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Bullion Banking 101 – Speech by BullionStar CEO, Torgny Persson

The following speech, by BullionStar CEO Torgny Persson, was given to an audience during a Precious Metals Seminar held at BullionStar's shop and showroom premises in Singapore on 19 October 2016.

BullionStars CEO Torgny Persson Precious Metals Seminar at BullionStarBullionstar shop during precious metals seminar Precious Metals Seminar at BullionStar

Introduction

What have I got here?

It’s 87 grams of gold.

As many of you know, we have our own bullion vault integrated in BullionStar's bullion centre here in Singapore. What if I told you that every day we sell 6 kgs (6000 grams of gold), meaning that we sell about 1500 kgs gold per year to customers storing with us, but that we actually only keep 87 grams of gold in storage as reserves.

You would call it fraud and have me arrested, right? I’m obviously running a Ponzi scheme with very small fractionalised reserves backing up huge trading of unallocated paper gold.

Now, for clarity, that's not how we conduct business. When you buy and store bullion with BullionStar, your bullion is fully allocated and you can withdraw your metals at any time by just walking into BullionStar's bullion centre. You don’t even have to notify us beforehand.

What I just explained to you is something else - it’s bullion banking per definition - more precisely it’s unallocated gold trading by bullion banks.

As most of you know, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) has held its annual Precious Metals Conference in Singapore over the last two days. The LBMA is at the core of the world’s bullion trading system, a system which generates extremely large trading volumes every trading day. To understand the gold market, one has to understand the LBMA system as it is of great significance to both the price of gold and also to the physical movements of gold around the world. I will therefore provide you with an introduction to bullion banking and this LBMA system, and talk about how bullion banking operates.

Bullion Banking - Unallocated Gold

Almost all gold traded in the LBMA system today is in the form of unallocated gold which is accounted for in unallocated accounts. The definition of an unallocated gold account, as we can read on the LMBA’s website, is that the holder of such an account with a LBMA bullion bank does not have any ownership interest in any specific gold bars.

Instead, the account holder is merely an unsecured creditor of the bullion bank and holds a claim on the bullion bank for an amount of gold. At the same time, the bullion bank has a liability to this customer for this same amount of gold. Therefore unallocated gold is essentially paper gold. It is gold that doesn’t exist in the physical realm.

The creation of unallocated gold is in fact very similar to how fiat currency is created in the fractional reserve banking system. The fractional reserve banking system provides a good gateway into understanding bullion banking.

How is Fiat Money Created Today?

Let’s quickly recap on how fiat money is created in the fractional reserve banking system.

Money is created out of thin air. When a bank extends a loan, the money is created out of thin air.

Let’s take an example:

1) Robert plan to buy a house for $1 million.

2) Robert goes to a bank and the bank takes a look at Robert and deems him credible. With today’s low lending standards, it is rather easy for Robert to secure a loan. The bank deposits $1 million into Robert's account.

3) Where does this $1 million come from? The answer is 'nowhere'. It doesn't come from anywhere. The money is created out of thin air when loaned out to Robert.

This is easy to understand but hard to believe for some people. But it is true that this money is created out of thin air and lent into existence. About 92% of our money today is lent into existence in this fashion.

Banks keep a very small amounts of money in reserve to cover withdrawals, but they face liabilities which are far larger in size that their reserves.

The term "loan" as used in banking has been corrupted and twisted by banks. When a bank extends a loan, there is nothing loaned. To loan something you need to be in possession of it first, but when banks make loans, there is no countervailing transaction - The money is just created when the loan is extended.

How is Paper Gold Created?

Now, what about gold? How is gold created? You might say gold can’t be created, it has to be mined, right? Yes, you would be correct, physical gold cannot be created, but gold as an investment product definitely can be created and is created on a massive scale.

When a bullion bank customer goes to the bank and requests to buy gold, the standard procedure is for the bullion bank to create unallocated paper gold and credit this paper gold to the customer’s account. This ’gold’ is simply created out of thin air as a book-keeping entry in the bank’s accounting system.

paper-gold

Similarly, if actual physical gold is deposited into an unallocated account operated by a bullion bank, this deposit of gold is also in fact very similar to a deposit of fiat money. Just as a bank keeps deposited fiat money on its own balance sheet, a bullion bank keeps deposited physical bullion on its own balance sheet.

Bullion banks don’t generally safeguard or segregate gold deposited with them or held by them unless they are specifically instructed to do so if a customer opens an allocated gold account.

This means that depositors of gold into bullion banks' unallocated accounts are no longer the legal owners of the gold that they have deposited. Instead, they are just one of the general creditors to the bank, and they merely hold a claim for gold against the bank.

By depositing gold into an unallocated account at a bullion bank, you therefore lose ownership of your gold in return for a mere claim on gold.

Trading in unallocated gold by the bullion banks is thus based on book-keeping entries denominated in gold. The gold is fractionally reserved. Gold is created out of thin air as book-keeping entries in the banks' ledger systems, and even gold that is deposited into an unallocated account becomes the property of the bank.

LBMA Unallocated Gold Trading Volumes

From the LBMA’s published clearing statistics, which is one of the only transactional statistics that the LBMA does publish, we know that 600 tonnes of gold are "cleared" in the London Gold Market each and every trading day. Cleared means that it’s 600 tonnes of gold that's transferred between participants after netting out all trades between all trading participants.

According to a LBMA gold trading survey conducted in 2011 (the last such survey), the ratio between trading turnover and clearing on the London Gold Market was about 10 to 1. This means that the total amount of gold traded in the LBMA system each day is about the equivalent of 6,000 tonnes!

In other words, almost twice as much gold is traded in the LBMA system in a single trading day than is physically mined globally during an entire year.

LBMA Unallocated Gold Trading Volumes

But what is backing this 6,000 tonnes of unallocated gold traded each day, or 1.5 million tonnes of gold traded each year?

Let’s take a look at the reserve side of bullion banking in the LBMA system.

Bullion Bank Gold Reserves

The LBMA bullion banks' outstanding gold liabilities, and the unallocated trading system in the London Gold Market are ultimately backed by a quantity of 400 oz Good Delivery gold bars.

However, bullion banks don’t really want to hold physical gold. They will buy it if someone forces it on them but bullion banks have no real need for physical gold and are therefore incentivised to keep as little gold as possible in reserve, and lend out the gold they hold in reserve so as not to incur storage fees and handling costs. Banking reserves are looked upon as a dead asset so the banks minimise these reserves and try to make them into live assets by loaning them out.

When a bullion bank receives a gold bar by buying or borrowing it, it either sells, leases or allocates that bar elsewhere.

This sets a bullion bank apart from any other bullion entity because a bullion bank can hold deposits of gold on its balance sheet as assets even if it no longer has, or never had, the actual physical gold in its possession.

How much backing is there for all the unallocated gold traded in the LBMA-system?

We don’t exactly know as there are no reserve figures published but we can make an educated guess.

Vaulted Gold in London

How much gold is actually vaulted in London? The LBMA recently said on its website that there was approximately 6,500 tonnes of gold stored in London, about three-quarters of which was at the Bank of England. The Bank of England recently revealed that it was custodian for 4,734 tonnes of gold in its vaults.

This would leave 1,766 tonnes of gold privately stored in the LBMA vaulting system outside the Bank of England.

BullionStar research recently calculated (30 September 2016) that ETF gold holdings held in London accounted for 1,679 tonnes. This would mean that there are only 1,766 - 1,679 = 87 tonnes of gold in the LBMA system which is not allocated to ETFs!

Therefore, nearly all of the LBMA reserves are allocated to the ETFs with only 87 tonnes of gold left to back up the vast amorphous of unallocated gold trading amounting to 6,000 tonnes per day or 1.5 million tonnes per year!

gold-vaulted-in-london

Chart layout inspired by GoldChartsrus /Nick Laird. Data gathered by Goldchartsrus/BullionStar's Ronan Manly

Physical gold in the LBMA bullion banking system is therefore like physical cash in the monetary system. It is rarely seen!

london-gold-etfs

Double-counted Reserves

LBMA is a banking system that by definition is based on fractional reserve banking.

HSBC, JP Morgan and ICBC Standard Bank are the only LBMA bank custodians with their own precious metals vaults in London. Most of the circa 42 LBMA bullion banks don’t even have their own gold vaults but still keep books denominated in gold ounces. A bullion bank without a gold vaults instead holds its gold reserves with a bullion bank that does have a gold vault.

For example, if Citibank keeps its reserves with a bank with a vault such as JP Morgan, then Citibank merely holds a gold claim for which JP Morgan has a gold liability. These unallocated gold reserves are therefore just pooled with the bullion banks that do have vaults.

The bullion banks without a vault never see or touch the metal they keep in reserves. If a bullion bank stores its gold reserves at another bullion bank’s vault, this means that the reserves are unallocated credits/claims which are standing behind the bank’s own liabilities. So even the reserves are fractionalised. So not only are bullion banks’ liabilities to their customers unallocated, even the reserves are unallocated inter-bank liabilities which are fractionalised.

