Working in conjunction with Coinbase – one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges – this was Apto’s ﬁrst venture into the UK market, where it would be providing the proprietary technology behind the card payment programme. Being a ﬁrst-of-its-kind product, the launch of the Coinbase debit card was designed as a cutting-edge payment solution - giving Apto and Coinbase signiﬁcant visibility among consumers and businesses.
The success of this launch would have a signiﬁcant impact on the payment card market, and put Apto in an advantageous position for future ﬁntech ventures in the UK. However, being a totally new product, this was complex territory for both Apto and Coinbase. In addition, a third party was brought in to facilitate the issue of cards, adding a further level of complexity.
In 2018, Stan Koppel, Regulatory of counsel in BCLP's San Francisco office, introduced Meg Nakamura, Co-Founder and CEO of Apto, to Marcus Pearl , Louis Wihl and Kai Zhang in BCLP's London fintech team. With extensive fintech experience, the team were well-positioned to act for Apto in connection with the launch of the UK's first-ever cryptocurrency debit card.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the regulation of virtual currency, careful consideration was needed with respect to potential regulatory requirements, such as that of payment services and electronic money. The team carried out a comprehensive analysis to ensure a clear understanding of the client's regulatory position.
A detailed knowledge of the products' structure including the operational processes was also necessary; negotiations involved operational, commercial, compliance and legal teams from each party – many of them in the US. Close collaboration, absolute transparency and clarity of communications were crucial throughout.
Collaboration across legal disciplines was also critical on such a complex, fast moving project. BCLP's London Data Protection team provided the necessary analysis of the data ﬂows to make sure that the client was in a strong position in terms of its legal obligations and contractual commitments.
BCLP created bespoke agreements which enabled the launch of the cryptocurrency debit card and will support Apto’s ability to continue to innovate and provide new payment card solutions across the global market.
Louis Wihl, BCLP Senior Associate, explains: "We were fortunate enough to act for Apto on this incredible opportunity because we have extensive payment sector knowledge and we were able to deliver because of our joined up approach and by building a close working relationship with Apto. "
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The successful launch of this unique debit card signiﬁcantly raised the UK brand proﬁle of Apto. It delivered widespread media coverage, including front page of the FT’s Companies & Markets section and the CNN website. Having ﬁrst mover advantage, the launch positions Apto as a go-to technology partner for companies looking to deliver card programmes in the UK market and beyond.
Concepts across the cryptocurrency market are developing rapidly, yet practical payment solutions remain rare in the UK. This innovative card ﬁlls the gap. By enabling cardholders to access their cryptocurrency as easily as they would their bank account, Apto's platform paves the way for similar payment solutions in the future - cards which enable instant access to any type of digital stored value. The launch will have a signiﬁcant impact in the UK payment card market, as it not only highlights Apto’s capabilities, but also that cryptocurrencies are fast maturing.