Virtual currency providers have to register with the Finnish FSA – several new requirements for the virtual currency industry

August 1, 2019

Virtual currency providers have to register with the Finnish FSA

What?

The Finnish Act on Virtual Currency Providers (572/2019) that entered into force on 1st of May 2019 imposes obligations on virtual currency providers, such as;  

  • registration with the Financial Supervisory Authority
  • compliance with the Act on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
  • to include the customer accounts to the bank and payment accounts control mechanism systems (register maintained by the Customs)
  • segregation of assets and accounting of funds
  • protection of customer assets
  • monitoring for malfunctions and errors in the protection and safeguarding of client assets and the damage such malfunctions or errors cause
  • cyber security requirements
  • recovery plans describing how to recover information systems in the event of a malfunction

The Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) has issued regulations and guidelines concerning virtual currency providers, that entered into force on 1 July 2019. The regulations and guidelines are provided by virtue of the Act on Virtual Currency Providers and provide more precise guidance in application of the new law.

Who?

The new requirements will apply to natural or legal persons acting as a virtual currency provider defined in the Act on Virtual Currency Providers as the following:

  • a virtual currency issuer, where the service provider issues a virtual currency
  • a virtual currency exchange service operated by the service provider as a business or professional activity, is:
    1. the exchange of a virtual currency into legal (fiat) tender or another virtual currency as a service or the exchange of a virtual currency into another commodity (e.g. gold) or
    2. the exchange of another commodity into a virtual currency as a service and
    3. functions a where a service provider’s customers may engage in the activities referred to in points (1) and (2) above
  • a wallet provider holds virtual currency for the account of some other party or provides for the transfer or storage of virtual currency.

When?

Virtual currency providers operating in the market prior 1st of May 2019 must submit a registration application to the FIN-FSA by 18 August 2019. The registration shall be assessed and approved the FIN-FSA by 1 November 2019. New service providers shall be admitted the registration by the FIN-FSA prior launching their services.

Content of the application

The application shall include:

  • a description of the services to be provided
  • the name, identifying and location information of the person submitting the application
  • fit and proper statement with enclosures
  • a statement on the holding and protection of client assets (including a risk assessment)
  • information on the marketing of services to be provided to customers (such as terms and conditions of agreement)
  • descriptions of compliance with the Finnish Act on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, e.g.
    • guidelines on customer due diligence process and ongoing monitoring
    • risk assessment and description of the risk management
    • a description of how responsibilities related to preventing money laundering and terrorist financing as well as
    • a description of the training and protection of employees

The application and the attachments must be either in Finnish or Swedish. In the case of possible additional statements or attachments in other languages e.g. English may be approved, where necessary.

How about provision of cross border services?

An admitted registration in one EEA member state does not allow to provide virtual currency services to other EEA member states. Hence, the registration is not possible to passport in the EEA as many financial service licenses. This means that a service provider must sort out the rules and processes and submit a registration application in all the countries where it would like to operate.

Finland has implemented the 5th AML Directive (EU) 2018/843 broader than the directive requires. The 5th AML Directive defines a virtual currency provider as a virtual currency issuer, a virtual currency exchange service and its marketplace, and a wallet provider.

Finland has enlarged the definition of virtual currency exchange service not only to exchange between virtual and fiat currencies but also between different virtual currencies and exchange of a virtual currency to another commodity or another commodity to a virtual currency.

We are happy to provide further information on virtual currency-related matters.

Additional information:                                                                                  

Katja Flittner, Associate, tel. +358 50 410 0512, katja.flittner@lexia.fi

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