The crypto sector in 2023 saw major headline events: the conviction of SBF, Binance’s record Treasury fine, and ongoing SEC regulatory actions.
These stories might have overshadowed some of the positive stories of change we saw this year.
US and UK universities witnessed a surge in student interest in crypto courses, regulations brought clarity in multiple jurisdictions and growing interest on crypto’s use cases and explainers.
Swept up in the headlines
It’s fair to say that 2023 has been a busy year, with several big news stories competing for everyone’s attention in – and beyond – the crypto sector.
Among the headline grabbers: A jury convicted SBF of “old timey fraud”, Treasury issued its largest ever fine to Binance, and the SEC continued its campaign of regulation by enforcement.
Amid all this, it’s very easy to have missed the smaller stories, many of them positive, many revealing the real-world changes that crypto is ushering in. Several countries from Australia to the UK set the bar for regulation and in doing so, put the sector on a stronger, more transparent footing; and the public fascination with crypto continued to grow worldwide, exemplified in the increasing numbers of people investing in the sector.
Students want to take crypto courses
We began an education series, and through five articles investigated what the US’s top universities are offering, looked at what students studying crypto expect from their education, and examined how educators and students expect the sector to develop. The results surprised us.
We were struck by the diversity of the course offerings at all levels – undergraduate, post-graduate and courses tailored to professionals wanting to gain crypto and blockchain knowledge. There really is a course for everyone, which is good because there is no ‘typical’ student in crypto. Instead, courses appeal to those studying humanities as well as IT and finance. Also notable was how every institution from the Ivy League schools to local colleges are running courses.
Alongside this, dedicated crypto centers are being created at many of the top schools, with major players like IBM financing areas of research, and often providing important industry tie-ups and experiences for students.
It became clear that the challenges the sector faces have dampened general student interest. But what’s happened in place of this is a deepening of course offerings, with students regarding the challenges the crypto space has faced as a natural sign the sector is maturing. Courses have become more focused on specific areas, better serving the sector’s need for real-world skills, and have also become increasingly cross-disciplinary, typically, but not exclusively, involving engineering, IT, legal and math schools.
It emerged that the US retains an appeal for students interested in crypto because of the influence its decisions have on the rest of the world. But it’s not the only academic hotspot for crypto. The UK, with its global financial presence, is another hub and one where there are close ties between academics, industry and regulators.
Turning our attention to the UK was instructive, highlighting just how mature the sector is. For institutions like University College London (UCL), students are far beyond introductory courses and instead customizing their courses in line with their career goals. What is also clear is the shift from scepticism to engagement by regulators, who now typically work with crypto departments in academia to better understand the issues and create workable legislation. Collaboration doesn’t stop here; as with the US, there is a lot of engagement with other academic institutions as well as industry.
What is Account Abstraction and other explainers you might have missed
We also ran a series of explainers, designed to offer an overview of the big issues in crypto, as well as investigate some areas in depth. Among the Most Read in the explainer category: Account Abstraction, Burning Crypto and how the metaverse is likely to develop, particularly through the $180 billion-worth gaming industry.
We ran a similarly helpful explainer on cryptography. Think you know about cryptography? Perhaps think again. While most of us know it is the study and practice of sending secure, encrypted messages or data between two or more parties, how many of us really know how the ‘crypto’ gets into cryptocurrencies?
Another important explainer was blockchain’s central role in improving cross-border payments. Not only does it allow for near real-time processing, lowers the cost of transfer dramatically, enjoys automated record-keeping and is secure, but through the use of smart contracts blockchain cross-border payment transactions are automatically enforced as per predefined rules, giving the process a never-before-seen transparency.
Crypto Policy Briefs you may have missed
Over the course of 2023, there have been some important policy shifts worldwide. We cover these as matter of course, but with the pace of developments, some don’t receive the media attention they deserve. Reflecting this, our other unsung heroes were our policy briefs.
If you missed it, we ran a story on the UK Law Commission’s final report into digital assets, a move that represents a real step change for the country, recognizing that digital assets are integral to the economy’s evolution. This is part of the UK’s broader moves to develop a tailored statutory legal framework that improves clarity and efficiency in establishing, operating and enforcing specific crypto token and asset collateral arrangements.
As we’ve explored in our series, the adoption and use crypto varies across geographies, here are some of our top read articles:
Vietnam’s Rising Crypto Usage: Vietnam’s position as a leader in crypto adoption in South-East Asia is notable. The country’s focus on financial access, interest in non-fiat assets, and gaming rewards have driven this trend. As the situation stands, there is no legislation governing crypto, but the government is taking a greater interest in cryptocurrencies, and the situation is expected to change.
Australia’s Cautious Regulatory Approach: Australia’s receptiveness to crypto contrasts with its cautious regulatory strategy. The country is exploring diverse use cases to develop a robust regulatory environment that balances innovation with user safety.
Ukraine’s Use of Crypto in Crisis: Ukraine’s adoption of crypto for fundraising during a national crisis highlights the technology’s potential for rapid, global mobilization of funds. This successful use case has led to a broader integration of crypto into Ukraine’s financial system, showcasing its utility in emergency scenarios.
Brazil’s Digital Literacy and Crypto Growth: Brazil’s status as Latin America’s largest crypto economy is underpinned by widespread digital literacy and regulatory support. While the country is poised to become a regional crypto hub, there is a growing focus on balancing consumer protection with innovation.
Lebanon’s Crypto Lifeline Amidst Financial Turmoil: In Lebanon, crypto has emerged as a crucial alternative amidst economic instability, tight banking controls, and hyperinflation. The increasing reliance on crypto in Lebanon underscores its potential as a stabilizing force in times of financial crisis.
In conclusion, these diverse narratives from Vietnam, Australia, Ukraine, Brazil, and Lebanon illustrate the multifaceted role of cryptocurrency globally. From a tool for economic resilience to a subject of cautious regulatory exploration, crypto continues to shape and be shaped by the unique economic, political, and social landscapes of each country. As the world grapples with the evolving dynamics of digital currencies, these case studies offer valuable insights into the potential paths and pitfalls of crypto adoption and regulation.