Even though Bitcoin merchant processor BitPay is not required to maintain an anti-money laundering (AML) program, the startup maintains one and is beefing it up with the hiring of former Visa executive Tim Byun.
As BitPay’s new chief compliance officer, Byun’s challenges will not be much different from what he faced while working at Visa, where he was the network’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing officer, a role he held for more than five years.
“BitPay is maturing; they do have policies and procedures in place and some guidelines already written but those need to be consolidated and presented in a more mature manner,” Byun says. In his new role, Byun will refresh day-to-day practices, examine how the company analyzes and assesses risk and focus on outreach and education.
Byun left Visa after it reorganized some of its departments, offering Byun a different position than his earlier role. But “I thought there were more existing and broader roles in the industry for me especially in AML,” he says.
Moving from a mainstream payment company such as Visa to a much less established segment of the payment industry is “an exciting and empowering experience,” Byun says. “The pace of activities is much faster at BitPay and I have immediate access to my colleagues.”
Because the Bitcoin ecosystem is still so new (the digital currency protocol was introduced in 2009), the industry is flush with opportunity as startups try to establish themselves in the financial services and payment marketplace while treading lightly on the still-unclear regulatory environment around the world.
Before Visa, Byun was regulator for about 16 years, spending 12 years with the Federal Reserve and four years with the FDIC. During his time with the Fed, Byun became a central point of contact to formulate annual exam plans. Byun says he uses this background and insight to guide BitPay.
Many Bitcoin companies rely on a third party for compliance tasks, but hiring an in-house compliance officer can cut costs for a Bitcoin business.
Lawyers and industry experts have been harping on the advantages of creating aggressive compliance programs and proactively reaching out to regulators.