Will Sweden be the First Nation With Their Own Cryptocurrency?

According to a note issued by HBSC economic analyst James Pomeroy, Sweden could be the first nation to issue their own cryptocurrency. A document, which was sent to clients this week, titled “Sweden’s Big Year: Can the Economy Overcome Some Challenges?” set forth some rudimentary proposals of what an e-krona might look like.

The international bank that is HSBC calls the Swedish economy “one of the world’s most interesting”. It would be a fitting place to roll out a central-bank-issued, digital currency as they have one of the lowest actual cash usage rates on the planet. According to Business Insider, the use of cash is actively discouraged by shops and other businesses offering various goods and services. The business-focused news source also highlights anecdotal stories of beggars and buskers having their own card terminals to take electronic payments out in the street.

The HSBC-issued note states that the launch of a so-called “e-krona” might not happen this year but is something that may occur within the next few years.

Sweden’s Riksbank have identified two possible ways that a centrally issued digital currency could work. One is based on value, the other is on a register system. HSBC claim that the first option “would be more like cash is at present, with value stored on an app or a card rather than in a central database”. Meanwhile, the second option would use a register-based system. This would mean that e-krona would be stored on centrally registered accounts themselves. According to Pomeroy, the second option is:

“… more complex, but may make the framework easier to expand and develop over time, and would likely require the use of blockchain technology.”

Meanwhile, Sweden’s central bank has stated that it would consider using a combination of both options. The HSBC analyst added:

“A Central Bank Cryptocurrency (CBCC) would use blockchain technology, whereas a non-blockchain solution would make the e-Krona a ‘deposited currency account’.”

In addition to the fact that Sweden are already moving quickly towards a cashless society, the history of financial innovation within the State makes their efforts to be the first to launch a national digital currency fitting. Over 350 years ago, it was in Sweden that the first modern banknote was created. It’s therefore appropriate that things have moved full-circle and it is in the Scandinavian nation that cash itself might finally cease to exist.

Sweden are by no means the only country to consider launching their own digital currency though. Over the Christmas break, the Bank of England made headlines after speculation increased over them launching their own virtual currency later this year. There has also been talk of a CryptoRuble from Russia, and recently Ukraine have hinted towards similar via their own Facebook page.

 

Image: PixaBay

 

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Sweden, the Scandinavian nation famous for ABBA, Björn Borg, and Volvo, is leading the way when it comes to becoming the world’s first cashless country – and the technology behind Bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies that have spawned is catalyzing the process.

Two years ago, in October 2015, Niklas Arvidsson, a researcher in industrial economics and management at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, published a study that predicted his country would be the first to introduce a cashless society. He said, “Cash is still an important means of payment in many countries’ markets, but that no longer applies here in Sweden”.

The progressive Swedes are on course to achieving this lofty aim, and other Scandinavian nations are following suit. According to reports, 56.3 percent of the country’s 1,600 bank branches i.e., 900 of 1,600 neither hold cash nor accept cash deposits anymore. Further, circulation of the country’s traditional currency — the Swedish krona has been falling for some time. In 2009 the figure was SEK106 billion whereas last year it was just SEK 60billion. Why is this happening?

According to data obtained from Visa, Swedes use bank cards three times more often than the average European. And a Riksbank report, published in December 2016, showed that 97 percent of the country has access to cards, compared with 85 percent to cash.

There are many additional benefits to living in a society that does not need to use cash – not least when it comes to personal safety. People are less likely to be robbed, and also thieves will not as easily be able to sell their stolen items.

Another key factor is the rise in popularity of Swish, an app owned by six Swedish banks (Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB, and Swedbank). It allows anyone with a smartphone to transfer money from one bank account to another, in real time. All that is required is the sender and receiver’s phone numbers.

Swish was launched in 2012 and by the end of 2015, it had attracted 3.6 million users, which is more than a third of Sweden’s 9.9 million population. Also, that year some $515 million was transferred using the app. Those eye-opening numbers have increased significantly since, and now even churches have started to reveal their telephone numbers at the end of each service to make it easier for parishioners to boost their coffers.

This trend has forced Sweden’s central banks to consider introducing a digital form of government-backed money, and the technology behind Bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency launched eight years ago, is being promoted as a leading option.

A major concern about going cashless in Sweden is that it could exclude the ‘unbankables’ – that is people without a bank account – and those who do not own a smartphone. Bitcoin, however, has the ability to solve those problems through technology. Users do not require a bank account, and they can, in effect, spend their money anonymously.

