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Article (23/235)
The road to digital assets
The road to digital assets

The road to digital assets


In 2020, the way to digital assets does not look an easy road from a regulatory perspective. Many initiatives are blooming worldwide leading to different local perspectives and interpretations. In this fragmented environment, BNP Paribas strives to provide you with a regularly updated map of the regulatory progresses in the major markets across the globe. 

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The “Blockchain ordinances” (ordinances n° 2017-1674 du 8 décembre 2017) and the Sapin II law (law n° 2016-1691 du 9 décembre 2016) recognise the validity of the registration and transfer of some types of financial instruments (unlisted) on a blockchain.


Japan adopts the Virtual Currencies Act on April 1st 2017, and requires licenses for all crypto trading platforms to exercise any activity related to cryptocurrency.



Germany’s BaFin has issued a 1st advisory letter on the classification of tokens as financial instruments.


The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) considers cryptocurrencies to be securities since March 2018. Securities law is applied comprehensively for digital wallets and exchanges. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) considers bitcoin as a commodity and allows cryptocurrency derivatives to trade publicly.


In April 2018, the Indian central bank (Reserve Bank of India) issued a circular calling on regulated entities to stop providing services to entities dealing in or settling cryptocurrencies.



In December 2019, the EU launched a public consultation on the regulatory treatment of crypto-assets. It aims to assess the need for a bespoke crypto regime and/or amendments to existing financial regulation.


The recently adopted PACTE law establishes a specific voluntary regime for companies seeking to conduct an initial coin offering (ICO) or to offer crypto-assets services (Digital Assets Service Providers or DASPs). Mandatory registration is required for DASPs wishing to offer custody or purchase/sell crypto-assets in exchange for legal tender. The scope is limited to crypto-assets not qualifying as securities which remain bound by EU securities law.


Since February Germany’s BaFin has approved a number of security token offering (STOs).
In August, BaFin has issued a 2nd advisory letter on prospectus and authorisation requirements in connection with the issuance of crypto tokens.
In November, a new landmark legislation was adopted regarding crypto services. The new rules include a definition of crypto-assets and regulate providers of “crypto custody” services. Companies wishing to store, transfer and trade crypto-assets must obtain a license from the German regulator BaFin. A grandfathering mechanism was also introduced for firms already safekeeping crypto-assets in Germany.


Italy does not have any crypto regulation or legal framework for crypto activities. Service providers of crypto activities must register with the Institution of Agents and Mediators. In March 2019, the Italian financial markets supervisory authority published a call for evidence on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-assets. In this discussion paper, the authority consulted on a definition of crypto-assets as well as on the creation of a specific optional regime for crypto-assets.


Bill 7363, brings transactions performed using DLT at par with traditional ones. The legal framework also offer fiscal advantages and tax exemptions for crypto assets. It is worth noting that the country is host to one of the largest crypto exchanges (Bitstamp).

United Kingdom

In July 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published its final “Guidance on Cryptoassets”, with the aim of clarifying to market operators what the applicable regulatory requirements for their crypto assets activities are.


In October 2019, a new law was adopted with the aim of facilitating China’s transition to blockchain technology. It has paved the way for China to become the first state to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC) on the world stage.


In July 2019, a legislative panel proposed a ban on all non-sovereign cryptocurrencies. Officials have also voiced their concerns about Facebook’s Libra project.

Q1 and Q2 2020


On 10 January 2020, the EU also implemented its Fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5), which requires crypto firms and exchanges to follow enhanced KYC programs and reporting obligations. Crypto regulation will move forward as part of the new European Commission’s mandate. The European Securities and Markets Authority has also announced it aims to focus on shaping a sound framework for crypto-assets.


The Banque de France has issued a call for applications to experiment with a Central bank digital currency for interbank settlements.


The crypto-assets and crypto-custody legislation forms part of a legislative package implementing the 5th European Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive into German law and entered into force on 1 January 2020. BaFin has issued various guidelines regarding - The statutory definition of crypto custody business - interpreting section 64y of the German banking act - applications for authorisation for crypto custody business - AML duties (in German only). The German Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice are currently working on a draft law enabling the issuance of digital bonds on a DLT infrastructure without the requirement of a certificate.


In January, Consob has published its final report on Initial offers and exchanges of crypto-assets


The Dutch Central bank has announced it will begin regulating organisations that offer crypto-related services starting January 10th 2020. Firms offering services for the exchange between cryptos and fiat currency, and crypto wallet providers are now required to register with the regulator to be authorised to operate. A licensing system should also be introduced for cryptocurrency services.


Switzerland is an early crypto-friendly state. FINMA, the Swiss market authority applies relevant provisions of financial market law regardless of the underlying technology. Additionally, FINMA has issued guidance on several crypto topics such as initial coin offerings, stablecoins and payments. Home to the “Crypto Valley”, it is worth noting that the state is home to several high profile projects such as Ethereum, Dfinity and Libra. Switzerland’s stock exchange is also building the SIX Digital Exchange, a fully integrated trading, settlement and custody infrastructure for crypto-assets which aims to provide a safe environment for the issuance and trading of crypto-assets.


The Bank of England (BoE) has published a discussion paper to assess the risks and benefits of a Central bank digital currency.


The Crypto-Currency Act of 2020, an omnibus bill aimed at comprehensive reform of U.S. cryptocurrency regulation was introduced 9 March. The bill looks to choreograph a wide range of digital assets to answer to the appropriate regulator. The proposal divides digital assets into three categories: crypto-commodity, crypto-currency and crypto-security. Respectively, the three categories would be governed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Secretary of the Treasury via the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


Japan amends its crypto asset regulation with a focus on derivative transactions generally enforceable from May 1, 2020. Crypto-assets qualifying as securities will also be subject to new requirements while crypto custody will be subject to licensing. Crypto trading activities will also have to fulfil new rules regarding unfair trading and practices.


In January 2020, the Reserve Bank of India underlined it did not ban cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but only ring-fenced regulated entities like banks from risks associated with crypto-assets trading. The future of the Indian crypto ecosystem remains as such unclear.

Article updated in June 2020. The information contained in this article is believed to be reliable and is not intended to be exhaustive. This article is regularly updated. Reach out your relationship manager or client service manager for any information you may need.

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