Paper gold thus stands behind the liabilities of paper gold.

The LBMA system serves as a pool of reserves and uses coordinated reserve management where the different participating bullion banks can loan and lend to each other the few physical reserves that there are in the system so as to meet any demand for physical bullion.

Gold Bank Run

The bullion banks face massive liabilities in the form of unallocated gold credits. Bullion banks are thus, just like normal banks, susceptible to bank runs.

gold-fiat-comparison

The difference between bullion banks and normal commercial banks is that whereas central banks are the ultimate lenders of last resort to commercial banks, most central banks no longer back-stop bullion banks as the lender of last resort because most central banks no longer sell or lease bullion that can be used to prop up bullion banks' reserves.

In case of the LBMA, the central bank is replaced by a private company called London Precious Metal Clearing Limited (LPMCL) which is run by 5 clearing bullion banks and whose clearing system AURUM nets out all gold claims and liabilities in the LBMA system. The clearing system functions as a pooled system in that only net balances are cleared and the bullion banks' gold reserves are essentially pooled and can be leased and double counted whenever necessary.

When they no longer have any physical gold to deliver, the ultimate rescue plan for bullion banks is to use cash settlement instead.

In the same way that banks increasingly promote cashless solutions as a means to reduce cash handling costs, earn credit card fees, reduce the risk of bank runs and lock in customers, LBMA system bullion banks promote gold-less gold transacting.

Just as the banking system inherently incentivises reckless debt behavior, the bullion banking system inherently incentivises the reckless creation of paper gold assets.

LBMA – The Paper Gold Protector

In creating artificial paper gold, bullion banking protects the fiat money system.

If even a small minority of the paper gold traded today was backed up by physical gold, the price of gold would have skyrocketed. A gold price significantly higher than today would point towards the inferiority of the fiat money system, and possibly the collapse or implosion of the current monetary system.

bb-protecting-monetary-system

Bullion banks and gold industry organisations, such as the LBMA and the World Gold Council, which itself has developed and owns securitized gold products, can profit from gold trading volumes that are far higher than they would be if they were limited to the constraints imposed by the availability of physical gold to trade.

The bullion banks and the LBMA work hard to overcome the tangible limitations of physical gold mining. By promoting gold-less gold transacting, the LBMA unallocated system artificially increases the supply of gold, earning the banks higher fees from artificially large trading volumes.

To reiterate, the LBMA unallocated gold trading is a banking system based on fractional reserve banking which is all about exposure to the price of gold but not to gold itself.

The LBMA system is used to coordinate unallocated paper gold trading where ‘gold’ is created out of thin air, and the tiny physical reserves held are pooled and shared out among participants so as to minimise costly reserves and avoid gold bank runs.

When bullion banks need to allocate gold to the ETFs, such as to the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) in London, they use credits from the same unallocated gold credit system as was previously used to offset other gold liabilities. Even though the ETF may own the gold outright, the gold is still being double counted within the system because its being allocated out of a bullion bank pooled systems of credits.

To summarize what the LBMA is all about, it is a paper gold protector for the bullion banks which allows the bullion banks to earn fees from an artificially high trade turnover while at the same time protecting the fiat currency system.

The Guarded Secret of no Gold

The fractionally-reserved bullion banking system is a fragile system. Many investors and savers holding paper gold believe that the gold they are holding is backed up by real physical gold. But if the bullion banking system implodes, which it will do if the high demand for real physical gold in Asia is sustained at anywhere near today’s levels, these holders of paper gold will at best end up holding paper claims which will be cash-settled, or at worst these paper gold holders will be empty-handed.

Demand for ETF’s and unallocated gold will likely not stress the system systemically since the pooled LBMA gold reserves are used for leasing and double counting. It is the demand for real physical gold, draining bank gold reserves, that stresses the system.

Many gold investors/savers buy various paper gold products as a means of protecting themselves against the fiat currency Ponzi scheme. It may therefore come as a surprise to some holders that these investments are no safer or even less safe than the fiat currency against from which they are seeking to protect themselves. Bullion banks give the impression that these investors into unallocated gold are actually holding gold, whereas in reality they are just unsecured creditors holding paper gold, gold that is created out of thin air, in a fractionally-reserved Ponzi scheme.

As long as everyone is happy to buy and sell ledger entries/book-keeping entries, this fragile system can continue to balance on a thin thread. The systemic problem arises when larger entities start to demand physical delivery, a trend which has been happening in the last few years, most notably in Asia and Russia. There is therefore an imminent risk of the bullion banking system collapsing in the next few years.

vault

This is an accident waiting to happen, because when enough holders of paper gold ask for delivery, the default that will follow will trigger the biggest bank run for gold in history, which due to gold’s significance as a monetary proxy, will shake the entire monetary system.

When there is no longer any physical metal to deliver, the ensuing shortage will result in a disconnect between prices, in which paper gold will become worthless while the price of real physical gold will be revalued at a much higher level based on the market equilibrium for physical supply and demand of gold.

Thank you!

BullionStar attends LBMA Conference in Singapore, October 2016

Introduction

This year, the well-known annual conference of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) was held in Singapore between Sunday 16 October and Tuesday 18 October at the impressive Shangri-La Hotel. The conference attracts delegates and speakers from across the world of bullion, with representatives from precious metals refiners, mints, bullion banks, brokers, trading and technology providers, bullion dealers and bullion wholesalers. This year over 700 delegates attended.

The main speaker sessions, presentation and panel sessions of industry representatives ran over two days, between Monday 17 October and Tuesday 18 October. Topics covered in the speaker sessions were numerous and varied and included the bullion market in China, developments in the Indian gold market, responsible gold guidance, LBMA updates and developments, a dedicated session on platinum group metals, and a session on the financing of refineries.

As interesting as the speaker sessions and presentations are, many of the conference attendees use at least some of their time at the LBMA conference to engage in meetings with each other on the sidelines. This explains the constant stream of small breakout meetings that took place in the hotel lobby's seating areas, as well as in dedicated meeting rooms around the hotel. BullionStar also used the occasion to meet with existing suppliers from the refining, minting and wholesaling world, as well as to discuss potential business opportunities with new suppliers.

There were also approximately 20 exhibitor stands at the conference, including stands hosted by CME Group, Brinks, the World Gold Council, IE Singapore (Singapore's trade development authority), Istanbul Gold Refinery (IGR), Metals Focus consultancy, Cinnober, and Nadir Refinery.

sl
Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore

Hong Kong - Shenzhen Gold Connect

On the Sunday prior to the conference, the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange (CGSE) and the Singapore Bullion Market Association (SBMA) co-hosted a pre-conference presentation titled “Building a physical gold corridor in Asia: Shanghai – Hong Kong / Qianhai – Singapore”, at the hotel, which featured a series of discussions about the CGSE’s new gold trading and vaulting project located in the Shenzhen free trade zone at Qianhai, just across the border from Hong Kong.

Haywood Cheung, Permanent President of CGSE, gave an introductory overview of the Qianhai project, showcasing it as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan, after which Dong Feng, Ping An Commodities Trading in Shenzhen presented a detailed explanation of how the linkages between the CGSE’s trading platform in Hong Kong and Qianhai’s clearing and settlement will for the first time enable the trading of both onshore and offshore Renminbi and the trading of onshore and offshore gold. The Qianhai project integrates trading, clearing, settlement and vaulting, with a 1500 tonne capacity vault, and a trading hall. ICBC will provide settlement of both onshore (Shenzhen) and offshore (Macau) Renminbi as well as providing use of its Shenzhen gold vault (onshore gold settlement) until the CGSE Qianhai vault is completed.

This onshore and offshore trading and settlement of Yuan and physical gold will facilitate arbitrage trading, and is another step in China’s liberalisation of its currency and its gold market as it links the Chinese currency to physical settlement of gold inside and outside of China. This initiative is one to watch and will demonstrate the Chinese government’s gradual easing of cross-border restrictions on currency and gold flow. Next phase gold trading in Qianhai by CGSE member companies will commence on 7 December.

With the CGSE having already established a gold trading link with the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) though its Shanghai-Hong Kong Connect, and with the Shenzhen (Qianhai) - Hong Kong Connect now coming on stream, the CGSE is also planning a Singapore - Hong Kong Connect, and a Dubai - Hong Kong Connect, which, if they materialise, will extend physical gold corridor (trading and vaulting connections) across the Asian region and beyond.

Albert Cheng, CEO of the SBMA, wrapped up the afternoon with an overview presentation of SBMA’s aspirations to evolve Singapore into a bullion market hub for the entire ASEAN region, including countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. However, details of how this plan will be implemented were not addressed. Cheng also showcased the SGX gold contract which is backed by the SBMA, but which has yet to take off despite being launched over 2 years ago.

