Dutch banks refuse accounts for cryptocurrency businesses

Bitcoin Keychains
A pile of keychains emblazoned with the logo for cryptocurrency Bitcoin. August 26, 2013.photo: BTC Keychain

All major Dutch banks refuse to let entrepreneurs active in the cryptocurrency world open business account because of "too great compliance risks", Sprout reports after questioning ABN Amro, ING, Rabobank, Volksbank and Aegon subsidiary Knab about the matter. Only online bank Bunq allows cryptocurrency businesses to open accounts under certain conditions.

ABN Amro usually does not let businesses open a business account "when they deal with bitcoin or altcoin", spokesperson Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd said to sprout. "As a bank, you have to deal with various laws such as the Act on the duty to report unusual transaction and the law for the prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism. Cryptocurrencies are in an unregulated market, through which we have no or insufficient supervision of the cash flows."

ING is "very cautious" with regards to companies in the cryptocurrency market, a spokesperson said. He also pointed to the laws that make banks conduct customer due diligence. "This also means that customers are questioned about the transactions and the objectives and background thereof. The integrity risks associated with cryptocurrencies mean that ING conducts more extensive customer research and pose questions to customers." Regulators also ask banks to pay attention to the risks involved in cryptocurrencies, the spokesperson added. "In addition the government sees this problem and is working on legislation for cryptocurrencies to limit the risks of money laundering and terrorism financing."

Rabobank states that customers can trade with bitcoins for their own account and risk. But adds: "Bitcoins are considered to be risky products. Customers who trade in high-risk products can have a higher risk profile. It is conceivable that companies that deal with cryptocurrencies are seen as too risky and can therefore not be accepted as customer." The bank adds that there is no central issuing institution behind cryptocurrency. "Ownership and value transfer are completely anonymous and evade supervision by third parties, such as a government. Which means that cryptocurrency does not meet the highest standards of compliance set by Rabobank."

Volksbank, the former SNS, won't allow cryptocurrency companies to open business accounts. "Given the substantial integrity risks associated with virtual currencies, it is not possible for customers who are structurally active in it to open an account with us", the bank said to Sprout. "Virtual currencies are not regulated and have a high degree of anonymity. In practice it appears that the transactions are not or hardly traceable to physical persons."

Knab refuses cryptocurrency entrepreneurs "in principle" and it has happened before, a spokesperson said to Sprout. The bank refers to its acceptance criteria, in which alternative payment instruments like cryptocurrency and prepaid cards are banned, as well as services or products that promote anonymity. Consultants or trainers in the field of cryptocurrency can, however, open an account at Knab. The bank is working on its cryptocurrency policy. "Because we realize that this is an important development in the market, as Knab we want to see how we can facilitate this."

Bunq is the only bank that doesn't refuse cryptocurrency businesses in advance. "We do ask additional questions and there must be a clear picture of where the money flows come from. We are legally obliged to do this, quite curious, because we are a bank and not an investigative service", founder Ali Niknam said to Sprout. "The crypto market is developing rapidly and we continuously update our policy, the situation ca be completely different in three months. That does not necessarily mean that the policy will become stricter, new obligations for exchanges, for example, make our work a bit easier."