In brief

  • The Winklevoss twins's exchange Gemini is expanding into Europe.
  • The outpost will continue in the stead of the New York exchange.
  • The lines between Fintech and crypto will start to blur.

Crypto exchange Gemini is preparing for the launch of its exchange in the UK—which will enable it to reach into Europe.

Gemini is a New York-based crypto exchange set up by the Winklevoss twins that focuses on a narrow range of coins, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Zcash (ZEC). It offers custody services for a wider range of coins, including Decentraland (MANA).

Speaking to Decrypt, Gemini’s managing director for Europe, Julian Sawyer, explained how it will tackle the UK and European markets.

Sawyer cofounded Starling Bank, one of the UK's challenger banks. Image: Shutterstock.

“The US has gone institutional compliance, security, regulatory first. We will continue doing that for sure,” Sawyer said. “But we’ve got a different ecosystem with Fintechs. A huge Fintech community. We’ve got to talk to those customers who engage with financial technology. We need to start to find the right narrative about security and safety, the things that are pretty boring until you need them.”

Pitting Fintech against crypto

Sawyer has plenty of Fintech experience to draw on; he’s the co-founder and former COO of Starling Bank, one of the UK Fintech scene’s most promising challenger banks—similar to Venmo. He explained that there is a strong similarity between the Fintech scene and the crypto scene, with both focusing on two pillars of innovation.

Fintechs, Sawyer told Decrypt, are challenging the customer experience, “in a nice way, with all the bells and whistles.” They’ve also challenged how they deliver services, he added. “They’re bringing out features and functions far quicker than any regular bank, while still being a bank.”

Crypto is a similar case, but perhaps less developed. “We’re not seeing enough people talk about customer experience,” Sawyer said. “We have got to educate ourselves, look at what customers want and find problems customers have. We need to find the appropriate way to engage, communicate and to enthuse your friends.”

In fact, he argued that while the Bitcoin halving will boost discussion around crypto, even that is too complicated for many people.

We’ve got to get away from all of the technical jargon and start talking in clear business risk and compliance terms.

Julian Sawyer

“The average person does not need to know about the halving or hash rate,” Sawyer said. “We’ve got to get away from all of the deep technical jargon, terminology, geekiness and start talking in clear business risk and compliance terms.” That means talking about the commodity customers want to trade, and how crypto companies can facilitate “cheaper, faster, better” payments.

Gemini works with regulators

Currently Gemini is applying for regulatory approval in the UK, before it opens for business—which in crypto, is surprisingly rare.

“If you are running an exchange then you have to be regulated,” Sawyer said. “If you’re looking for fiat and on-and-off ramps, you need to be a payments institution, or a bank. Yes, you have to be regulated to be in this business.”

You have to be regulated to be in this business.

Julian Sawyer

Sawyer referred to 5AMLD, legislation that requires all exchanges operating in the European Union to register and fulfil anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer protocols (KYC) requirements. “Any company offering crypto exchanges services in the UK will need to be approved by January next year,” he added.

Recently the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), pointed out that crypto exchange BitMEX isn’t registered with it, warning citizens against using its services.