Singapore Skyline - Central Business District
Singapore Skyline - Central Business District

LMEprecious gold Futures

The first event we attended on Monday was an early morning presentation by the London Metal Exchange (LME) about LMEprecious, its new suite of spot, daily, and monthly gold and silver futures contracts to be launched in the first half of 2017, that will trade on LME’s trading platform, with market-making offered by 5 investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and ICBC Standard Bank. These futures are for delivery of unallocated metal in the London market and the contracts will still clear through the London bullion market's LPMCL unallocated bullion clearing system. In time, the LME plans to launch platinum and palladium futures contracts on LMEprecious, as well as options contracts on all 4 metals. The LMEprecious platform will also link into LBMA’s planned trade reporting system.

ICE gold Futures

On Monday morning, ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), a direct competitor to LME in the precious metals trading and clearing space, used the LBMA conference to make a very well-timed announcement that it too will be launching a new gold futures contract for delivery of unallocated gold in London (loco London). The ICE contract will trade on the ICE US futures platform and will begin trading in February 2017, in advance of the LME contracts. This contract is being designed to be compatible for settlement within the LBMA Gold Price auction which IBA administers in London, and it will, according to IBA, allow the introduction of central clearing into the auctions, and thus facilitate wider auction participation. Currently,the direct auction is exclusively open  to a handful of large banks that have large bi-lateral credit lines with each other. At this stage it’s unclear how the connections between the futures contract and the LBMA Gold Price auction will work, but BullionStar plans to examine this development in future coverage.

Unallocated Gold, Gold Lending and Central Banks

Given that the LBMA Conference is attended by dozens and dozens of precious metals refineries and mints, it was notable that the subject of "unallocated gold" cropped up in the discussion of LMEprecious and ICE futures contracts, but that there was no discussion in the actual LBMA conference programme schedule of 'unallocated gold' as the term is used by the LBMA. An unallocated gold position in an account in the London gold market is merely a contractual claim for gold against the bank that the account is held with. As such, it is a synthetic gold position.

It was also odd in our view that there was no seminar or discussion about the London gold lending market within the conference programme. As gold lending is an important and influential area of the London gold market, it affects marginal gold supply, and it has an impact on gold price formation.  Notably, the topic of central bank activities in the gold market was completely missing from the conference schedule this year,  a notable omission compared to previous years.

Gold price benchmark for Singapore revisited

In another announcement on Monday morning at the conference, the Singapore minister for trade and industry announced that the SBMA in conjunction with the LBMA and ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), they'll begin a feasibility study on launching a “pre-AM gold price” auction, which would serve as a benchmark for the Asian region and which would be held at 2pm Singapore time, in advance of the European trading day. This Singapore benchmark was already discussed and announced over 3 years ago, but has put on hold in 2014 due to European regulatory investigations at that time into manipulation of the London Gold Fix.

LBMA Trade Reporting

The conference speaker programme opened on Monday morning with introductory remarks from Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry, outgoing LBMA chairman Grant Angwin, incoming newly appointed Chairman Paul Fisher who recently arrived from the Bank of England, Tim Pearce, the chairman of the London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM), and LBMA CEO Ruth Crowell.

The LBMA CEO’s introductory speech touch on the planned launch of trade reporting services for the London Gold Market. This trade reporting contract has been awarded to financial technology providers Cinnober – BOAT Services – Autilla, after those partners won the LBMA’s recent RfP tender which had been launched in October 2015. Ruth Crowell referred to trade reporting as ‘Phase 1’ of a new suite of technology services. Trade reporting  will be launched in Q1 2017, and will, according to the LBMA “demonstrate of the size and liquidity of the market for clients, investors and regulators”. Phase 2 of this project refers to services such as central clearing in the London bullion market.

Further background to the chosen trade reporting solution was provided by Jamie Khurshid, the CEO of BOAT Services. Surprisingly, even though this RfP took the LBMA over 1 year to complete, it will still now require a 'design phase' where BOAT/Cinnober needs to meet with LBMA member firms to discuss the scope of reporting, followed by a period of customisation and configuration of the implementation. Details on what exactly will be reported (the scope) remain sketchy, and since full London gold and silver trade reporting by all participants (including central banks) is not mandatory in a regulatory sense, it remains to be seen to what extent transparency will be improved.  Because if you don't have full mandatory reporting, you don't have transparency. In another related presentation, Sakhila Mirza, LBMA General Counsel stated that trade reporting will apply to loco London spot trades, forwards and options, but that "LBMA and its members retain control over the scope of reporting", which highlights the self-regulatory nature of the reporting, and again may suggest that the trade reporting may not be as granular or have as much informational value as some may think, especially given that central banks will be exempt from trade reporting.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange and Chinese Gold Market

Monday's schedule also included an  informative series of presentations titled "The Bullion Market in China" from an impressive list of experts. Jiao Jinpu, chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), provided an overview of the latest developments from the SGE, which has a network of 61 vaults across 35 cities in China, and where physical trading volume reached 34,100 tonnes of gold in 2015. Jinpu revealed that the International Board of the SGE (known as SGEI) has, since launch in September 2014, traded 7,838 tonnes of gold, while the daily Shanghai Gold Price auction, only launched in April 2016, has already traded 384 tonnes, worth RMB 105.5 billion, giving it an average daily trading volume of 3.4 tonnes. Jinpu also vindicated BullionStar's estimates of 2015 SGE gold withdrawals, because, in the words of Jinpu, he sits on the SGE tap, and knows exactly how much gold has been withdrawn from the Exchange vaults.

In his speech, Jinpu announced that in the near future, the SGE and other exchanges will begin using the SGE Gold Price benchmark to develop gold price derivative products.

SGE Chairman Jiao Jinpu
SGE Chairman Jiao Jinpu

In another notable confirmation, Yang Qing, from the Bank of China, one of China's largest commercial banks involved in the global gold market, responding to a question posed by BullionStar, said that he thinks that in future, the Chinese currency, the Renminbi, should have an element of gold backing.

In what was probably one of the most interesting and revealing presentations from BullionStar's perspective, and which vindicates the extensive research and analysis that BullionStar's precious metals analyst Koos Jansen has done on the Chinese gold market, Matthew Turner from Macquarie Commodities Research in London gave a presentation about how to accurately capture and estimate the total trade flows of gold into China given that China does not publish this data itself.

One of Turner's approaches is to use the trade data of all other countries which do report gold exports to China. This approach reveals that China imported 1626 tonnes of gold in 2015 from a number of countries, primarily Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UK and Australia. Another more elegant Turner approach is to take China's total import figure which it does publish, as well as the summated figures of  all of China's other import categories of data, which China also does publish, and then derive the gold import quantities as the delta.

This approach yields a net gold import figure of 1693 tonnes in 2015. Both of these figures are very close to BullionStar's previously published Chinese gold import data estimates, as calculated by Koos Jansen. Adding 2015 Chinese gold mining production to imports gives total new supply coming into the Chinese market in 2015 in excess of 2000 tonnes, which is over 1000 tonnes higher than consumer gold demand as estimated by consultancies such as GFMS and the World Gold Council.

LBMA and SGE familiar with BullionStar's research

On the Monday evening we attended a dinner hosted by Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ) at Singapore’s famous Raffles Hotel. Just after arriving we had the privilege of chatting for a few minutes to Jiao Jinpu, chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) via his colleague and interpreter Jess Yang, and we highlighted to him BullionStar’s extensive research from Koos Jansen on the China gold market and the SGE, which we were impressed that he was already familiar with. Dinner conservation was interesting and varied as we were seated at a table with representatives of the London Metal Exchange, ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), the CME Group, GFMS, Metalor Singapore, and the Royal Canadian Mint.

During the conference, we also learned that the LBMA is familiar with BullionStar's research into the London gold market, another confirmation that the analysis that we publish is read widely within the bullion industry.

As the conference wrapped up on the Tuesday afternoon, delegates were asked to forecast what the US Dollar gold price will be this time next year. Audience members submitted their forecasts via a special handheld device in the auditorium, which resulted in an average forecast of US$ 1347.

BullionStar Seminar during LBMA Week

To coincide with the fact that the LBMA conference was located in Singapore this year, BullionStar hosted a number of events at its shop and showroom premises on New Bridge Road, Singapore. On the Saturday prior to the conference,  15 October, BullionStar held a 'meet and greet' morning, where customers and anyone in town for the conference could pop in and chat with BullionStar staff. On Wednesday 19 October, BullionStar held a precious metals seminar in its showroom premises at which BullionStar CEO Torgny Persson and Precious Metals Analyst Ronan Manly presented to an audience on the topics of Bullion Banking, and Transparency vs Secrecy in the gold market, respectively. The presentations and transcripts of the speeches will be published on the BullionStar website in the near future.

“How Safe is your Gold?” – Transcript of Speech by BullionStar CEO

The following is the transcript of a presentation made by BullionStar's CEO Torgny Persson on 14 July 2016 to an audience at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, USA:

Liberty is Prevailing

Freedom, ladies and gentleman.

Freedom is the right to think, speak and act the way that we want.

I think I speak for a lot of us here today in saying that we no longer believe in the imposed concept of a government taking care of us from cradle to grave.

I love the principles on which this country was founded.

Freedom of Speech,
Freedom of Thought,
Freedom of Movement,
Capitalism,
and Property Rights

But a lot has changed since. Authoritarian tyrants have kidnapped free society. But make no mistake, people across the globe are waking up. The tyrants are losing.

