Sberbank, Others Granted Right to ‘Issue & Exchange’ ‘Digital Financial Assets’ in Russia
Russian regulators appear to be fast-tracking domestic companies’ efforts to become home-grown token exchanges – with the Central Bank approving the banking and IT giant Sberbank’s application to become an official “digital financial assets” (DFA) issuer.
Back in January, Sberbank asked the Central Bank to grant it the right to issue a stablecoin for its corporate clients – but the new permit will also allow Sberbank to offer “digital asset” exchange services.
Two other firms, Interfax reported, also received permits, namely the fintech company Lighthouse, together with Transmashholding (TMH), the biggest locomotives and rail equipment provider in Russia. The latter has been working on what it has termed a “digital financial ecosystem” involving some aspects of crypto and blockchain for several months.
The register of DFA issuing companies is nothing new in Russia. It has been in existence since January 1, 2021. But prior to the Central Bank’s latest move, only one company – the metals “tokenization” initiative Atomyze – had been granted a permit.
Sberbank had – long prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine – originally hoped to launch its stablecoin project in the spring of 2021, but had later sought to modify the nature of its offering.
The Central Bank, however, has “repeatedly claimed that there are more questions than answers when it comes to the issuance of stablecoins by banks,” Interfax noted.
It is unclear – and unlikely at this stage – as to whether the exchanges might be allowed to offer crypto trading functions for assets such as bitcoin (BTC). No mention of this was made by the banks. But what is clear is that the banks and fintech firms see the move as an opportunity to at least begin on a path toward token and blockchain integration.
Sergey Popov, the Director of the Sberbank Transactions Business unit, was quoted as stating:
“In a month, legal entities will be able to make the first operations on our blockchain platform. While we are at the beginning of our journey of working with digital assets, we realize that further developments will require changes to the existing regulatory framework. We are ready to work closely with regulators.”
Meanwhile, reports had been circulating this week claiming that the Central Bank’s long-serving Governor Elvira Nabiullina was on the verge of quitting her post. Nabiullina is a key ally of Vladimir Putin and has headed the Central Bank since 2013, having previously served as the minister of economy and trade under both Putin and then-president Dmitry Medvedev.
Her term as Governor is due to expire in summer this year. But Interfax also reported that Putin had submitted her candidacy to the State Duma – Russia’s parliament. Under Russian law, the Duma must approve the President’s nomination. However, this is likely to be a mere formality should Nabiullina accept the role, with the Duma dominated by Putin’s United Russia Party MPs.
Yesterday URA.ru reported that Kremlin spokespeople had refused to answer questions about Nabiullina’s fate, following a week of speculation surrounding her position and willingness to continue fighting the economic fires international sanctions have sparked.
Central Bank staff have reportedly been working in “exhausting psychological and physical” conditions but Nabiullina has, the report noted, “urged her staff not to participate in political disputes at work, at home, and on social networks.”
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