“Trying to avoid regulation is a manifestation of short-term thinking,” Benedicte Nolens said. That especially applies to many crypto businesses.
Herself a former regulator, she joined Boston-based blockchain company Circle to head regulatory affairs for Asia and Europe, and as chief compliance officer for Asia. Part of her remit is to work with governments to craft a framework for digital tokens: “We’re waiting for regulators to accept good business models.”
Hong Kong is attractive for many blockchain companies in part because its banking and securities regulators have left the door open to different possibilities.
Nolens, originally from Belgium, came to Asia twenty years ago with Goldman Sachs. After an interlude at Credit Suisse as CCO, she moved to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission to lead a newly created risk and strategy unit.
“Then came the first fintech wave of crowdfunders and peer-to-peer markets,” she said. She transformed “risk and strategy” into a unit to understand fintech, and became the SFC’s point person and internal advocate for startups in digital finance.
After six years at SFC, this summer she joined Circle, to help it participate in the coming tokenization of finance. Circle also owns a crypto exchange, Poloniex, and is working to advance stable coins. Nolens is also a board member of two industry associations, the Hong Kong Fintech Association and Global Digital Finance.
Nolens says the next six months will see more regulation imposed on the blockchain/crypto space, from multiple directions: international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force, the European Union, and individual countries. The industry is about to go through a wave of transformation imposed, in part, by authorities, and Nolens will be at the center of action in Hong Kong and beyond.