We can see clearly that the tide has turned. Political correctness is crumbling.

We had Brexit in the UK a couple of weeks ago. The end of the world according to mainstream media. We have the rise of Donald Trump here in the US. Love him or hate him but he’s breaking political correctness. He’s saying the unsayable.

It is starting to dawn on the tyrants that it’s all over.

More speech is always better than less speech.

So people are rising up, finally, people are rising up.

Liberty is prevailing! Liberty will always prevail. Freedom is a powerful concept. Freedom to think, say, read and do what you want.

We don’t need to be instructed how to live our lives. We have been oppressed by the government and lied to by the media long enough. Freedom is a force that can’t be stopped.

We don’t need anyone’s authority to govern our own lives. Freedom, think about it, is simply the concept of living your life the way you desire.

Introduction

My name is Torgny. I’m an economist by training. I’m the founder of 3 different precious metals dealers worldwide. Being Swedish by origin, I first started the Swedish bullion dealer LibertySilver.se in 2008. Liberty because if you own precious metals, you can gain independence and liberty from the oppressive financial system as you’re not locked in to the fraudulent banking system.

I have a Master’s Degree in Economics. If you ever get the chance to study economics, don’t do it. Economics is upside down. Instead of modelling what is actually happening in the real world, economics is a product of professors peer reviewing each other, holding each other’s hands, coming up with obscure models that they try to push onto the world.

I subsequently started Liberty Silver in Estonia in 2011, and most importantly BullionStar in Singapore in 2012. Today I’m looking to cover three different topics.

First, I will cover what is happening on the gold market by looking at the most important gold trends of 2016. What’s happening in the gold market and what can we expect ahead?

Then I will talk about Singapore because Singapore is the very best place in the world for wealth preservation and asset protection and it’s the best place in the world to buy and store precious metals.

And I will conclude by talking about how I have set up BullionStar with the purpose of servicing offshore bullion protection. I moved to Singapore with my family 3 years ago to establish BullionStar in Singapore simply because it is the best country in the world from which to offer precious metals services for international diversification, and asset and wealth protection.

Global Economy 2016

To understand the gold market, we have to understand what is happening in the global economy - and the relative ‘health’ of the global economy today.

Stock and bond markets have been performing well over the last years but the underlying economies are struggling. Record low interest rates, sub-zero in many countries, and massive money printing have’t triggered any real economic or trade growth.

We can even see that the viability of innovating, of creating new products, of selling products for a profit has become secondary to the goal of just having a corporate presence on the public investment markets. Today, it’s more important for company managers to list their company on the stock exchange than it is to actually create an innovative product that makes money.

So we have an economic system that incentivizes reckless debt behaviour, which leads to asset bubbles, boom-bust cycles, massive debt, mal-investment and inflation.

But how has this monster of debt and inflation been created? What’s at the core of our current economic system?

Today’s Monetary System

It’s the monetary system that allows government to steal through taxation and inflation. Taxation is of course the same as theft. They just had to invent another world of it. Income tax of 30% sounds a hell of a lot better than income theft of 30%. Everyone agrees that it would be wrong for me to go up to someone in this room with $100 and steal $30.

Just because a group of people get together and call themselves the government, it doesn’t change the immorality in stealing.

The monetary system, of course, also redistributes wealth via inflation. Inflation is also theft but in a discreet way as it happens slowly without the general population being aware of it. What did a gallon of milk cost when you were young? What did an ice cream cost?

Inflation is a redistribution of wealth from late receivers of newly printed money i.e. you and I, normal people, to the early receivers. i.e. the government, the central banks and the commercial banks.

Dollar 99

The US Dollar is important in this context because the US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. As we can see from this chart, the US Dollar actually did pretty well until the beginning of the 20th century. But what happened in the beginning of the 20th century?

The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 and the world went off the gold standard.

Since then the world’s currencies have lost 99% or more of their value.

We have been indoctrinated into believing that the world’s current monetary system is a natural system, but nothing is further from the truth. We should have moved on from it a long time ago as this monetary system really is the root cause of the financial debt disease that we are seeing today.

How is Money Created Today?

Today more and more people are becoming aware of the Federal Reserve’s counterfeiting of money through Quantitative Easing (QE). However, it’s still a mystery to many how most of our money is created today.

Most of today’s money is created not by central banks, but by normal commercial banks. It’s just created out of thin air when the commercial bank extends a loan. There’s nothing backing this money creation, there’s nothing tangible to it.

Let’s illustrate how it works with an example. We have Robert who is in the market for a 1 million dollar house. Robert’s career choice is as a fast food restaurant worker, part-time, on minimum wage. But Robert knows he has to look credit worthy when meeting his bankster so he dusts off his tie for the occasion.

The bankster takes a quick look at Robert and judges him as credible. No problem. You’ll get the mortgage. Now, where did the USD 1 million that the bank lent Robert come from?

Nowhere.

It was created out of thin air when the bank extended the loan to Robert. It was just created as a book-keeping entry in the bank’s accounting system out of thin air.

This is how approximately 92% of US money supply is created today. It’s created by banks out of thin air when lending. It’s easy to understand, but for some people hard to believe as it’s just too absurd.

92% Electronic Currency

Only 8% of the US Dollar money supply today exists in physical form and even this 8% are just worthless pieces of paper that only have a value as long as people can be brainwashed into believing they have a value.

Some people actually still think that the US Dollar is gold backed. As a thought experiment, let’s calculate what the price of gold would have to be for the US Dollar to be backed by gold.

The Federal Reserve claims to hold, and note that I say claims to hold because there has never been any independent proper audit of the US Treasury vault holdings, 8133 metric tons of gold. At the same time there’s about 17 trillion of US Dollars in circulation. The price of gold is currently about USD 1300 per troy ounce. The US gold reserves as valued in US Dollars would therefore be worth about 340 billion dollars. This means that the price of gold would have to rise 50-fold for all outstanding US Dollars to be backed by gold today. 50-fold. This is how much the value of our currencies have been eroded.

What is Money?

We can thus see that the world’s current money system isn’t serving us the people. But what is money in the true sense?

For something to emerge as money on a free market, it needs to serve three purposes.

  • Medium of Exchange – Money is the intermediary in the exchange of goods and services. If we don’t have money, we’re back to barter systems of medieval times which is very impractical.
  • Unit of Account – Money is supposed to serve as a measuring stick that everyone understands. Money is a frame of reference. And sure, if I tell you that something costs $100 you have a pretty good idea how much that is, but the problem is that it takes $100 today to buy something that cost $1 a hundred years ago.
  • Store of Value – Money is supposed to keep its purchasing power over time, to keep its value.

Let’s now compare paper currency and gold to see which has the best monetary characteristics.

Durability – Money is not supposed to corrode, oxidize or burn. Well, paper money burns easily whereas gold melts under heat but isn’t destroyed.

Portability: Paper money and gold can both be moved. Electronic currency can be moved very easily but can also be deleted by the stroke of a key.

Divisibility – Let’s do an experiment. I have here a 10 dollar note and a 1 gram gold bar. Now what happens if a split this 10 dollar note, what does it become? Does it become two 5 dollar notes? No it doesn’t, it becomes two worthless pieces of paper. Now what if I instead split this 1 gram gold bar into two equally sized pieces, what does it become? It becomes 2 bars of 0.5 grams each which together is still what I had at the beginning i.e. 1 gram! This tells us a lot about the worthlessness of our paper money.

Fungibility – Fungibility means that each and every unit is indistinguishable from the other

Intrinsic Value – Gold has a high value because of its metallic characteristics. It has high density, it’s soft but still strong, and it’s what’s called malleable, meaning that it can be stretched without breaking. A 1 oz gold coin can actually be stretched out 50 miles without breaking. That’s 6 times all the way up and down the Las Vegas strip!

Imbalances from Using Dishonest Money

By using dishonest money as the world is doing today, we get huge global imbalances.

The US is running a massive trade deficit. There’s much more stuff coming into the US than there is leaving. How are the excess imports paid for? The answer is that it’s paid for by newly created money.

It’s interesting to note that it’s only possible to run trade deficits to this enormous extent if you issue the currency that is used as reserve currency. This is thus only possible in the US, as the US Dollar is used as the world’s reserve currency. In any other, non-US country, it wouldn’t have been possible because the currency would depreciate when there’s a continuous trade deficit.

When the currency is depreciating, it becomes more expensive to import goods and it becomes cheaper for others to buy exported goods. Trade is therefore rebalancing.

This is not happening in the US though and the reason for it is that the US Dollar itself is demanded as reserve currency around the world.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing towards the US because of this, blaming the US for living beyond its means. I don’t agree with that though as it is the rest of the world, i.e. non-US countries, that is demanding US Dollar as reserves which they don’t necessarily have to do. So this is what’s called an exorbitant privilege.

China & US Debt

Things are changing rapidly though as structural changes to the system are long overdue. The system we have today is in no way sustainable. The US Dollar is losing structural support from surplus countries, most notably from China.

