that there are “qualified investors who know what they’re doing” who want to invest in crypto, but his company is currently unable to offer them these services.

“We don’t currently have a mechanism to offer you this product in Russia because the central bank has this very difficult position,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

A Bitcoin ATM in a grocery store in Russia.

Yegor Aleev | TASS via Getty Images

Russia gave legal status to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in 2020. However, it banned the use of digital assets for payments, saying that only the Russian ruble could be considered legal tender.

Earlier this week, Russian central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina told CNBC that the digital currency was the “future for our financial system.” But it was more related to central bank digital currencies or CBDCs than crypto.

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

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

“If everyone has the opportunity to pay online with digital currency, this is (a) easier transaction for companies like us,” he told CNBC on Thursday and also spoke of SPIEF.

Governments have become increasingly suspicious of cryptocurrencies, not least because of their use for illegal activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

Digital assets are also incredibly volatile as the price of Bitcoin fell from a record high of $ 64,829 in April to $ 30,001 the following month.

Hughes said he recognizes concerns about the use of crypto in money laundering as well as retail investors “seeing cryptos shine right now and potentially making poor investment decisions.”

But he added that professional investors are warming to the asset class.

“Hopefully this will evolve over time and we will be able to meet the central bank’s goals of making sure there are no money laundering issues, making sure we protect investors, but also offering products responsibly,” said Hughes.

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