Are Australian banks Crypto-Friendly?

By Crypto News Australia July 05, 2024

Despite the global rise in popularity and acceptance of digital assets, Australian banks have shown caution, and at times, resistance towards embracing cryptocurrency. This hesitation stems from various factors such as regulatory challenges, risk management issues, and a generally conservative stance towards financial innovations.

The CBA Announcement: A Case Study in Regulatory Hurdles

In 2021, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced its intention to enable customers to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrencies through its app, in partnership with the crypto exchange Gemini. This announcement was perceived as a significant step towards integrating digital assets into the Australian banking framework.

However, this ambitious plan hit a significant roadblock. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) did not approve the product, citing concerns over unreasonable fees charged to customers to cover the bank’s risks. This regulatory setback underscored the challenges that traditional banks face when attempting to integrate cryptocurrency services.

Later, on 29 July 2023, the CBA introduced stringent policies for cryptocurrency transactions, limiting them to a maximum of AUD 10,000 per month, hiding behind a policy on addressing scams. A few customers have been informed by the CBA that they will no longer be serviced for life, while others were warned and forced to exit crypto investing to maintain their accounts. This move was seen as a step back from its initial bold announcement, signalling a drastic change in the bank’s stance on cryptocurrency amidst regulatory and risk management concerns.


Risk Management Concerns

Banks are particularly wary of the association of cryptocurrencies with illegal activities such as money laundering and fraud. This necessitates stringent adherence to anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations, which are more complex with the somewhat anonymous nature of digital assets.

There have been multiple submissions to professional bodies regarding debanking issues faced by crypto-related businesses and individuals in Australia. This ongoing challenge underscores the need for the government to collaborate closely with banks to identify and implement sensible solutions. It is clear that there are currently operational or regulatory concerns that do not align with the banking sector’s requirements. Addressing these issues is crucial to ensure that the financial needs of the growing crypto industry are met while maintaining the integrity and security of the banking system.

Smaller Banks Showing More Appetite

While the big 4 banks, CBA, NAB, Westpac and ANZ have all taken a conservative approach, some of the smaller banks in Australia are showing a more open attitude towards cryptocurrency. An extensive evaluation by the team at Syla, identified ING and St.George Bank as the most crypto-friendly banks in Australia, based on positive feedback from crypto investors.

Related: Syla review

The Regulatory Landscape

Australia’s regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies is in flux, aiming to balance consumer protection with innovation. This uncertain regulatory environment makes it challenging for banks to confidently develop and offer crypto-related services. A clearer regulatory framework might eventually lead to fewer restrictions on banking services for cryptocurrencies.

As customer demand for cryptocurrency services continues to grow, banks that manage to align regulatory compliance with innovative offerings could become preferred choices for Australian crypto users.

Related: Ways to reduce crypto tax In Australia


Crypto News Australia