Fintech firm Circle is to set up shop in Bermuda with the creation of more than 30 new jobs in the next two years.
And the US-based firm said its Bermuda operation would be the springboard for a worldwide drive to secure a major chunk of a global crypto market expected to reach “hundreds of millions” of customers in the near future.
The roles the company will offer will be in areas including general management, risk, compliance, trading and customer operations.
Jeremy Allaire, the Circle CEO, said: “As it goes global, with more opportunities around the world, we wanted to find a country we could headquarter in.
“We wanted to find a country that had very clear policy and regulations and there are very few countries like that.
“We wanted to see policies and regulations that addressed the full scope of digital assets for delivery of different kinds of products.”
Mr Allaire has a strong technology background. His first company, Allaire Corp, pioneered the web application development platform, and was acquired by Macromedia. He became CTO and helped transform Flash into a platform for video and rich applications. Flash has became one of the most widely adopted pieces of software in computing.
The Circle International Bermuda entity will service non-US customers, with the company planning to roll out new crypto asset listings, advanced trading products and other innovations in the coming months.
Circle said in a statement: “Unfortunately, because of US regulatory limitations, we will not be able to offer many of these new services to US persons for now.
“However, we’re committed to serving US customers as best we can despite the constraints. We will also continue to advocate for changes to US policy and regulations so the US economy is not left behind by opportunities created from digital-asset and crypto innovation.”
Speaking to The Royal Gazette, Mr Allaire said he and Sean Neville, the president of Circle, met David Burt, the Premier, at the annual international summit held in Davos, Switzerland each year and he had made a “convincing” case for the firm, which has operations in the US, UK, Ireland and Hong Kong, to set up a business in Bermuda.
He added: “Mr Burt made a convincing case that the framework Bermuda was putting in place was attractive.”
Mr Allaire said the firm found that Bermuda had the most “thoughtful, progressive and comprehensive national policies in the world”.
He added: “To build international opportunities, we want to be somewhere there is a base of talent that has experience in risk and compliance and similar areas.”
Mr Allaire said the island’s experience in traditional businesses like reinsurance, banking and fund management was a major draw for Circle.
He added: “That demonstrated to us there is a lot of talent that wants to move into the future of finance, which will increasingly be built on this kind of technology.”
Circle raised more $110 million in May to create an Ethereum coin backed by the US dollar, called USD Coin.
The firm also raised more than $135 million in venture capital between 2013 and 2016, including $50 million led by investment giants Goldman Sachs.
Mr Neville predicted that the Bermuda operation would grow as cryptocurrency gained global traction.
He said: “We believe very strongly in the power of digital and crypto assets to do something powerful in the world.”
Mr Allaire added that “tens of millions” of people used cryptocurrency and digital assets at present, but that it was predicted that number would grow to hundreds of millions over the next two years.
He said: “Our ambition is to build retail consumer products and services and institutional products and services.
“With Bermuda becoming the headquarters for the delivery of international products and services, the growth of people employed here would correlate with the growth in the market we expect.”
Circle was the first major crypto-finance firm to get a full licence under the Digital Assets Business Act 2018, which came into force last September.
A spokesman for Circle said: “Bermuda’s pioneering approach is the kind of regulatory framework we’ve long advocated to unleash growth in the crypto industry.
“Moreover, we’ve witnessed first hand that the Bermuda Government is prepared to iterate and evolve new regulatory rules alongside the pace of technical innovation in the crypto and blockchain field.”
Denis Pitcher, the chief adviser on financial technology to the Cabinet Office, said: “Circle is the right kind of business for Bermuda — they’re really a good fit with what we’re looking to attract.”
He added the Government was “working hard” to attract similar businesses prepared to help put Bermuda at the forefront of “the future of what you can do with this technology when it’s applied to finance”.
Mr Pitcher said the island would not compromise its reputation or the tough regulations it applied to other sectors of the business world in Bermuda.
He added: “It’s about recognising what fits us as a jurisdiction ... but we want to be progressive and make changes that make sense.”
Circle’s products include Circle Pay, which allows people to transfer money to contacts across borders and in different currencies. Circle Invest allows people to buy a range of cryptocurrencies directly from their phone.
Yesterday Mr Burt hosted a press conference with Circle representatives to talk about the company’s plans.
Circle stated that in the course of choosing a domicile, they had worked closely with Mr Burt, other government officials and the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
“We’ve been deeply impressed by their embrace of the digital-asset industry and their deep knowledge of our sector,” the company said.
In addition to Goldman Sachs, Circle has been backed by venture capital from investors including IDG Capital Partners, Breyer Capital, Accel Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Baidu, CICC Alpha, EverBright, WangXiang and CreditEase.