In brief

  • Albert Isola is Gibraltar’s Minister for Financial Services and Gaming.
  • He spoke to the Decrypt Daily about Bitcoin, CBDCs, Gibraltar’s perspective on regulating crypto, and how the territory is facilitating growth in the blockchain space.

Albert Isola, Gibraltar’s Minister for Financial Services and Gaming, spends a lot of time thinking about blockchain. That’s because over the past few years, Gibraltar has been trying to become something of a hotspot for crypto commerce in Europe; Isola’s charge is to oversee regulation without stifling growth.

Officially, Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, much like Turks and Caicos or Bermuda. But Gibraltar is unique among these British territories in that it’s in continental Europe, at the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has its own currency—the Gibraltar pound—which is exchangeable with the British pound, but technically distinct. And its government, though very much partnered with the UK’s, is its own entity.

In an interview on the Decrypt Daily podcast yesterday, Isola offered a glimpse into more of his thinking on blockchain and elaborated on some of his plans to turn Gibraltar into a haven for blockchain users. 

“There is a whole string of different reasons as to why we would want to engage with digital currencies,” said Isola. “It's not so much a burning need to have an alternative currency, but more wanting to encourage innovation, fully understanding that innovation can only happen if it comes within some form of regulatory framework.”

Isola explained that the Gibraltarian government is setting up blockchain education plans to spread the gospel. “We have set up courses, hand in hand with private sector firms,” he said, “to leverage their expertise at our teaching establishments, like our university, in furthering education and knowledge and research in the blockchain space.”

Isola also spoke about some of the unique challenges Gibraltar faces as a British territory. He explained that the government’s small size gives it a unique opportunity. “All small territories like ours have to be agile,” he said. “And the agility is what gives us the ability to provide niche markets, and be good at them better than some of the larger jurisdictions.”

Agility, in this context, means taking advantage of Gibraltar’s size and encouraging companies to come in and start working with crypto. Isola said the government has already shepherded 15 companies into the blockchain space in the territory, and that 10 more are currently applying to operate from Gibraltar. This doesn’t feel like a big deal, until you consider that there are only 34,000 people living in Gibraltar.

Asked about Bitcoin’s recent surge and what it might mean for the future of crypto adoption, Isola was optimistic: “I believe that there will be greater and greater adoption...as it becomes more and more regulated, and international standards are applied to its usage in the future.”