Foreign countries are no longer increasing their reserves of US Dollars. China is no longer increasing its holdings of US Treasuries. They stopped buying them. So the system of the US Dollar acting as a reserve currency is very fragile and is only holding together based on the premise of more bribes. Private investors, especially in countries where the markets and currencies are failing such as in South America, buy bonds but they only do so on the promise of more and more easy money to come. People have been conditioned for many decades to run to the US Dollar as a safe haven although I predict that to soon change.

Foreign governments and particularly China are not interested in owning anymore US debt though. The question is when will the private support for the US Dollar stop, because then there’s no one to support US debt anymore except the Fed itself. When will it happen? Timing wise I’m not sure. When I started Liberty Silver in 2008, I thought it would happen much sooner that it has. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen though. We will first get a strong deflationary pressure, we are basically in that phase already. Credit will default but this will not be accepted by the governments, who will buy up debt at all costs, eventually leading to a crisis of confidence and then we’re in big trouble because then people will start to spend their savings quickly leading to hyperinflation. And when that happens, debt and credit is not a good store of value.

And who best understands this situation today? China still has a big surplus though so what do they buy instead?

Chinese Gold Rush

They are buying tangible assets. Gold is one such asset but China is also a major foreign direct investor in all sorts of projects from mining in Africa to infrastructure in central Asia.

The Chinese understand that the days of the US Dollar are numbered.

Chinese rush

Whereas Westerners have mostly been shunning gold for the latter part of this decade, the Chinese have been vacuuming the world’s vaults for physical gold. This chart shows that the Chinese, including both the government and private sector, are holding at least 16,000 tonnes of gold.

Chinese AU 16000

The Chinese government even runs adverts on national TV encouraging everyone to buy gold. Just imagine the US government running adverts on national TV encouraging people to buy gold.

Why do the Chinese do this? The simple answer is that they understand that gold is a stable savings asset, but they also understand that the days of the US Dollar as the reserve currency of the world are numbered, and they understand that gold is a much better safeguard against inflation and currency destruction than anything else.

This trend of gold flowing from the West to the East is the same as a flow of power from the West to the East. It has huge geopolitical implications because whoever has the gold in the end has the power. In my opinion, the Chinese are buying as much gold as they possibly can without breaking the neck of the market.

Western vs. Eastern Gold Mentality

I’m in a fortunate position because I’m running 3 bullion dealers across the world, both in the west and in the east. I have two businesses in Europe and one in Singapore in Asia so I’m fortunate to be able to compare eastern and western gold mentality.

What I see is that when the price of gold is going up, westerners buy. In the west, most people are looking to get a return on their investment. That’s how we’ve been conditioned because if we don’t get a return, inflation will eat up the value of the money.

But when the price of gold is dropping, there are a lot of Asians buying. We get queues outside our shop. Easterners are not looking for a return on their investment. What I see is that easterners don’t view gold as an investment vehicle. They view gold as real wealth, they view it as a safeguard against inflation and currency destruction. They view it as savings which provides independence.

In the west, we see the opposite. When the gold price is dropping, Westerners give up. It’s not good for my investments so I need to chase some other investment. So in the West, people instead buy when the price goes up, due to being trend seekers, as we’ve also witnessed this year.

But in my opinion, we can learn a lot from the Eastern mentality because the Eastern mentality is that gold is savings. There’s no counterparty risk for gold. You don’t have to trust any government, central bank or commercial bank when you buy and hold gold. You don’t need to trust anyone because you hold your wealth yourself so you’re in control.

Simply put, in the East, people are value buyers and buy for generational wealth, whereas in the West people mostly buy gold for the lure of currency profits.

How can Westerners piggyback this successful strategy to save/invest in gold outside the reach of intrusive governments?

Singapore’s Story

Let’s take a look at Singapore. I’ve been living in Singapore for about 3 years. I relocated with my family 3 years ago from Sweden, the worst socialist country in the world. And the country with the most political correctness by far anywhere. You think it’s bad in the US, check out Sweden. Socialism is cancer. I’m not going back there.

I moved to Singapore simply because it’s the best country in the world for precious metals, it’s as easy as that. Whether my kids agree, I don’t know but they like to play with silver coins and actually understand the intrinsic value of precious metals much better than most people in their 40’s and 50’s.

Singapore is the new Switzerland for asset protection. It’s the best and safest country in the world for wealth preservation.

Singapore is unique. Let me tell you my story about when I first went to Singapore. My business partner and I first visited Singapore on an exploratory trip researching whether to establish BullionStar in Singapore after we discovered that the Singaporean government was abolishing the sales tax on precious metals in Singapore in 2012. This is interesting because how many countries today are deregulating anything let alone precious metals? In other countries the rulebook just gets bigger and bigger. I know there’s many absurd examples from the US. From Sweden where I originate, the guidance on the sales tax that all companies must know and follow is 3,000 pages long. That’s insane. The rulebook of absurdity is just growing. Singapore may be the only country that is taking the opposite route of actually removing rules.

In Singapore, the government wants to create a trading, transit and storage hub for precious metals so they actually removed the major hindrance to that, the sales tax (GST / VAT as it’s called in some countries), which is rather unique.

So on my first trip to Singapore together with my business partner, we went to one of the suppliers in Singapore to discuss business opportunities. We had a general business discussion and they said, have you talked to the government yet? So I’m from Sweden where if you send a question to a government authority, in best chance you may get a reply after a few months if you’re lucky and they’ll most likely harass you with an inspection or audit while they’re at it.

We’ve been through a lot of that in Sweden even though we’re following all the rules meticulously.

The Singapore supplier told us that we can indeed contact the governmental trade agency in Singapore so I said why not and I sent the government contact person an e-mail 11 pm. I get a reply in three minutes saying that we’re welcome to meet them the next morning at their office.

Baffled, I replied that we will show up so we rock up to their office at 9 am in the morning. There are two guys meeting us. They are in their 20’s - 30’s and we discuss business opportunities with them. They tell us that we are welcome in Singapore, and that they want us here, and they encourage us to get started, and facilitate the introductions to different stakeholders and suppliers.

I met many bureaucrats in my life but that has never happened before, because bureaucrats  are normally just interested in growing their reach, killing anything productive around them. Whereas in this case, they wanted to help us and even came up with their own private business ideas. And this is the Government! Where else would that happen, would it happen in the US? ‘

We were quite amazed and we went for it and established BullionStar in Singapore four years ago.

Singapore Story

So in general terms, the Singaporean government is keen to incentivize productivity and they understand that the private economy is the backbone of the economy.

Singapore was actually literally kicked out of the Malaysian Federation 51 years ago. With nothing going for them and with no natural resources, the journey since has been a tremendous one. In a mere 50 years, which isn’t a very long time when it comes to building a country, they’ve established the premier financial center of the world. They have done this with a very strong rule of law where there’s a lot of freedom within a set framework. You have a lot of freedom as long as you keep within that framework and you especially have good business freedom.

Now, if you bring in guns or drugs, you’ll be put away for a long time if not forever. I’m a libertarian so I don’t really agree ideologically but I can see how this has been serving Singapore very well as a city-state, as there’s no shootings whatsoever and very little drugs.

Singapore is the most business friendly country in the world. Hands down. The Singaporean government runs Singapore like it was a company.

They focus on productivity and innovation and luckily they are a too important as a country to be listed on any grey or black list because of their low tax regime and financial protection. They are also very good diplomats. A few years ago, OECD put pressure on Singapore to start signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements. The Singaporean government said, yes we will start signing these agreements. To date more than five years later, they have signed one such agreement with…Berumda…Strengthening Singaporean-Bermudian ties to ensure that the OECD doesn’t bother them.

Compare this to Sweden is day and night. Sweden is often perceived as some sort of mellow well-working ideal. Bernie Sanders is touting Scandinavia as some sort of socialistic dream. Let me tell you, he’s got no clue what he’s talking about. Sweden’s been going downhill severely in the last decades. Crime is rampant. Due to the migration crisis, Sweden tops all countries for sexual violence. In 2015 alone, 163,000 asylum seekers predominantly from Syria and Afghanistan, arriving into a country with a population of only 9 million. Everything is totally breaking down. You could never run a storefront precious metals dealership in Sweden like we do in Singapore.

Sweden is also practically cashless. Cash is rare as a payment mechanism, and oftentimes no longer accepted. I was very concerned about my family while we still lived in Sweden even though my Swedish bullion dealer business, Liberty Silver, didn’t have a physical shop but just sent parcel deliveries via insured registered mail.

In Singapore, you can see currency exchangers exchanging tens of thousands of dollars without any security glass or any protection whatsoever and it’s completely normal. A couple of months after I moved to Singapore, I walked past Raffles Place, in the Central Business District, and there was a currency exchanger in the process of counting cash in a counter, standing outside his booth with a currency counting machine. Just when I walked past, there was a gust of wind and a pile of bills were taken by the wind and this was on the busiest street of Singapore with lots of people walking by. The exchanger calmly walked around and picked up the 100 dollar notes like nothing had happened. I had to veer to the side not to step on any of them.