Bitcoin and other top cryptocurrencies – Ethereum, Ripple, Dash, Litecoin, and Ethereum Classic can be purchased outright, and in a straightforward manner, from investment platform eToro. It has six million members across 140 countries and the company’s motto is “crypto needn’t be cryptic”. Trading on eToro is attractive because it has a fast online verification process, global offices (including in the United Kingdom), and members can use the CopyTrader tool to match the strategies of top-performing traders.

Many in the FinTech space believe the Blockchain, a decentralized ledger which is the backbone of cryptocurrencies, is the real game-changing innovation. In Sweden, and elsewhere, they have already toyed with ways in which it can be used in their public services. And sooner rather than later it could well underpin the world’s first cashless society.

Image: Kurious (License CC0)

With Brexit around the corner, Sweden could present itself as one of the alternative destinations for the European financial industry.

The upcoming Brexit has turned into a speculator’s game. Britain’s exit from the European Union is expected to have a divisive effect on the country’s thriving finance and financial technology sector. All the efforts put in by the City of London to foster a healthy fintech ecosystem may go to waste as companies risk losing free access to the EU market.

Like any other European Union nation, Sweden has started to make a push to become the next European fintech hotspot. The country has an established track record when it comes to attracting investments in the fintech sector, which could come in handy at this time. According to reports, the Nordic country has the highest number of fintech investments per capita since the past five years in the whole of Europe. The success has enabled Stockholm to present itself as an attractive destination for companies and startups looking to regain a foothold in the Eurozone.

A leading tech magazine quoted Claire Ingram, co-author of the Stockholm Fintech Report saying,

“There is more incentive for startups to go to [Stockholm] and piggyback to the rest of Europe, instead of trying to start in a big economy and spread out from there.”

Apart from the technological advancements and economic stability, Sweden also offers companies with relatively easy access to the government authorities. Such access will help businesses to work with the concerned authorities to create a well-balanced and favorable ecosystem for everyone’s benefit.

London has been the home for many fintech, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies of all sizes. These companies have working collaborations with many mainstream financial institutions both within and outside the United Kingdom. They can potentially enjoy the same atmosphere in Sweden as Santander, Citi and other banking majors are also bent on setting up their base in the country.

However, as mentioned earlier, all these developments remain a speculation and are subject to bilateral agreements between the EU and UK and Sweden and UK.

Ref: Computer Weekly | Image: NewsBTC

Sweden’s intention to introduce an electronic version of its legal tender (eKrona) is not quite popular among its citizens. A recent survey conducted by the Swedish company, SIFO shows that at least 50 percent of the population is against the country’s central bank introducing electronic currency to complement cash.

The decision to introduce eKrona was announced last month by the deputy governor of Riksbank — the Central Bank of Sweden. According to earlier reports, the falling volumes of cash based transactions was responsible for the decision. The number of transactions involving cash and coins is said to have dropped by over 40 percent since 2009 and the inherent advantages of electronic currency made it sound like a good move at that time.

The Riksbank’s eKrona announcement was well received by economists, financial gurus and other prominent players in the fintech ecosystem. However, the general population is apprehensive about the future of a cashless economy. With less than 10 percent of the population in favor of digital equivalent of SEK, it is to be seen whether the central bank will still go ahead with it or not. Most people are not clear about the added value such a move can offer especially when there is no dearth of digital payment services in the current market.

Also, the survey revealed a weak Bitcoin ecosystem in the country. Among the 1268 people in the age group of 16 to 79 interviewed during the survey, 67 percent were found to have “some knowledge” about Bitcoin. But only 2 percent of them have actually used the cryptocurrency for trading or making transactions.

It is believed that the introduction of eKrona will pave way for a wider acceptance of Bitcoin and other alternative currencies in the community. The potential of Riksbank’s initiative catching up with other countries has been one of the most discussed topics as well. If the central bank decides to go ahead with the introduction of eKrona, it will pave the way for new digital services, at a much lower cost.

Ref: Breakit | Image: My International Adventure

The growing popularity of Bitcoin and its benefits has got the central banks across the world considering the pros and cons of implementing a digital version of their respective fiat currencies. None of the countries have so far come up with a solid plan, except for Sweden. The National Bank of Sweden — Sveriges Riksbank has earlier today announced its intention to launch Ekron, a digital currency as the country’s legal tender in the next two years.

The plans to launch the digital currency was announced by the Deputy Governor of Sweden’s National Bank, Cecilia Skingsleyova. According to reports, the country’s decision to switch from banknotes to digital currency is influenced by a dramatic drop in the use of currency notes among the Swedish population. A financial news publication has reported that the country has seen a 40 percent drop in the usage of coins and bank notes since 2009.

