US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is extending its 32-country reach into one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency markets: Japan.
In an announcement on Monday, San Francisco-based Coinbase confirmed the launch of an office in Japan and its plan to work “hand-in-hand” with the Financial Services Agency (FSA), the country’s financial regulator, to ensure compliance with the local laws.
The company’s original intentions to enter Japan had developed and materialised nearly two years ago in July 2016 when it raised $10.5 million from Japanese investors including the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BMTU), Japan’s largest financial services group and bank respectively.
Coinbase said in its announcement:
“As in other markets, we plan to take a deliberate approach to our rollout in Japan, which means working hand-in-hand with the Japanese FSA to ensure compliance with local laws at every stage.”
Coinbase Japan will be led by former investment banker Nao Kitazawa of Morgan Stanley Japan. Kitazawa will lead as chief executive, while also being on the board of the Fintech Association of Japan, an industry working group.
The noticeable venture into Japan is an obvious move for Coinbase – whose only presence in Asia was in Singapore prior to this expansion – being one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.
Japan has already passed legislation in April 2017 to acknowledge and identify cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a payment method. The comprehensive environment has seen a number of corporate giants including messaging giant Line, financial services giant SBI, mainstream online brokerage Monex, and even Yahoo Japan, all investing in or operating their own cryptocurrency exchange in Japan.
Coinbase, for its part, is not only expanding into new markets — it is also building out its product line to meet the needs of a new type of customer: institutional investors. The firm has recently released a set of products for institutions, developed bank-grade custodial services, and launched a new asset management division.