What does that tell you about the security in Singapore? It’s incredibly secure. No one would dream of doing anything. It’s a combination of no social exclusion and harsh penalties. There’s no unemployment whatsoever in Singapore. Every shop you walk into has a sign: “we are hiring”. There’s a shortage of labor. Social standards are thus good. At the same time, the punishments for violent crimes are extremely harsh and includes caning.

Michael Fay, a US citizen, was actually sentenced to six strokes of the cane in 1993 after vandalising cars. The US protested loudly that caning was excessive for a teenager who committed a non-violent crime. The US embassy pointed out that the damage to the cars he vandalised wasn’t permanent but the scars from the caning would leave permanent scars on the US citizen. Bill Clinton pressured Singapore to grand Mr. Fay clemency but Singapore stood its ground and carried out the sentence although reduced to four strokes. It’s a rather harsh punishment. Your buttocks are bared and after three stokes, deep cuts are usually opening with blood squirting out. The enforcer must use the full force of his arm.

So this is an example of the rule of law in Singapore and whether you like it or not, it seems to serve as a deterrent.

Defend your bullion from confiscation risks

Bullion in Singapore

Singapore is the very best country in the world for buying and storing precious metals.

There are no taxes on bullion whatsoever in Singapore. The Singaporean government has actually deregulated the precious metals market. There is no sales tax, no capital gains tax, no import or export taxes, no tariffs or restrictions, no inheritance tax, no gift tax, no dividend tax. Before 2012, there used to be GST (sales tax) on physical bullion, but as I mentioned they abolished that tax in 2012 as they want to encourage bullion dealers to establish in the country.

As we all know, Western countries introduce numerous invasive laws targeting privacy and that place the right to buy and store bullion confidentially under attack.

Importantly, there are no reporting requirements, whether domestically or internationally, when someone buys or stores precious metals in Singapore. Your bullion is your private business and we are under no obligation to report your holdings to anyone. If you buy and store bullion with us, we don’t report it to anyone. You can hold bullion completely confidentially in Singapore and that also applies to FATCA. There’s no FATCA reporting for BullionStar because we are not defined as a financial institution. We are keen on helping you defend your right to buy and store bullion confidentially without your local authorities prying into your bullion ownership.

The Singaporean government has chosen precious metals as a growth industry. Singapore is keen on creating a trade, transit and storage hub for precious metals in Singapore.

As regards safety, you can confidently walk into our storefront bullion retail store in central Singapore and buy bullion with cash, then hand carry your bullion out without being hassled due to the zero crime rate. This has the advantage that the insurance cost for bullion in Singapore is low. By the way, the sentence for robbery in Singapore is up to 20 years in prison and a minimum of six strokes of the cane.

In Singapore, property ownership rights are also very strong. Singapore doesn’t allow frivolous litigation. Remember that it’s less than 100 years since the US outlawed gold ownership. Western governments have a long history of stealing. It seems they can’t help themselves when it comes to stealing. Singapore has no history of any confiscations, seizures or anything like that.

So, storing bullion in Singapore is an insurance policy against government intervention, wealth confiscation and frivolous litigation.

What makes BullionStar unique is that we combine online usability with physical accessibility.

BullionStar.com is our website where you can buy, sell and store physically allocated and segregated bullion.

Buy & Store Bullion in Singapore

It’s very easy to get started with us. Other bullion dealers also say that it’s easy but then they nonetheless slap you with 7 steps and require you to send in documentation. Signing up for an account with us is a one page registration form. It takes less than a minute. Much easier than signing up for a Gmail account or booking a flight online.

There are no documentation requirements. We don’t force you to send us any documentation at all. You input an e-mail address, password, your address and select a PIN number. It takes, if you’re quick on the keyboard, 30 seconds, and placing an order takes another 20 seconds. You select the items to buy, you go to the checkout and submit your order. One page checkout. I think I speak for many of us in how unnecessarily complicated everyone makes their online interfaces. PayPal, booking a flight ticket, government agencies, banks. They try to trick you into different things you don’t want. Add insurance, add car rental etc.

It should be easy to buy and store gold. A lot of customers are genuinely surprised about how easy we make it. We get good feedback on how easy it is to deal and transact with us, and we have over 600 genuine Google reviews with an average of 4.8.

You can handle everything online 24/7. You can buy, sell, store, order physical withdrawal of your metals online and even audit your metals online.

Trust is very important in the bullion industry. If you trust as with your hard-earned savings, you have to be able to trust us. What I tell our customers is, don’t trust us. Do your own due diligence. Don’t take my word for it. Read up on us. Google us and do your own due diligence.

BullionStar Vault Storage

If you choose to buy and store bullion with us, it’s important to know that we have five different auditing methods. We employ the LBMA-approved auditor Bureau Veritas to do third-party audits on all customer holdings bi-annually. We have something called the Live Audit Report where everyone can anonymously check on their own and all other customers’ bullion holdings. Furthermore, we allow and encourage customers to walk-in to our bullion center in Singapore and do their own auditing of their own metal. If you choose to go to Singapore to audit your metals, you don’t even have to notify us beforehand. You can just show up and ask to audit your metals, and we facilitate this on the spot. We will bring out your metals from the vault to the meeting room. You can go through everything and compare your bars and coins against your records and have a look at your own metals. This auditing program it thus very comprehensive.

We also take photos of your bullion and upload these images to your account. As soon as you have settled your payment, we process the metals into vault storage and take pictures of the actual bullion so that you can compare the bar serial numbers with your invoice. If you then come to our bullion center to do a physical audit yourself, you can again check on the serial bar numbers and if you physically withdraw your bars, those are the exact bars you receive.

With us, you own specific products. Your bars are allocated with you holding the direct legal title to the physical metal.

You can of course have your products shipped to you at any time fully insured. Even though Singapore is the safest country in the world, we have full insurance protection with the largest specie underwriter in the world, XL Insurance, for all risks at full replacement value. You can download the insurance document online. What’s good is that as there’s virtually no crime in Singapore, it makes the storage premiums low. We charge 0.39% of the average value per annum for gold and 0.59% for silver which includes full insurance for all risks, and all handling and online access for your segregated and allocated gold, which is very competitive.

Just like you can physically audit your metals, you can also come in to our shop to physically withdraw your metals without any prior notification. You show up, present your ID and tell us that you want the metals now and we simply hand over the metals to you.

Walk-in Bullion Center in Singapore

We can do this as our vault is actually integrated into the same venue as our shop.

Our bullion center consists of a retail bullion shop, showroom and vault in one and the same venue truly making it a one-stop-shop for everything precious metals. Our shop used to be a bank branch and has an old style bank vault built into it. The vault was built several decades ago and I believe the reason why the vault is still there is because of its sheer impenetrability. It’s 30 inches thick, constructed from concrete and full of steel bars in the walls.

This is a unique shop. Nowhere else in the world do you have the flexibility of buying, selling, storing, depositing, valuing, physically auditing and physically withdrawing metals in one and the same storefront place without any prior notification.

You can just walk in, we have 20 showcase displays full of precious metals. So unlike many other dealers, we don’t hide online on the internet and we believe this combination is quite unique.

Singapore is a long way from the US and you don’t need to visit us to buy and store bullion with us. You can handle everything online. But if you ever go to Asia, I highly recommend that you pay us a visit to have a look. Whether you’re a customer or not as it’s a pretty cool concept.

BullionStar cash on account

BullionStar Cash & Bullion Account

Another unique feature that we offer is our BullionStar account. If you’re considering opening an offshore account, we have the ideal solution for that. It’s becoming more and more difficult to open bank accounts abroad. This is true generally but especially true for US customers.

With a BullionStar account, you can hold not only bullion on your account but also cash. You can hold US Dollars, Euros and Singapore Dollars on the account. It works like a bank account but we are not a bank. This is what is called a stored value facility and is under the same regulations as e.g. how PayPal holds client money.

As we don’t operate under the risky fractionally reserved banking system, this is much safer than a bank account.

It makes it very easy to trade physical bullion, and makes it easy to average in or out of positions.

Funds can be held indefinitely on the account and can be used towards purchasing bullion at any time or you can withdraw your funds at any time.

BullionStar Gold & Silver Bars

BullionStar Gold & Silver Bars are the world’s first and only gold & silver bar traded without any spread without the buy and sell price. This means that at any given point in time, the buy price is the same as the sell price.

What’s the hook you might ask. Well, the initial price premium is slightly higher compared to the spot price of the metal than for other bars of comparable price, but instead there is no spread so you don’t have trading cost whatsoever thereafter.

The bars are also very aesthetically attractive and if you haven’t been yet, come by our booth 425 to check them out.

The BullionStar gold bar is produced by the Swiss refiner Argor-Heraeus and there’s an inscription on the back side of the bar stating “Money since 4,000 B.C.” matching our ideological belief that gold is money.

The BullionStar silver bar is produced by the renowned German refiner Heraeus.

These bars have become tremendously popular as they eliminate the often large spreads faced by physical silver investors.

