• Metaco says demand for institutional grade digital asset infrastructure in Singapore and the rest of Asia is the reason its expanding in the continent
  • Singapore has been at the forefront of digital asset adoption led by DBS Bank as well as its sovereign wealth fund Temasek

Digital assets infrastructure provider Metaco announced today that it has opened an Asia-Pacific office in Singapore, citing demand for digital assets in the City and the region as a whole. 

Switzerland-based Metaco has played a role in digital bond issuance in Europe and Switzerland during the last year. At the same time, Singapore has been at the forefront of digital bond issuance with Temasek portfolio company Azalea Investment Management issuing its latest Temasek private-equity-backed bonds, Astrea VI, in tokenized format on the blockchain and local digital asset exchange iSTOX also issuing tokenized bonds. 

“The decision to choose Singapore as the location for our APAC base made best sense for our business and strategic objectives. Singapore is one of the jurisdictions in which we are seeing the highest levels of demand for digital asset software and infrastructure by financial institutions, driven in part by the progressive regulatory framework towards digital assets by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS),” Andre Israel, Chief Operating Officer at Metaco, told Blockworks in an email. 

Israel also said that the country’s talent pool and prior experience with digital assets is another reason the company chose to establish its regional headquarters in Singapore. 

Perhaps the most notable example of institutional acceptance of digital assets in Singapore comes via DBS, which is partially owned by the Singaporean government. Earlier this year, the bank announced that it was opening up a Security Token Offering issuance desk. During its last earnings announcement, the bank reported that it has over $100 million in digital assets custodied via its institutional-focused digital assets exchange, and it will soon begin to offer digital products via its traditional brokerage DBS Vickers.

In a previous interview with Blockworks, Seamus Donoghue, Vice President of Metaco, called Ethereum the new “rails for the new capital markets” believing it will play a key role in the future issuance of government debt — a “growth industry” according to Donoghue. 

Singapore vs. Hong Kong 

While Singapore might have had competition from Hong Kong as a digital assets hub, the two are drifting further apart, with Singapore taking the lead given its friendly regulatory environment. Industry stakeholders that Blockworks has spoken to have complained about Hong Kong’s digital asset double standard, with layers of bureaucracy and strict anti-money laundering laws that stop most firms from even being able to open a bank account. 

“Banking still treats crypto as something that they really don’t want to touch in Hong Kong over money laundering concerns,” Vincent Chok, CEO of First Digital Trust, a registered public trust company headquartered in Hong Kong told Blockworks in an earlier interview. “There’s a definite bias going on.”

It’s also been said that Hong Kong’s lack of proper digital asset custodian rules — so far it has only issued guidance and not a comprehensive legal framework like Singapore — is inhibiting the territory’s growth as a digital assets superpower. 

But Metaco’s Israel said that Hong Kong is still a key global financial center and on the roadmap as the company “continues to grow at a significant pace”. It’s just not going to be its Asia-Pacific headquarters.

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    Sam Reynolds is a Taipei-based reporter, covering digital assets and regulation throughout Asia. Before joining Blockworks he was an editor at Forkast News and an analyst with IDC.