Digital identifiers to help crypto market go mainstream

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Tags for identifying bitcoin, ethereum and other crypto assets will be launched in September in the latest sign of how the fast growing, unregulated market is adopting the hallmarks of mainstream investing.

The ability to monitor cryptocurrencies has become a major worry for regulators as the ballooning market, which reached a record $2 trillion capitalization in April, has experienced wild volatility and central bank warnings that investors could lose their shirts.

Individual stock and derivatives are already assigned a unique identification number to allow regulators and market participants to identify, track and quantify risks from trades.

The new digital token identifiers or DTIs will be registered at the DTI Foundation, a not-for-profit unit of Etrading Software, a fintech company that provides market infrastructure.

As the crypto assets sector grows in size, regulators and the market will need identifiers to track it better, Sassan Danesh, managing partner at Etrading Software, told Reuters.

DTIs will create a bridge between traditional securities and the new tokenised world, using norms from the global International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that are set to be finalised by the end of September.

At that time the DTI registry will formally issue identifiers for the 100 most important crypto assets and tokens which represent more than 80% of the current crypto market and include bitcoin, ethereum, Dogecoin and Ripple, Danesh said.

Identifiers will also make it easier to compare which exchanges offer the best prices for specific crypto assets, he added.

ISO based identifiers are already used for reporting securities and derivatives trades to regulators for spotting market abuses and build up of risks, and Danesh expects DTIs will lead to a similar requirement for crypto transactions.

“We absolutely see there will be regulatory mandate for reporting of digital assets and that’s driven by just the size of the digital market, which now cannot be ignored by regulators,” Danesh said.

Given the time needed for the DTIs to be embedded in markets, the end of 2023 would probably be the earliest practical date for introducing mandatory reporting, he added.

The IT systems of big investors already reference ISO based identifiers and adding DTIs would mean no major recalibration, making it easier to add digital assets.

“The financial institutions when they are looking to add digital assets to the scope of assets classes that they are willing to trade, the compliance officer doesn’t want to come up with entirely new policies,” Danesh said.

“That is where the DTI fits in, it’s part of the same family of ISO standards.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Carmel Crimmins)