Coinbase Gets a U.K. Money License and Barclays Bank Account

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Coinbase Inc., one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, said it obtained an e-money license in the U.K. as it expands services in Europe. The firm also opened an account at Barclays Plc, easing deposits and withdrawal for clients.

The license will let Coinbase provide payment services and issue e-money in the country, enabling it to strike more partnerships with other companies, the venture said Wednesday in a statement. The rights, granted by the nation’s Financial Conduct Authority, will extend to more than 20 other European Union countries, it said.

San Francisco-based Coinbase, which helps investors buy and sell Bitcoin and other major virtual currencies, said business in the EU grew at double the pace of any other market last year, and that it’s hiring in the U.K. to meet demand. On Wednesday, the company said it will start supporting institutional clients’ transactions via the U.K.’s Faster Payments Scheme, a network used by the traditional financial industry.

The firm has also established a “full banking relationship” with Barclays, said Coinbase’s U.K. chief, Zeeshan Feroz, in an interview Wednesday. Ultimately, deposits and withdrawals for U.K. customers will be routed through the British financial giant. Such an account is notable because some major banks, under government pressure to track money flows for signs of illicit activity, have been reluctant to handle funds from firms dealing in often-opaque cryptocurrencies.

“We’ve been looking for accounts for over a year and have spoken to several banks,” Feroz said. “Barclays did a lot of due diligence on us as a business. We opened our doors and went through an open process with them.”

Coinbase plans to maintain its relationship with LHV, its current European banking partner in Estonia, he said. The exchange also has worked with Cross River Bank, Metropolitan Bank and Silvergate Bank in the U.S., a person familiar with the matter said in December.

(Adds comments from Coinbase’s U.K. CEO in the final three paragraphs.)
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