Impacts of Tokenizing Physical Assets - Davies

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Impacts of Tokenizing Physical Assets

Tokenization will revolutionize investing by increasing liquidity and making assets more tradable

The emergence of blockchain technology and the tokenization of assets have significantly changed the financial environment in recent years. Businesses and investors alike now have more options thanks to tokenization, the technique of embodying real-world assets digitally on a blockchain. But as regulations change, addressing legal issues, especially Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance, becomes more critical. In this article, we’ll examine how tokenizing physical assets affects firms’ ability to comply with AML laws. 

Understanding Tokenization and AML Compliance 

Tokenization turns physical assets into digital tokens on a blockchain, including commodities, fine art, and real estate. These tokens allow frictionless trading and transfer while representing a small portion of the underlying asset’s ownership. The benefits of tokenization include enhanced accessibility for a larger pool of investors, increased liquidity, and reduced intermediaries. 

While tokenization opens many possibilities, it also makes many worried about how the technology may be used for fraud, money laundering, and financing terrorists. AML compliance protects the financial system from these threats in this situation. 

Pros of Tokenizing Physical Assets 

Enhanced Liquidity: Tokenization will revolutionize investing by increasing liquidity and making assets more tradable. It reduced intermediaries, simplified asset transfer, and decreased costs. Digital tokens also opened restricted markets to international investors, leading to more diverse portfolios. Blockchain’s transparency and immutability deter illicit activities and enhance market integrity. 

Reduced Intermediaries: Tokenization eliminates the need for multiple intermediaries, streamlining the asset transfer process. With fewer intermediaries, transaction costs may decrease, making investments more accessible to a broader audience. 

Global Accessibility: Using digital tokens simplifies cross-border transactions, enabling international investors to participate in previously restricted markets. This newfound accessibility can result in diversified investment portfolios. 

Transparency and Immutability: The clarity and immutability of blockchain technology make it a dependable and verifiable record of transactions. This transparency can discourage illegal activities and improve the overall integrity of the market. 

Cons of Tokenizing Physical Assets 

Regulatory Uncertainty: The regulatory landscape surrounding tokenized assets is still evolving. Navigating various regulations across jurisdictions can be challenging and pose business compliance risks. 

AML and KYC Challenges: Blockchain provides transparency, but token transactions may not reveal the identity of the participants. It can be challenging to confirm the identity of token holders and comply with AML and KYC regulations, particularly on blockchains that prioritize privacy. 

Complex Ownership Structures: Tokenizing physical assets can lead to complex ownership structures, especially when multiple investors hold fractional ownership. This complexity can pose challenges in identifying the ultimate beneficial owners and conducting proper due diligence to comply with AML regulations. 

Inadequate AML Technology: Existing AML technology and solutions may need to be modified to manage the unique properties of tokenized assets. Traditional AML technologies might be unable to recognize suspicious behavior or transactions unique to blockchain-based tokens. 

Lack of AML Expertise: Many companies and investors might require internal AML compliance expertise tailored to blockchain and tokenized assets. This lack of understanding and knowledge could result in inadvertent non-compliance. 

AML Token Mixers: AML token mixers or tumblers, which combine and anonymize transactions, can be used to obfuscate the origin of funds and launder money. Identifying and monitoring such illicit activities can take time and effort for regulators. 

Tokenization Regulation

The realm of tokenization and digital assets is presently in the developmental stages of regulation worldwide. Nevertheless, specific recurring themes serve as the foundation for the principles and methods of this regulatory framework’s evolution. 

Regulatory Definition: Many countries and regulatory bodies are categorizing certain tokens as securities and subjecting them to similar regulatory frameworks. For instance, the SEC is currently working on identifying Ripple tokens as securities. Meanwhile, the EU Commission has introduced the MiCA (Markets in Crypto assets) regulation to govern the issuance of crypto assets. 

Identifying Crypto Assets Provider (CSP): Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has introduced a definition of Virtual Asset Service provider (VASP) to identify CSP actors/players. Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) are individuals or businesses involved in exchanging, transferring, and safekeeping virtual assets. They participate in financial services related to virtual asset sales and are not covered by financial institutions or intermediary standards. Many countries are implementing regulations to identify CSPs, including Japan’s inclusion of network operators and platform developers in regulated CSPs and the UK’s categorization of P2P exchange platforms as crypto asset service providers. 

AML/KYC Framework: Regulatory bodies aim to ensure that financial institutions dealing with digital assets can identify the entities involved and their intentions for using these assets amidst the chaos of technology. Key identification themes may include the issuer’s nature, the intended use of crypto assets, holder’s rights, claim redemptions, and control over the ledger. Recently. Coinbase was charged $100 million in fines for letting customers open accounts without conducting sufficient background checks, violating anti-money-laundering laws. 

Transaction Monitoring: Transaction monitoring can be a complex process involving digital assets and token sales. With a decentralized ledger and new transaction categories like mining, it’s essential to have a comprehensive view of all the services and actors involved. Many regulatory bodies map crypto asset-related activities to the asset’s life cycle. Recently, the European Parliament defined several regulations related to transfers of funds and certain crypto assets, amending Directive (EU) 2015/849. The regulations focus on information sharing and monitoring for transactions related to crypto assets. 


Physical asset tokenization has the potential to completely transform traditional finance by bringing worldwide accessibility, enhanced liquidity, and a reduction in intermediaries. However, overcoming AML compliance issues is still essential for the long-term expansion of this burgeoning business. AML efforts can be strengthened through transparency and the incorporation of intelligent contracts, but there is still a need for comprehensive worldwide AML regulations and privacy-conscious solutions. 

At Davies, we understand that it’s crucial to address AML compliance to ensure the long-term success of this game-changing technology. Our consulting services offer strategic insights, transparent solutions, and expert guidance to help clients navigate regulatory challenges responsibly. We prioritize developing well-informed strategies for our clients to meet worldwide AML regulations and local laws as our clients leverage this new technology to drive growth and innovation. We empower our clients to fully embrace this revolutionary technology, knowing that Davies is diligently ensuring compliance every step of the way. 

Why Davies 

As a leading financial crime consulting firm, we specialize in assisting clients in the crypto and tokenization line of business with AML compliance. Our expertise helps companies understand tokenization’s complexities and comply with evolving regulations. We offer tailored solutions for implementing effective KYC frameworks, transaction monitoring, and identifying ultimate beneficial owners in complex ownership structures. Our team of AML experts guides on modifying existing AML technology to suit tokenized assets and offers internal compliance expertise. We aim to empower clients to embrace tokenization responsibly, ensuring transparency and adherence to global AML regulations and local laws. 

[Disclaimer: This blog overviews the pros and cons of tokenizing physical assets concerning AML compliance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice. Businesses should consult legal and financial experts to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.] 

Impacts of Tokenizing Physical Assets

Kunal Bavishi

Principal Consultant

Financial Crime & Regulatory Compliance

I am a CAMS-certified, Subject Matter Expert (SME) in financial crime and compliance, with over ten years of experience in regulatory and compliance technology.

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