BullionStar Offshore Bullion Solutions in Summary

BullionStar was set up for the purpose of international diversification, and to provide confidential offshore bullion storage while being very accessible and transparent for the customer him/herself.

Even though we have a lot of local Singaporean customers given our local shop, it was, to a large degree, set up to cater to offshore bullion protection specifically.

There are no taxes on bullion in Singapore and there are no reporting requirements whether locally or internationally. We treat your holdings with full confidentiality although we are very transparent to our customers.

BullionStar is unique in that we combine online usability with ease of registration and ease of online trading coupled with the accessibility of a physical bullion shop and vault in central Singapore. It’s a one-minute process to sign up and place your first order with us.

With your BullionStar account, you can hold both bullion and cash funds in US Dollars, Euros and Singapore dollars on the same account, which is very convenient as it takes out the banks as the middle man between you and us.

When you hold metal with us, it’s your metal – fully allocated and segregated. We deal with physical metals only. With us, you specifically choose which items you buy. You place an order on e.g. a 1 oz PAMP gold bar. We upload pictures of the specific gold bar that you own to your account. We input the serial bar numbers on your invoice. We store that specific bar for you specifically and you have the legal title to that gold bar.

You can then follow your holdings online in real-time and when you prefer, you can sell or physically withdraw (or audit) your 1 oz gold bar. When you audit or withdraw your gold bar, you are given the exact same gold bar with the exact same serial number as you were allocated when you bought it.

By introducing the BullionStar Gold & Silver Bars which can be traded without a spread between the buy and sell price, we’ve solved the problem of large premiums that physical bullion investors and savers were facing.

And we have the most competitive storage fees in the industry.

But don’t take my word for it, check us out online and while Singapore is a long way from here, if you’re ever around in Southeast Asia, come and visit us at 45 New Bridge Road in Singapore. Our booth number is 425 where we have some awesome metal on display and also a very cool video game, the QE defender, where the objective is to obstruct the Fed, ECB and Bank of Japan from dropping money into banks.

Thank you!

Wrap-Up of BullionStar’s visit to FreedomFest 2016 in Las Vegas

Saturday July 16 wrapped up BullionStar's attendance at its first FreedomFest conference and convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the event from Wednesday July 13 through to the Saturday afternoon, the BullionStar team interacted with a wide-range of interesting event attendees, discussing topics ranging from the role of precious metals in investors portfolios, to the safety and security of having offshore storage of investment gold and silver at BullionStar's vault facility in Singapore.

Prospective US customers were interested in the fact that there are no sales or other taxes on bullion in Singapore, no reporting requirements on bullion, and that Singapore is a safe and stable political jurisdiction which upholds property ownership rights and where the Singaporean government actively supports the gold sector. On the topic of specific vaulting infrastructure, potential customers learned that BullionStar's "My Vault" facility provides secure, insured, allocated and segregated bullion storage with 24/7 on-line access to your holdings, using multiple levels of auditing, and that you can hold both bullion and cash on your BullionStar account, thereby using your BullionStar account as a real alternative to a bank account in Singapore.

BullionStar Grand Prize Draw - Silver Bars

Throughout the 3 day convention, attendees could enter a draw at the BullionStar stand for a chance to win one of three substantial silver bar prizes. Additionally, everyone who entered the draw received a free 1/10 troy oz silver coin of .999 purity produced by Golden State Mint, a coin with a design based on the Walking Liberty silver half-dollar historically issued by the US Mint.

The prize draw for the BullionStar silver bars took place on Saturday afternoon as the conference was wrapping up. First prize in the competition was a BullionStar 1 kg silver bar worth nearly US $800. BullionStar silver bars are 99.99% pure silver bars with a high-lustre finish produced by German refinery Heraeus on behalf of BullionStar. Second price was a 10 troy oz Heraeus minted silver bar, produced by Heraeus at its refinery in Hanau, Germany, while third prize was a 5 troy oz Heraeus minted silver bar.

Luke Chua, BullionStar COO and Torgny Persson, BullionStar CEO sum up their impressions of FreedomFest 2016

One of the major themes resonating at this year's FreedomFest event appeared to be that the founding principles of the US such as property ownership rights, personal liberty, and freedom of speech are being eroded, and that the government is encroaching on personal privacy. These themes were also picked up by Rand Paul's keynote speech noted in a previous BullionStar dispatch. A common talking point for people who came to the BullionStar stand during FreedomFest was the worldwide banking reporting obligations imposed on banks by the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) rules and regulations.

Beyond the Frozen Monopoly - Third Party Candidates

Given the current media focus on Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming 2016 US presidential election, US and international media often forget that there are other parties’ candidate nominees running in the US presidential race such as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. And so FreedomFest was eye-opening in that it was a reminder that other political parties do exist in the US apart from these two powerful incumbent parties, and that there is plenty of political thinking in the US outside the mainstream media's narrowly defined consensus.

In a Reason.TV interview conducted at FreedomFest with Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, and his running mate for vice-president, William Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts, Weld opened the interview with the interesting perspective that there is a “frozen monopoly of the two parties that has frozen a lot of people's thinking in place,… And they think, 'I have to be a right-winger,' or, 'I have to be a left-winger.' They're not thinking, 'What do I think?”

Steve Forbes - Gold Keeps its Intrinsic Value

During another interview at the convention, Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine, posed a very timely and interesting question, asking not which way the Fed will move on interest rates but “Why is the Federal Reserve manipulating interest rates in the first place?”. Forbes highlighted that interest rates are the cost of borrowing money and rewarding lenders, and that “by manipulating interest rates, the Fed has deformed credit markets”.

On the subject of gold, Forbes said that “gold is an insurance policy against turmoil and against government’s mis-behaviour towards the currency” and he underscored that it was important to remember that "gold keeps its intrinsic value", and that the price changes in gold are just people’s changing perceptions of the value of currencies. No doubt most BullionStar readers would tend to agree with these sentiments.

That wraps up our coverage of the FreedomFest 2016 event. We hope that these insights have been helpful, and we look forward to providing readers with updates at future events around the world that BullionStar may attend.

How Safe is your Gold?” – BullionStar CEO’s speech at FreedomFest

The first full day of the FreedomFest conference took place 14 July in Las Vegas, USA, an event at which BullionStar is attending and exhibiting. Conference proceedings took the form of general speaker and panel sessions in a large auditorium in the morning, and multiple breakout sessions of speakers and panel discussions in the afternoon. Morning events included the well-attended "The Big Bull vs Bear Debate", a panel session of well-known investment commentators such as Alexander Green and Peter Schiff. Lunchtime speeches included a keynote speech by former supreme court judge and constitutional expert Andrew Napolitano who discussed the topic 'Do We still have a Constitution?".

How Safe is Your Gold?

In an afternoon speakers session, BullionStar CEO Torgny Persson presented on and discussed the topic 'How Safe is Your Gold?".

Defend your bullion from confiscation risks

In his presentation, the BullionStar CEO gave the audience an insightful introduction into how the current global monetary system is based on the fraudulent concept of central banks monetizing debt and debasing currencies, and how commercial banks dilute money supply even more than central banks by creating money out of thin air via their lending practices. Mr Persson highlighted how a fully gold backed US Dollar would require a gold price multiple times higher than the current trading price, and the exorbitant privilege that the US Dollar, for now, retains as global reserve currency. He then illustrated and discussed the purposes and characteristics of money, and the degree to which fiat paper currency and gold fulfill these characteristics.

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BullionStar CEO Torgny Persson speaking on the topic "How Safe is Your Gold?"

The discussion then focused on how Singapore is the world's safest place in which to store bullion, due to a number of factors such as the Singaporean government's support for the bullion industry,  the economic and political stability of the city-state, and the near zero crime rate. Further advantages of storing precious metals in Singapore include the lack of sales and other taxes, the fact that there are no reporting requirements to report bullion transactions or holdings to any authorities either in Singapore or worldwide.

The discussion wrapped up with a Q & A from the audience covering topics such as how to transfer in existing bullion holdings from the US to Singapore, generational wealth transfers of bullion holdings, how Singapore would fare off if the US Dollar collapsed, and storage costs of gold and silver using BullionStar's vault storage services.

Exhibition Stand

BullionStar's stand in the exhibition area of FreedomFest near the entrance to the conference auditoriums proved popular with attendees throughout the day, especially in the breaks between speaker and panel debate sessions. BullionStar staff manned the booth, fielding questions on a wide spectrum of bullion and bullion storage related topics from a diverse selection of attendees. BullionStar's decision that all staff members would wear tailored gold suits (see below) proved a popular talking point among attendees. During some downtime we got to chat with fellow exhibitors and media exhibitors in the hall such as Kitco's Daniela Cambone and GoldMoney's Josh Crumb.

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Luke Chua, BullionStar COO and Torgny Persson, BullionStar CEO prepare for interview camera

The FreedomFest conference continues on 15 July with its 2nd full day or speakers and presentations. Check back at the Inside BullionStar blog for further updates.

Silver Bullion in Singapore

Singapore is one of the best jurisdictions in the world for buying silver bullion. Both silver coins and silver bars are exempted from GST in Singapore.

