The British government has pushed through its first licensing of a virtual currency company, underscoring its desire to make London a hub for the development of financial technology. The Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s top financial regulator, has granted an electronic money license to Circle, a company based in Boston that uses Bitcoin, the virtual currency, to enable consumers to make payments to other consumers using a mobile app, or “social payments” as the company puts it.
The regulator helped Circle get the license by putting it in the government’s Innovation Hub, which is one of several initiatives Britain has undertaken to encourage experimentation in the financial industry. The license makes it possible for Circle to establish a banking relationship with Barclays, the British bank. It is the first time that a large global bank has agreed to work with a Bitcoin company, though Circle has attracted investments from others.
The British economic secretary to the treasury, Harriett Baldwin, said in an email that the license and Barclays’ relationship with Circle “prove our decision to introduce the most progressive, forward-looking regulatory regime is paying off and cements our status as the world’s fintech capital.”
Circle, which was founded in 2013, already allows customers in the United States to easily send payments to one another and buy and sell Bitcoin, and customers in Britain will now be able to do the same.