Most humans are the same: we claim to seek and foster change, but when it happens, we’re cautious (and often divided) about how to deal with it. Digital currencies, for instance. Last week, the Isle of Man government announced that it is going to take specific action to entice digital and virtual currencies to its (virtual) shores by (according to local politicians) “welcoming those who can meet the necessary standards while also preserving the island’s good reputation as a financial centre”. For those of you wearing your MLRO hats as you read, in the FAQs issued by the government, it is explained that the IOM “is intending to include crypto & digital currencies under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2008 and the Designated Business (Registration and Oversight) Bill 2014 to ensure that the activities undertaken are subject to the anti-money laundering legislation. The same registration and oversight regime that will be applicable to other designated businesses will then apply to digital currency businesses.” And the very next day, several Manx businesses jointly launched an “incubator” programme to entice digital currency businesses to the island.
Compare and contrast, if you will, to the decision made in December 2013 by Alderney, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. At the time, Alderney had been considering minting commemorative coins based on Bitcoins: the coins would have the Bitcoin logo on one side and the Alderney logo on the other (with royalties going to both Alderney and the Royal Mint), and would contain a set amount of gold, so that they could be melted down and sold if Bitcoin collapsed. Anyone arriving in Alderney with an “Alderney Bitcoin” would be able to exchange it for a Bitcoin, or its sterling value at the time. After deliberations, it was decided in May 2014 not to go ahead with the scheme – mainly because the financial authorities in Guernsey considered it potentially damaging to Guernsey’s reputation for financial probity. Robert MacDowall, chairman of the Alderney Finance Committee and champion of the Bitcoin commemorative coin scheme, was pretty snippy about the decision: “Guernsey have claimed it will damage their reputation if we go ahead with this [but] they are backwards thinking and need to move with the times. This is the future.” He plans to go ahead with the scheme, but with another jurisdiction and in a private capacity. The Isle of Man should probably expect his call soon.