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Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond is not surprised by asset management giant BlackRock’s recent forays into the world of crypto.
“I love seeing some of the mainstream firms get involved here, like BlackRock,” said Diamond during an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday. At Barclays, the banker said he worked with BlackRock to invest in Circle—issuer of the world’s largest stablecoin, USDC.
In April 2022, Circle announced a $400 million funding round led by BlackRock, which manages the cash reserves backing its $29 billion token. “I’m not surprised that they’re more involved now in crypto more broadly,” said Diamond.
BlackRock filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week to launch a Bitcoin Spot ETF, an investment vehicle that lets consumers and businesses buy shares backed by a fixed amount of Bitcoin, held by the fund issuer and its partners.
U.S. investors have eagerly awaited such a product to be approved, which is already live in other countries including Canada and Australia. While the SEC has rejected all related filings thus far, many are optimistic about BlackRock’s filing given its notorious success rate in getting products past the agency.
Since the filing, two more asset managers have resubmitted applications for Bitcoin spot ETFs following previous failures. Bitcoin’s price has also surged past $30,000, and reclaimed over 50% crypto market dominance for the first time since June 2021.
“Crypto is such a broad term, but if you narrow it down to the digitization of so much of what we’re doing, it's a natural course,” said the banker.
The broader crypto world, however, is in deeper water: the SEC launched lawsuits against crypto exchanges Binance and Coinbase earlier this month for securities law violations, alleging that multiple large-cap altcoins were unregistered securities in the process.
For crypto to reach its full potential, Diamond believes clearer rules and enforcement actions are a necessity.
“Regulation, regulation, regulation,” he said. “Stop avoiding it regulators, and start regulating it, and help us out… strong banks want strong regulation.”
In April, Barclays Head of Digital Policy argued that policymakers didn’t bother to regulate crypto until now because they suspected it wouldn’t survive this long.
When asked whether he personally owns Bitcoin, Diamond said he “sadly” does not.