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Crypto Companies Should Focus on Insurance for Value in Flight

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Cryptocurrency market as an emerging risk market requires insurance on multiple layers, according to a blog post by Coinbase chief information security officer Philip Martin.

As the cryptocurrency industry matures, so does the need for increased financial security. One way to achieve this is through a contingency system like an insurance program. Martin explained Coinbase’s approach in securing the confidence of its customers if exposed to loss due to the hacking of its hot wallet.

“The data is clear that today, the most likely consumer loss scenario for any cryptocurrency company is hot wallet loss due to hacking. We secured our first policy to address that risk at the end of 2013… If the worst happens and Coinbase loses customer funds, customers deserve certainty that they will be made whole.”

Coinbase insurance program covers both fiat deposits and cryptocurrency holdings in hot wallets, with the fiat deposits covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Meanwhile, the cryptocurrencies in the hot wallet are insured by multiple partners. “We currently hold a hot wallet policy with a USD 255 million limit placed by Lloyd’s registered broker Aon and sourced from a global group of US and UK insurance companies, including certain Lloyd’s of London syndicates,” Martin explains.

“Significant programs like ours, especially in emerging areas of risk, are generally put together using a large number of insurance companies who each take positions of loss in a ‘tower’.”

Martin finds misinformation around insurance to be one of the hindrances to adopting insurance. Where companies are rather puzzled by the nature of insurance to adopt, bundled with how much insurance should a crypto company have, and what should it cover? Martin suggested that “companies should focus on insurance for value in flight”, which caters for crime due to hacking, insider theft, and fraudulent transfer of both cryptos and fiat.

Circle and Gemini, as well as most financial companies, use institutions like the FDIC to cover for losses exclusively resulting from insolvency. However, losses due to the hacking of hot wallets are not covered by the institutions due to the nature of cryptocurrency’s unregulated status, hence the need for multiple insurers with sufficient knowledge-base on the risk nature of cryptocurrencies. “[Coinbase has] maintained a commitment to educating and growing the cryptocurrency insurance market,” Martin clarified.

Despite the level of risk in the cryptocurrency industry, and lack of transparency of insurance protocols for most companies, it is clear that insurance companies are indeed warming up to the cryptocurrency markets, though at a very slow pace.

Last year, Bitcoin News reported a new decentralized exchange UnitedCoin’s approach to insurance, where it disclosed a USD 100 million coverage on its hot wallet containing only 2% of the exchange’s funds. Moreover, in South Korea, insurance providers are willing to offer insurance products against hacking to crypto exchanges.

The importance of insurance in the cryptocurrency exchange marketplace cannot be overemphasized, and while many exchange businesses still suffer from the lack thereof, it may, however, soon be a defining factor for customers’ preference in the near future as the industry expands beyond retail cryptocurrency investors and traders. Yusuf Hussain, Gemini’s Head of Risk puts it this way:

“Consumers are looking for the same levels of insured protection they’re used to being afforded by traditional financial institutions.”


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