Cryptocurrency wallet firm imToken found itself in a challenging position after being added to the Investor Alert List (IAL) by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The IAL serves as a cautionary measure to inform investors about entities that may be considered potentially risky or suspicious.
The move by MAS came as a significant setback for imToken, primarily because it has yet to apply for a financial business license in Singapore, despite being headquartered there.
imToken’s response and efforts for removal from IAL
Responding to the development, imToken communicated via X (formerly Twitter) on January 9, clarifying the reasons behind its inclusion in the IAL. The company emphasized its status as a self-custodial wallet, offering decentralized services globally, including in Singapore. ImToken stressed the distinction between its operational model as a decentralized entity and the centralized custodial services, highlighting that users’ assets remain unaffected despite the blacklisting.
The proactive communication from imToken came weeks after MAS placed the firm on the IAL on December 5, 2023. Notably, MAS did not provide specific reasons for blacklisting imToken on its website. Following it, on December 8, 2023, MAS added another crypto-related entity, BKEX, a cryptocurrency exchange, to the list. The addition followed BKEX’s announcement of suspending withdrawals in May 2023.
imToken’s operations and achievements
ImToken operates a software-based cryptocurrency wallet and a hardware wallet named imKey. These apps have garnered positive reviews on platforms like Apple Store and Google Play. Established in 2016 in Hangzhou, China, imToken relocated its headquarters to Singapore. In 2021, the company raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, with significant contributions from Qiming Venture Partners, IDG Capital, and other investors.
As of 2021, imToken boasted a user base of 12 million, managing $50 million in crypto assets and facilitating transactions worth over $500 billion. The firm had a substantial presence in China, accounting for about 70% of its users, along with a significant user base in South Korea, the United States, and Southeast Asia.
The blacklisting of firms like imToken by MAS reflects the regulator’s cautious approach towards crypto-related entities. However, MAS has also shown openness to industry players who comply with its regulatory framework. A recent example is the issuance of a Major Payment Institution license to the South Korean crypto exchange Upbit on January 7. The license enables Upbit to expand its regional services, indicating MAS’s balanced stance between regulation and industry development.
imToken’s current situation underscores the complex regulatory environment for crypto firms, especially in jurisdictions like Singapore that are keen on establishing a regulated yet innovative financial landscape. The firm’s efforts to engage with MAS for removal from the IAL highlight the importance of compliance and open dialogue in navigating the regulatory challenges of the crypto industry. Simultaneously, MAS’s actions reflect its commitment to safeguarding investor interests while allowing compliant crypto businesses to thrive. As the situation unfolds, it will be interesting to see how imToken adapts to these regulatory expectations and how MAS continues to balance its regulatory responsibilities with the growth of the crypto sector.