Wyoming’s first cryptocurrency bank approved by state board

CHEYENNE – In a crucial step in the state’s efforts to become the national leader in blockchain technology, a cryptocurrency company had its bank charter approved Wednesday by the Wyoming Banking Board.

Through the board’s vote, Kraken Financial became the first company in Wyoming or elsewhere to receive a charter to operate a special purpose depository institution, which aims to provide a more structured regulatory environment for cryptocurrency activity.

Kraken will be based out of Cheyenne, though the company plans to operate “an online and mobile-first banking model,” according to a company statement released Wednesday.

“We’re thrilled to work in a state so aligned with our philosophy and values,” Kraken Financial CEO David Kinitsky said. “Wyoming is a rare and shining example of how thoughtful regulation can drive innovation for FinTech companies.”

The approval of the charter application, which was in the works for months, was quickly cheered by Gov. Mark Gordon, who said Wyoming “is taking its rightful place globally as a fintech leader.”

“Today, Wyoming became the first U.S. state to approve a banking charter for digital assets,” Gordon said in a statement Wednesday.

“Wyoming’s new charter will allow those using digital assets, like cryptocurrency, to access reliable financial services, protect consumers and allow businesses a way to hold digital assets safely.”

Gordon also thanked several lawmakers and industry experts for setting up the state-level regulations to attract companies like Kraken. Among those he thanked was Caitlin Long, a Wyoming native and cryptocurrency advocate, who worked alongside the Legislature to pass laws in 2018 and 2019 making blockchain more viable.

“At this point, (Wyoming) is the undisputed leader in blockchain,” Long said Wednesday. “What this whole initiative has always meant for Wyoming is jobs, bringing outside capital into the state and revenue into the state. The Kraken announcement checks all three boxes in a very big way.”

Long was aware of several Kraken employees interested in moving to Wyoming. The company also plans to hire some in-state residents for its operations, though much of its work can be done remotely.

“This will not be a traditional, brick-and-mortar bank branch on the corner of your local downtown,” Long said. “All these companies are remote, and people work for them from everywhere, so as long as someone has access to decent internet, anyone in rural Wyoming can work for these companies. You do not need to be located in a city.”

Looking ahead, Long said more SPDI charters could soon be granted, as her own cryptocurrency company, Avanti Financial, is just a few weeks behind Kraken in the application process.

The industry leader acknowledged that many Wyoming residents won’t have interactions with the cryptocurrency companies moving into the state. But if blockchain takes off in Wyoming, the effects could be felt by nearly every residents in one form or another.

“For the vast majority of folks, they get the benefit of the revenues coming into the state, and all of the ancillary demand for doctors and restaurants and all of those things, even if someone never touches or does business with the companies coming in,” Long said.

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