Cryptocurrency has entered mainstream consciousness with greater regulatory oversight and institutional adoption. This has benefitted Legatus, one of the leading companies that have built itself up as a regulation-compliant company, as well as an enabler for large financial institutions. Kevin Pang, the CEO at Legatus, is a veteran from the global IT and telecommunications industry. In our recent encounter, he walked us through the journey of Legatus and the current landscape for cryptocurrency and digital assets.
Kevin is a Co-chairman of the SGTECH Blockchain Committee, Board Secretary of the Blockchain Association of Singapore, and Board Member and Director of Payments, Global Impact Fintech Forum. Over the course of his career, Kevin has been involved in Fintech and payment projects with extensive experience in cross-border payments from his previous employment at MoneyGram International as well as being a deep practitioner in the Blockchain for Finance space. Currently, Kevin and his team at Legatus are working to make cryptocurrency accessible worldwide.
Legatus’ journey started with pioneer team members and massive support from partners. The team worked hard to gain relevancy in the industry and even harder to improve recognition in the market. Funding was a challenge in the beginning, but through increasing market share, minimising costs, while maintaining pragmatic essential spending, Legatus was able to start with a solid footing. “It was a mix of creativity, fully utilising the vast network I have globally, as well as sheer determination to make this work,” asserts Kevin.
2020 has been a tough year for businesses worldwide. Due to the pandemic, the economy was in shambles and businesses were struggling worldwide. Despite the setbacks, Legatus was swift in adapting to the rapid changes and turned the disaster into an opportunity. It also marked one of the biggest achievements for Legatus when it was accepted by DBS bank into the DBS Startup Unleashed Program. The program focuses on identifying the next “unicorns” of the future and attaining DBS’s endorsement and vote of confidence was a positive boost for Legatus. The team is currently working with DBS on many proofs of concepts and has access to various internal departments. One such concept is POC (Point of Cash) ) exchange payment that ties in with, for example, payments in Japan, which are predominantly done in cash.
Despite the cashless payment gateways, many merchants still accept payments through cash. The team is working on enabling DBS Bank applications where a customer can scan a QR code in Japan and make cashless payments at some of these smaller shops. Kevin further explains, “We are hoping that in time, a DBS banking app can be used to make a payment for a bowl of ramen in Tokyo. The merchant is happy because they get the money almost instantaneously, at a very low rate, and the travellers are happy that they do not have to bring too much cash.”
Legatus is continually striving to make cryptocurrency accessible to everyone. Referencing the example mentioned, Kevin explains how fiat to crypto works, “The engine behind this uses stable coins and digital assets as a form of settlement. Looking into the real value of that currency, let us say for a bowl of ramen, what is it worth in cryptocurrency terms?” he continues, “The backend is transparent to the traveller, all he knows is that his fiat deposits in his DBS banking account were used seamlessly to pay for the bowl of ramen in Tokyo without incurring exorbitant fees. In addition, we also enable people who prefer to use cryptocurrency instead of fiat.”
Currently, it is onerous to convert cryptocurrency to fiat. Thus, Legatus offers a seamless settlement process where the user can make purchases with cryptocurrency in a way that is again transparent to the user and the merchant. Legatus aims to help companies become enabled with the financial institutions or help bridge the gap between financial institutions and companies dealing with digital assets. These efforts have positioned Legatus to become a key enabler of the Fintech system.
Legatus views cryptocurrency and digital assets as an additional channel for facilitating payments. “We are not here to replace traditional currencies; instead, we use available digital assets as a form of settlement for digital payments, including cross-border money transfer,” confirms Kevin. He believes that this transaction system is more efficient compared to the traditional banking system as it reduces fees and improves the speed of transfer while fostering inclusivity.
People have adapted to the digital face of business as virtual services take the centre stage during COVID. Innovation is also happening at a breakneck pace. Projects cycles have shortened from ten months to probably one or two months and trends are accelerating in adoption too. Where it took a few years for trends to mature before the next cycle, it is now taking as little as two months. Interestingly, despite the economic crisis, Fintech companies, and financial services in Singapore raised $1.3 billion in funding in 2020, compared to S$1.14 billion in pre-COVID 2019. 2021 was even more surprising–in Q3 alone, S$1.9 billion was raised by FinTech companies based in Singapore.
The data suggests that businesses are investing, and Fintech is booming. With digitalisation on the rise, another question that arises is data security. Cryptocurrency has a high risk of cyber-attacks and companies invest a lot of time and effort to minimise these risks and breaches. In response to these risks, Legatus will comply with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Technology Risk Management guidelines, to establish a sound and robust technology risk management framework, strengthen the system’s security, reliability, resiliency, and recoverability, and deploy strong authentication to protect customer data, transactions, and systems. Furthermore, Legatus also equips a robust financial risk management plan in place to fulfil its KYC/AML obligations and minimise AML/CFT risks using solutions from Regtank, CipherTrace, and VerifyVASP.
Legatus’ value preposition is about execution across different countries. Some players may be good in their countries but lack the understanding of regulations across borders. This is the gap that Legatus bridges as the team is equipped with a good grasp of regulations around the world. Currently, GameFi, DeFi, Metaverse, and all that may be what interests and excites the man on the street. However, for traditional institutions, financial institutions, or big organisations, such trends are short-lived. One may be around today, but that does not guarantee your existence tomorrow.
Kevin believes that among the emerging players, Legatus is an exception as the company is here for the long haul with actual services, real businesses, connected to the digital asset world. He adds, “This is very different from the rest of the folks who created projects purely based on ideas and hopes. For the future of cryptocurrency to not be a bubble, the dreams must be grounded with genuine utility.”
Being a global payment services provider, Kevin and his team will be looking at licensing Legatus in major jurisdictions, namely the UK, the US, Japan, Korea, and some parts of Southeast Asia. In 2022 Legatus will be exploring many interested investors and opportunities for collaboration. Kevin stated that the coming years look busy for Legatus as the team will be expanding beyond pure payment services. Legatus is looking forward to increasing the number of floats and creating a new bank that addresses the niche areas which the current banks and digital banks lack.