Commonwealth Bank puts crypto trading trial on ice as regulators dither

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The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has put its plans for a second pilot program of crypto trading services on hold indefinitely and cut off access to those in the first round of testing.

CBA sent Cointelegraph a transcript of a Tuesday bank briefing where CEO Matt Comyn said that he was still waiting on regulatory clarity. He also said that he was “working with a number of regulators very closely, as you would imagine, about the appropriate treatment of this particular product:”

“Our intention still, at this stage, is to restart the pilot, but there are still a couple of things that we want to work through on a regulatory front to make sure that that is most appropriate.”

Comyn said there is a Treasury submission for the program already under review, but he did not share any expected timeline for its completion.

Comyn said that last week’s wild volatility appeared to support the need for the extended delay, even though the second pilot program had already been put on ice by April after financial regulators balked at giving regular bank users easy access to crypto. The Australia Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) objected to the CBA’s services on the grounds that consumer protections were absent.

He said, “It is clearly a very volatile sector that remains an enormous amount of interest:”

“But alongside that volatility and awareness and I guess the scale, certainly globally, you can see there is a lot of interest from regulators and people thinking about the best way to regulate that.”

Comyn also suggested that the bank was awaiting the result of the Federal election on May 21. If a new regime comes into power, it could spell broad changes in the crypto regulatory landscape, which Comyn said “will be a focus for the incoming government to think about.”

Leadership and entrepreneurship lecturer at Swinburne University Dimitrios Salampasis told The Guardian that CBA may be going slowly in case of reputational damage.

Taking into account the recent price crash across the crypto markets due to the collapse of Terra, Dr. Slampasis said “balancing risk, brand equity and regulatory clarity will be key so as to minimize disruption in CBA’s current business model.”

Related: Aussie crypto ETFs see $1.3M volume so far on difficult launch day

The CBA was the first major bank in Australia to offer crypto services through its mobile app last November. As the pilot program proceeded, it promised access to the app’s 6.5 million users once fully rolled out. As of now, those plans are on hold indefinitely.

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