Amazon is poised to seize upon the recent surge in interest in cryptocurrencies, bringing in a team of British financial regulation experts amid speculation it is on the brink of launching its own digital token.
The US tech giant is understood to have poached at least six regulatory specialists from UK banking watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the past two years.
At least four of those have joined in the past year, taking up roles including public policy manager for regulation and chief compliance officer for payments divisions.
Earlier this year, job adverts had appeared on Amazon which suggested it had already started work on a digital currency.
In those adverts for what it said would be a new ‘Digital and Emerging Payments (DEP)’ division, Amazon said it was developing a system to allow customers in emerging markets to “convert their cash into digital currency”.
It had said this system would allow those customers to “enjoy online services including shopping for goods and/or services like Prime Video”. The adverts were later taken down by Amazon, which has embarked on a major hiring spree across its business, adding 10,000 new posts in the UK alone to take its total workforce in Britain to 40,000 staff.
Amazon already has the “Amazon Coin”, a virtual currency which can be used to buy apps and games on its app store.
However, speculation has swirled that Amazon may look at a further step into this market, with incoming chief executive Andy Jassy, who will take up the post in June, having previously said he is interested in cryptocurrencies.
He told the Amazon ‘Re:Invent’ conference in 2017 that he was “very intrigued by what customers are ultimately going to do” rence in 2017 that he was “very intrigued by what customers are ultimately going to do” on cryptocurrency ledger technology blockchain.
Amazon declined to comment on the latest hires and rumours over a digital token launch.
Already other technology leaders have already made plays in cryptocurrency – a market which has seen a swelling of investor interest since the pandemic hit. The value of Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, is up by more than 500pc since last April.
Social media giant Facebook has backed the Diem cryptocurrency, which is expected to launch later this year. Plans for the digital token, which had been known as Libra, had initially been much larger, but were scaled back following heavy opposition from regulators across the world.
Christopher Woolard, now at EY but formerly the executive director of strategy and competition at the UK’s FCA, had said in 2019 the “size and scale” of Facebook’s efforts would “pose questions for society and government more generally about what is acceptable and desirable in this space”.
The FCA has taken a wary approach to cryptocurrencies, warning investors that they should be “prepared to lose all their money” if prices collapse. Later this year, it is set to ban any cryptocurrency companies not on its register in a bid to curb concerns over its use in money laundering.