If Sveriges Riksbank does successfully implement the use of fiat linked cryptocurrency, it will be making history yet again. The very bank was responsible for introducing the first paper currency way back in the 1660’s. However, it is not an easy task ahead for the central bank as there are various aspects that need to be considered before they can completely do away with bank notes. Among various issues, the bank will also consider the impact of digital currency on the country’s existing monetary policy and financial stability.

The top executive of Sweden’s National Bank also mentions that the plan is still in its infancy and as they explore various options, questions regarding traceability of funds, delivery method and interest structure for the digital money has to be addressed as well. Also, Ekron may not completely replace physical currency notes and coins . Instead, it may operate alongside conventional currency, at least until other countries come up with similar currencies.

Earlier last year, Ecuador introduced a digital version of dollars, with limited success. Other countries working on the implementation of digital versions of fiat currency includes China and South Korea.

Ref: Openiazoch | Image: My International Adventure

The use of blockchain based registries has now spread to Sweden. The European country may soon be implementing a new land registry based on distributed ledger.

With the number of people around, it is hard to keep track of all the things they had ever owned. However, it is not that hard when it comes to land ownership. For starters, it is not easy to hide a piece of land, as it has to be under the sun where everyone can easily see. However, over a period of time, as ownerships start changing it becomes hard to keep track of it unless there is some reliable form of record is maintained.

The distributed ledger technology, which happens to be the backbone of the digital currency, Bitcoin is an ideal option for maintaining the land records. Many countries are already looking into the technology to build land registry systems on the blockchain. Sweden has become the latest country to step into something similar. According to the latest announcement, the Swedish authorities have collaborated with ChromaWay – a blockchain solutions company based in the country, Kairos Future – a consulting firm and the telecom company – Telia to develop a blockchain based land registry system for Sweden.

The land registry system still under development is a proof of concept product with the framework in place. Authorities are using the proof of concept model framework along with a white paper to demonstrate the workings of the registry. The blockchain based land registry database makes use of the immutable property of the distributed ledger to ensure that the contents once stored into the database will remain on it forever. Any updates to be made to the land details will have to be entered as a separate entry, thus maintaining the whole chain of ownership records intact.

By implementing blockchain technology in place of conventional record keeping software, the government will not only be able to prevent real estate frauds and illegal land grabbing but also makes real-time updates and verification of land ownership easy. In addition, a limited access to the land registry can be shared with the banks to automate mortgage, loan approval, and collection.

Technically, the blockchain based land registry can be used to finish a land/real estate deal in less than a day, which otherwise will take at least a month or more in Sweden using conventional methods. Unfortunately, the new land registry is still in a concept state. So, the Swedes will have to wait for it go live before they can benefit from it.

Ref: FirstPost | Image: My International Adventure

 

The European Court of Justice recently declared that VAT does not apply to bitcoin exchanges. The decision was cheered by the bitcoin community across the world. However, at least one government is not happy about it for sure.

The increased popularity of bitcoin has got governments thinking of innovative ways to gain revenue out of it. Unfortunately, the only way for governments to do so is either in the form of fees, taxes or fines. Taxes are the most attractive ones as it provides a constant stream of revenue to the treasury. Like United States, Sweden tried doing something similar by applying VAT on bitcoin trade executed at bitcoin exchanges. For their disappointment it was shot down twice for good.

It all started with David Hedqvist, a Swedish resident requesting for clarification on VAT policy for bitcoin exchanges. In response to his request, the Swedish high court conducted an inquiry and ruled that VAT should not be applicable to buying and selling bitcoin over bitcoin exchanges in the country. While David got his answer, the Swedish tax authorities, known as Skatteverket objected to it and appealed to the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that bitcoin exchanges should indeed by exempted from VAT. This ruling adds weightage to the argument that bitcoin is no less than traditional cash and it has attained a mainstream status in few regions across the world. VAT exemption on bitcoin exchanges resonates with similar existing exemptions enjoyed by exchanges that deal only with conventional currencies.

The European Court of Justice, with this ruling has partially clarified the taxation regime applicable to bitcoin. Even though it has not managed to clear the confusion surrounding bitcoin regulations, it has reduced the confusion to an extent.

There are no clear taxation rules on bitcoin across the world. In United States, bitcoin falls under a lot of different categories. Bitcoin is considered as currency, commodity, money and property by various different government agencies, attracting different regulations and tax slabs depending upon the operations conducted by people using bitcoin.

