Bank of Montreal (BMO), the 4th largest bank in Canada by market capitalization and assets held, and 11th largest in North America, is reportedly open to dealing with Bitcoin– in theory.
At the company’s annual general meeting in Toronto, BMO CEO Bill Downe said that if it was reliable and regulated, “then there’s no reason why we couldn’t be an intermediary in bitcoin-related transactions”. He even as far as to use it in the same sentence as traditional currency- but not just any- he mentioned three of the world’s most sought after safe haven currencies:
“Because, if you wanted a Swiss franc transaction or a Japanese yen transaction or a U.S. dollar transaction, we can do that transaction for you….If bitcoin [can be] a reliable medium of exchange, then at that point in the future, we would be able to [conduct business] with bitcoin.”
The bank was earlier touted as the “Last Bitcoin Friendly Bank” in Canada after a spate of closures of accounts belonging to Bitcoin-related businesses. Account holders were given notice of the closures but not provided any reason. It is believed that the banks opted to be more safe than sorry and not risk drawing the ire of authorities.
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Despite what appeared to be their initially more accommodating stance, BMO reportedly still denied accounts of Canadian exchanges cointrader.net and Vault of Satoshi.
The country’s banking watchdog, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), expects banks “to be aware of the risks and consequences of engaging in any financial activity. This includes activity that may be linked to virtual currencies.” Considering that it is not technically possible for a bank to deal in Bitcoin, it is understandable that their warning will be more interpreted to have more far-reaching implications.
FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, has been weighing its stance on virtual currency. In a document, it apparently considers the option to “choke bitcoins oxygen (sic)”. The Canadian government has also earmarked $23 million over 5 years for FINTRAC to monitor virtual currencies.
The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) seems mostly disinterested in the whole matter and has no position on cryptocurrency because it operates “outside of the banking system and outside of a traditional national currency system and all of its protections.”