George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury, has announced a new initiative that will examine the potential role of digital currency in the economy of Britain.
The Treasury will make a programme of work on virtual currency, exploring its possible risks and threats, as well as its advantages and benefits. The results are expected to be issued in the autumn this year.
Speaking at the launch of Innovate Finance (former FinTech UK), a new industry organisation supporting the next era of technology-led financial services innovators, Osborne said: “These alternative payment systems are popular as they are quick, cheap and convenient […] I want to see if we can make more use of them for the benefit of the UK economy.”
Supported by the City of London Corporation and Canary Wharf Group, the group intends to become a centre for the industry influencers, regulators, tech and talent.
During his speech at the London conference, Osborne mentioned some of proposals that are targeted at facilitating financial innovation and making the UK the leader in the FinTech segment.
He noted that “cementing Britain’s position as the centre of global finance” is key to the economic plan of the government.
Osborne said: “It’s only by harnessing innovations in finance, alongside our existing world class knowledge and skills in financial services, that we’ll ensure Britain’s financial sector continues to meet the diverse needs of businesses and consumers, here and around the globe, and create the jobs and growth we all want to see in the future.”
Still, he also pointed out that there are some risks related to the cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin. “Among other things, [the programme] will look at whether regulation of the sector is required, so that virtual currency businesses can continue to be set up in the UK, and people and businesses can use [cryptocurrencies] safely,” he said
CEO of Netagio, bitcoin, sterling and gold exchange, Simon Hamblin, said: “Mr. Osborne’s comments are very encouraging and we have long awaited some direction from the government and regulators.”
He also noted that it is now the perfect time for bringing innovations in the financial services sector.
Hamblin added: “The UK’s offshore jurisdictions are already strong supporters of alternative currencies and, by bringing together a common approach, this could position the UK as one of the leading centres for digital currency innovation.”
Osborne has recently attended the presentation of Robocoin ATM run by Cointrader.net, where he bought some bitcoins.
According to some of the attendees, he was quite enthusiastic about the event. Head of UK operations at Cointrader.net, Hugh Halford-Thompson, noted that purchase of bitcoin is a “great step” for its political acceptance.
The UK’s position on cryptocurrencies has been unclear, although the government attracted a number of bitcoin businesses. For example, in June, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced a new project called Project Innovate to support “positive developments”, including bitcoin, in the country.