The KYC Process for ICO Investors

As ICOs have gained popularity across the world, so are they coming under the watchful eyes of regulatory bodies and authorities now. Whilst many jurisdictions are not particularly clear on where they stand when it comes to ICOs, Know Your Customer (KYC) is a globally understood concept. Issuers of ICOs want to know who is investing in their project and investors want to know who they are dealing with – legitimate, trustworthy, and credible partnership.

But what is KYC and why do ICOs need it?

What is KYC?

KYC is an abbreviation for “Know Your Customer” and it refers to the process of a business or commercial entity, verifying the identity of its clients. It also helps to ascertain any risks of illegal intentions such as money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

By gathering KYC documents such as government-issued photographic ID, proof of address, and information on the source of any relevant funds, the company can establish the authenticity of an individual’s identity – something that is essential when dealing with money, assets, or other financial services. It is also important to know whether an investor or individual is a Politically Exposed person, a criminal, or someone that may pose a risk to the integrity of the business.

The undertaking of KYC is mandatory for many processes such as opening a bank account, forming a company, becoming a director in an enterprise, or even procuring the services of a lawyer or accountant. It is also becoming more prevalent in the world of cryptocurrency and ICOs as authorities and governments strive to regulate and legitimise the flourishing industry.

Why the world of finance needs KYC

The reason why KYC is needed in the world of finance is obvious – because many misbehaving actors attempt to use the financial system for nefarious activities. These can include setting up fraudulent structures, dodging tax, money laundering, proceeds of crime, facilitating bribery, or funding terrorist organisations.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that around 5% of the global GDP is laundered each year, which translates to billions of euros, just through the European Union member states alone. When reputable businesses get inadvertently involved in such activities, the outcome can be devastating. Not only can they lose money and incur hefty penalties, but they risk irreparable reputational damage and even the closure of their business. As bad actors become more and more sophisticated in the way in which they circumvent KYC and AML laws, businesses have to be more dedicated in the way that they adhere to applicable regulations.

In the digital world, one of the fastest growing sectors, the use of KYC is even more important. Using the internet and cryptocurrency allows users a degree of customers anonymity which means that it is open to abuse. By ensuring that KYC is upheld, those operating in the cryptocurrency, blockchain, and ICO sector can enjoy a greater level of security.

KYC in Malta

Malta has recently introduced three new Bills that will regulate cryptocurrency, blockchain, and ICOs within the country. As well as these Malta-specific laws, businesses operating in and from the country must adhere to the EU 4th Anti Money Laundering Directive. It is also worth noting that the EU 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive is due to be implemented not later than January 2020, and it will provide more depth requirements for issuers of ICOs to satisfy.

Provisions in the new laws have put in place strict requirements that both ICO providers and investors must adhere to. Complying with such requirements offers many advantages including legitimacy, confidence and transparency. It will also allow ICO issuers to reach a wider global audience as well as to increase the number of jurisdictions in which the ICO offering can take place. Furthermore, many cryptocurrency exchanges are starting to refuse to list tokens or coins that are not compliant with AML and KYC regulations.

At E&S Group, we have the knowledge and the experience to help you create the applicable KYC processes that your ICO or startup needs. We have a full understanding of both local, EU and international laws and requirements in these areas and we can assist in advising and creating policies that will ensure full compliance with the law. Do not risk the integrity of your business and reputation, make sure you know who you are dealing with and operate on the right side of the law, at all times. Contact us today by sending us an email on [email protected] to find out more.