Source: Live Bitcoin News

 

Sweden has plans to become the world’s first Cashless Country. The European country says that cash is becoming increasingly falling into disuse. Sweden is trying to become the world’s first cashless society. This has been highly motivated by the IT industry in the country which as seemingly helped the country to crackdown on a series of organised crime institutions.
It seems that the new P2P payment systems and payment mobile systems have been revolutionizing the way people use their money. The latest advancements on several financial technologies, including bitcoin, have led the country to embrace a new wave of options that will have their influence in a near future.
In this case, the country already foresees the chance of turning into a cashless system in a few years.
Niklas Arvidsson, a KTH researcher in industrial economics and management, says that the increased use of P2P technologies and new payment systems are making this supposition a real probability:

“Cash is still an important means of payment in many countries’ markets, but that no longer applies here in Sweden. Our use of cash is small, and it’s decreasing rapidly.”

Sweeden is a country where people are used to pay for their expenses with their cards and nearly 60% of the country’s bank notes are stashed in the banks. Swedes are rapidly opting to use credit cards and mobile payments through their smartphones.
As a result of a newly made collaboration between the major Danish banks and the major Swedish Banks, the Swede government is now ascertaining this option.
Sweden will still have to ensure that all the Swede citizens are ready to be included in a cashless payment system for this to happen.
Most of the banks operating in the country are already cash free. Sales offices do not accept cash deposits, instead customers use deposit machines and credit cards. Sweden is now trying to change the bills and coins. The government believes this will force the underground economies to surface since the old bills will become void in a short while.
This transformation would present serious challenges for those who are unfamiliar with the new technologies however, the country is certain that this would be just an easy hindrance to overlap.

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How do you discredit someone when everything about them is already public knowledge? There isn’t much one can do in such circumstances except stressing upon the faults and wrongdoings of the person and convincing people that he or she could have handled it in a better way. It looks like that’s what Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), the third largest bank in Sweden is trying to do. Bitcoin happens to be the target in this veiled campaign against it.

The Skandinaviska Enskilda Banke (SEB) has recently taken out an advertisement space in one of the Swedish daily to run an article about Bitcoin. The article talks about Bitcoin using a cautious undertone. This article goes on to list the advantages of Bitcoin, and at the same time tries to convince people that there is nothing special about Bitcoin.

In what appears to be a smear campaign started by SEB against Bitcoin after its complaints against the latter was snubbed by the Central Bank. The article goes on to make few contradictory statements, first by saying that it exists outside all the systems, and later in the next few lines it points out the tax regulations surrounding Bitcoin and court cases around it to show that Bitcoin has already become part of the system.

SEB goes a bit more further to mention the volatility aspect of Bitcoin and also its use in drug deals, money laundering etc.  After mentioning these things, SEB has confessed that the speed of transactions over the banking network is much slower than that of Bitcoin, where it happens with minutes, anywhere across the worked

While this move by SEB shows that the bank is currently a bit worried about the growth of Bitcoin, it also serves as a message to the Central Bank to wake up and regulate the Swedish Bitcoin market. It is up to people for deciding whether the advertised article is against or pro-bitcoin.

If you enjoy bitcoin, and you enjoy having fun (or even better, you enjoy having fun with bitcoin), then the “Bitcoin Funfair” just might be the event for you.

Described as a “flea market from the future with dazzling colors, delicious food, fascinating products, enchanting music and entertainment,” the Funfair is set to take place on February 14th and 15th at the Sodra Theatre in Stockholm, Sweden.

carnival pic

The entire event is organized by The Forumist, a selected group of Swedish individuals and bitcoin users.  Gustave Bagge, content creator at The Forumnist, commented on the event with enthusiasm, saying:

“We just want regular people to discover bitcoins, and help young upcoming artists, designers and innovators learn about the possibilities of permission-less innovation… There seems to be a great interest for something like this… We are tired of reading about hacks and thefts in the mainstream media, when the reality is that bitcoin is an amazing new technology that empowers anyone to start a business.”

The Bitcoin Funfair works to host upcoming designers, entrepreneurs and vintage shops that can “show off” their products and try to up their sales ante.

The big clincher of the event is that visitors are asked to exchange a minimum of 100 Swedish Krona (SEK) into bitcoin.  They will then be able to spend their bitcoins at the fair, and later trade any unused funds back into fiat currency.

Bagge further added to his statement, explaining that everyone should be excited about the new technology and possibilities that bitcoin brings to the table:

“There’s so much focus in mainstream media about the big business, mining, exchange etc. and with all that has happened, people get scared away.”

Images from City of Stockholm and Google.