Wealthsimple receives conditional approval from regulators to test crypto platform

Toronto-based FinTech startup Wealthsimple has received conditional approval from the Canadian Securities Administrators’ (CSA) to test its recently-announced cryptocurrency platform for a period of two years.

The approval was granted under the CSA’s sandbox program, which allows firms to test innovative ideas without having to meet traditional regulatory requirements. The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) was the principal regulator for Wealthsimple’s application in the CSA’s decision, which was published Friday.

“For the first time, Canadians will be able to use a crypto platform that’s carefully overseen by regulators.”
– Blair Wiley

Pat Chaukos, director of the OSC’s office of economic growth and innovation, said Wealthsimple Crypto is now the first cryptocurrency asset platform to be registered with Canadian securities regulators.

“This is an important milestone for the OSC and the CSA Regulatory Sandbox, which worked together to tailor regulatory requirements for this crypto asset trading platform that will offer Bitcoin and Ether to Canadian investors,” Chaukos added.

The CSA’s decision notes that Wealthsimple can only operate the cryptocurrency platform on a beta-testing basis, which involves inviting individuals who sign up to join the platform’s waitlist to open accounts and begin using the platform. The regulatory relief will allow Wealthsimple to operate the platform for 24 months or until the firm becomes registered with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

“For the first time, Canadians will be able to use a crypto platform that’s carefully overseen by regulators, meaning Wealthsimple Crypto will be required to demonstrate that our product is appropriate for clients and that we operate a business that prioritizes investor protection,” Blair Wiley, general counsel and head of regulatory affairs at Wealthsimple, said in a statement sent to BetaKit.

RELATED: Wealthsimple to expand into crypto trading

Wealthsimple first revealed plans to expand into the cryptocurrency trading space last month, with the launch Wealthsimple Crypto under its newly-formed subsidiary, Wealthsimple Digital Assets. According to Wealthsimple, Digital Assets is authorized by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, better known as FINTRAC.

The platform announced by Wealthsimple in July would provide commission-free trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum through a mobile trading app. According to Wealthsimple Crypto’s website, the platform offers a quick sign-up process, no account minimums, no commission fees, and no fees to deposit or withdraw. At the time of the announcement, the startup had already launched Wealthsimple Crypto in private beta.

Under the stipulations set out by the CSA in its decision, Gemini Trust Company, a cryptocurrency exchange and custodian regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services will be the custodian of clients’ cryptocurrency assets. Wealthsimple will not hold any cryptocurrency assets in its own hot or cold wallets.

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Wealthsimple’s expansion into digital assets comes amid a slew of controversies in the Canadian cryptocurrency space, with the most recent being Coinsquare admitting to engaging in market manipulation through the reporting of inflated trading volumes.

The lack of clarity on how to regulate the cryptocurrency market has presented an enduring challenge for FinTech startups in Canada. The CSA has previously suggested the implementation of a “regulatory regime” tailored toward cryptocurrency trading platforms.

“Regulation is one of the aspects of this product that reinforces Wealthsimple’s core mission to provide Canadians with low cost, high-quality financial products, in addition to fair, transparent pricing, and secure storage through our third-party custodian,” Wiley added.

Image courtesy Wealthsimple.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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