Yesterday, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) published guidance on the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) market. The cautionary note told investors to be diligent when reviewing ICOs for a potential investment while noting security offerings are a regulated activity. FinTech Australia called ASICs move an important step forward for startups looking to crowdfund a project using ICOs for a tokenized offering.
Danielle Szetho, CEO of FinTech Australia, said ASIC’s announcement was recognition of the importance of ICOs as a mechanism for start-ups raising funds. She said it spoke of the regulator’s “willingness to adopt a collaborative approach towards working with the Fintech community.”
“This is the clarification we have all been waiting for, and I feel it strikes a very good balance between helping start-ups looking to run an ICO in Australia while at the same time informing and protecting potential investors,” said Szetho. “The guidance ASIC has released is a positive step to ensure a viable future for ICOs in Australia, and sits alongside other positive initiatives such as removing double taxation on digital currencies and driving international blockchain standards.”
Szetho said the Fintech community approved of the approach taken by ASIC in its guidance, as the Commission made it clearer which regulations might apply to token crowd sales ICO from Australia, or to market their ICO to Australian investors.
Szetho described ICOs as a nuanced subject matter when it comes to regulatory provisions because they could potentially be classified as one of a variety of financial instruments, depending on how the tokens are designed. This made it more challenging for regulators to provide a holistic and consistent framework that encompassed how ICOs should be regulated.
Sergei Sergienko, CEO of Blockchain consultancy and marketing firm ICOPromo, echoed these statements, saying the blockchain community in Australia was keen to continue working with ASIC on this to ensure that any regulation was in step with the current climate surrounding ICOs for start-ups across Asia Pacific.
“It’s very commendable that ASIC is looking intently at ICOs and are taking a calm and measured approach to help provide guidance to interested parties in Australia. This is certainly a welcome announcement as it shows the regulator is listening and are being proactive in taking a collaborative approach to working with the blockchain start-up community in Australia.”
FinTech Australia also embraced ASICs consumer approach with their MoneySmart website designed to help retail investors make good decisions when considering ICOs.
ASIC has been reasonably supportive of the emerging Fintech ecosystem. In contrast, China simply shut down ICOs. Most securities regulators in the developed world have now issued statements regarding ICOs and their intent to regulate them under existing securities rules. ICOs have grown rapidly in the past year and, by some estimates, have topped more than $2 billion in funds raised.