Gemini Payments, a popular cryptocurrency exchange established by the Winklevoss brothers, has secured an e-money licence from the Central Bank. It is the first fintech to become authorised for such a licence in the Republic since October 2020.
Other well-known companies to receive such authorisation include Stripe, Facebook and Google.
An Irish licence allows Gemini to issue electronic money which it currently does in the UK via its Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorisation.
Gemini applied for its licence locally in early 2020, partly due to the impact of Brexit. The company established an office in Dublin last year, hiring Gillian Lynch, former chief strategy officer at Leveris, to head up its operations here.
Peter Oakes, a former Central Bank enforcement director and founder of Fintech Ireland, said he expects Gemini will complement its new fintech licence with an Irish crypto asset registration to replicate its UK and international services.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are best known for suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he stole the idea for the social networking site from them when they were undergraduates. The twins were ultimately awarded a $65 million (€59 million) settlement in cash and Facebook shares after a series of lawsuits.
The identical twins founded Gemini in 2014. It allows retail investors to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies as well as create and invest in non-fungible tokens (NFTS) and more.
The exchange closed a $400 million (€362 million) funding round late last year that valued it at $7.1 billion (€6.4 billion). The brothers, who represented the US in rowing at the 2008 Olympics, each have an estimated $5 billion (€4.5 billion) fortune due to their crypto investments and stakes in Gemini.
While rival Coinbase, which also has a presence in the Republic, is a more popular cryptocurrency platform, Gemini is notable for its close links with regulators. With close to 600 independent crypto exchanges in existence, some, such as Gemini, are seeking to distinguish themselves by aligning themselves with authorities.
“Gemini doesn’t provide services in Ireland [yet] but residents in other member states can open accounts. The combination of an e-money authorisation and a virtual asset services provider registration should provide Irish consumers and corporates a fuller range of Gemini’s digital assets and non-fungible tokens service such as buying and selling, interest on accounts, payments, credit cards and e-wallets,” said Mr Oakes.
“An interesting play for Gemini in Ireland could be institutional wealth management and custody. Many large financial institutions, especially US banks operating in Ireland, have a strong interest in digital assets for both themselves and their clients. They generally segregate their trading and investment activities from the very specialised but fairly lucrative pricing and custodial responsibilities of digital assets,” he added.
Mr Oakes said he expects to see Gemini to eye up a role in servicing Ireland’s €5.4 trillion assets under administration in the IFSC in the years to come.
“While there remains challenges about the perception of Ireland being an effective home for regulated digital assets, the arrival of Gemini as well as the existing Irish business of Coinbase help set the groundwork, and attraction, for other international and hopefully indigenous fintechs to follow bolstering employment in cutting edge technology and innovation,” said Mr Oakes.