For physical silver bars the criteria is that the silver bar has to be produced by an LBMA-approved refinery and be of a minimum purity of 99.9% silver.

For silver coins, there’s a list of silver coins exempted from GST published by the Singaporean tax authority, IRAS.

When you buy silver bullion in Singapore you should thus make sure that you buy either a silver bar that is produced by an LBMA-approved refinery or a silver coin included on the below list.

The following silver bullion coins are exempted from GST in Singapore:

Canadian Silver Maple
American Silver Eagle
Austrian Silver Philharmonics
Australian Silver Kookaburra
Australian Silver Koala
Australian Silver Lunar Series
Chinese Silver Panda
Mexican Silver Libertad
Silver Britannia

Heraeus silver bars
Heraeus Silver Bars

Why Buy Silver?

One of the most common questions we get here at BullionStar is whether to buy gold or buy silver. It’s a difficult question to answer but we will go through some of the fundamentals for buying silver bullion in this article.

American Silver Eagles - 1 troy oz
American Silver Eagles

The silver price has been dropping the last couple of years. The price of silver has been dropping even more than the price of gold. This means that the gold/silver price ratio is currently at 76 which is a very high level historically.

gold silver ratio

Industrial demand make up as much as 56% of the demand for silver according to the Silver Institute. This is in contrast to gold where a large majority of the demand is originating from investment or jewelry demand. The silver price is therefore more correlated to, and dependent on, general economic factors.

You can read much more about the most important fundamentals of silver bullion in this article.

Is it better to buy Silver Bars or Silver Coins?

When buying silver bullion you have to consider whether silver bars or silver coins is your best option. The choice depends on your personal preferences. There are a few differences consider.

Price premiums for silver are generally higher than price premiums for gold. Silver bars generally have a slightly lower price premium than silver coins. This means that the price per troy ounce or gram is lower for silver bars than for silver coins. It can thus be argued that you get more silver for your money with silver bars.

Albeit a slightly higher price premium, a good case can however be made for choosing silver coins. Most minted silver coins are weighing 1 troy ounce i.e. 31.1 grams and comes packaged in mint tubes of 20 or 25 coins which in turn are packaged in so called monster boxes of 500 coins. In case there’s a meltdown in the monetary system and silver returns as money, it may be better to sit on plenty of small 1 oz silver coins than a few large silver bars. With 1 oz silver coins you can easily sell or barter a small portion of your silver holdings. If you choose to buy Canadian Silver Maples, the most sold silver coin in the world currently, you get a coin recognised around the world. The Silver Maple together with other popular silver coins like the Silver Eagle and the Silver Philharmonic are all highly liquid silver investment coins.

Silver Storage

There’s many different ways of storing silver bullion. With the high gold/silver price ratio, the main difference to storing gold is that silver bullion is bulky and takes space. If you live in a secure area and have a safe and a safe house, it may be convenient to store your silver bullion at home.

BullionStar however offers a superior solution for silver bullion storage. With us, you can store securely in our vault with us as your vault storage provider. You can control your silver 24/7 online through BullionStar’s online solution, My Vault Storage. If you want to sell your silver or withdraw your silver, you can do so in a matter of seconds from the online interface. With BullionStar’s storage solution, you can also physically audit or physically withdraw your silver at any time without any prior notification.

Another alternative is to store your silver bullion in a safe deposit box with a bank. When you store silver in a safe deposit box, the bank isn’t formally allowed to confiscate or encumber your silver. Do however consider what could happen in case of a bank run if the bank simply closes its doors with an angry crowd outside. Will you be able to take possession of your silver?

BullionStar’s visit to the World Money Fair in Berlin

In early February, I visited the World Money Fair in Berlin with a number of BullionStar executives, namely, Torgny Persson, CEO of BullionStar, Luke Chua, COO of BullionStar, and also Michael From, CEO of Liberty Silver in Sweden, a company founded by Mr Persson.

The World Money Fair is the world’s leading numismatic and precious metals convention, and is now in its 45th year. Held each year in the Estrel Convention Centre, part of the Estrel Hotel (Germany’s largest hotel), about 9 kilometers south-east of central Berlin, the 3 day event attracts a crowd of between 10,000 – 15,000 precious metals enthusiasts, as well as hundreds of precious metals exhibitors from all over the world, with a strong representation from the German gold market. The exhibitors range from precious metals refineries and mints, to precious metals dealers, to precious metals manufacturers of technical machinery and equipment for the minting and refining industry (such as coin presses), and finally many precious metals numismatics, coin and bank-note dealers. Hence, lots of bullion and numismatic coin collectors also attend the fair. The World Money Fair was previously held in Basel, Switzerland, up until 2006, at which point it moved to Berlin.

World Money Fair Exhibition Floor - Berlin
World Money Fair Exhibition Floor - Berlin

One of the more intriguing aspects of the convention is that apart from the individual attendees, literally hundreds of precious metals dealers and precious metals suppliers also attend the Fair, primarily to hold meetings and discussions with each other, and also to catch up on the latest offerings from the convention exhibitors. Most of these face-to-face meetings take place within the hotel lobby at the numerous seating areas, cafés, and restaurants that are positioned within the Estrel’s expansive open plan atrium. While most of the meetings are pre-planned, there is an air of spontaneity as customers and suppliers rush around trying to keep to their previously agreed schedules, while bumping into old acquaintances. Some suppliers seemed to literally have numerous back-to-back meetings in the lobby for a good part of the first two days.

I sat in on some of BullionStar’s meetings which included a large German gold and silver refinery, one of Switzerland's biggest gold refineries, and some of the largest worldwide precious metals wholesalers. I found these meetings fascinating as the format was a combination of an informal catch-up, and a more formal discussion of product pricing, business conditions, inventory requirements, bar premiums, and supply channels etc. We also attended dinners on different evenings with a variety of large precious metals suppliers from markets such as Germany, the US and Singapore. I considered it a privilege that during these meetings and dinners I was able to meet some of the top names from the worldwide gold refining and wholesaling sector.

On the first day I took a tour of the exhibition floor. This space consists of an immense series of halls about the size of a few football pitches. There were about 50 national and private gold and silver mints and central banks exhibiting, as well as approximately 250 dealers in precious metals, bullion and numismatics, and about 60 technical suppliers including some large gold refineries. It might seem surprising that central banks, such as Banco de México, would attend such a gathering, but given that many central banks regularly produce their own precious metals coins, it actually makes perfect sense, as they too are in the business of marketing their own coins.

While there were plenty of new releases of limited edition numismatic gold and silver proof coins, I was most interested in the investment bullion gold and silver bar and coin displays, but the vast number of displays (under protective glass) was extensive and varied and would easily take an entire day to see properly. A lot of well-known names were exhibiting, including the Perth Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Mint, South Africa's Rand Refinery, the Austrian Mint, PAMP, as well as MDM Deutsche Munze (Germany), Schoeller (Austria), and China Gold Coin Incorporation. As it's not every day one gets all of these mints in and refineries in the same room, I made sure to chat to staff on the various stands just to get an idea of their views on the precious metals market and their product offerings.

Some of the larger investment gold bar displays in the exhibition were laid on by German precious metals refinery Heirmerle + Meule along with its Spanish subsidiary Sempsa JP, as well as an extensive selection of gold and silver bars from German /  Belgian refinery Agosi (Umicore). Agosi even had a display of base metal investment bars which it calls AgosiBase, covering titanium, aluminium, copper, bronze, and brass bars, as well as Sparkasse gold bars which it produces on behalf of the German Sparkasse (Savings Banks).

Britain’s Royal Mint also had a relatively large gold bar display of recently launched gold bars which use the former Royal Mint Refinery (RMR) logo. At the Royal Mint stand I also learned that its precious metals vault at its headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales, is built to the security specifications of the Bank of England. Hmmm, could this mean that the Bank of England holds some of its gold not in London, but in the more remote Royal Mint vault, which after all is guarded by Britain's Ministry of Defence police force? The Royal Mint also points out on its vault page that customers can 'rest assured' that it operates "outside of the banking and London clearance systems", which doesn't really inspire confidence in the London precious metals vaulting system.

Royal Mint Refinery gold bars
Royal Mint Refinery (RCM) gold bar display - Berlin

Each year, a different country is the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the Fair. This year, it was the turn of The Republic of Korea, and so KOMSCO (Korea Minting, Security Printing & ID Card Operating Corp), Poongsan (producer of coin blanks for 60 countries around the world) and Poongsan-Hwadong (an official distributor in South Korea for a lot of international mints), had large exhibit stands. While attempting to find out some lesser known facts about South Korea's gold market, I was surrounded by helpful representatives from KOMSCO and Poongsan, but a lot seemed to be lost in translation, although I did manage to learn that they are exporting gold bars to Indonesia, which was news to me.

There were also a lot of other mints exhibiting at the Fair but which were focusing on their 'mint coin' collections, such as Japan Mint, Czech Mint, Royal Dutch Mint, Portuguese State Mint etc. Mints usually use the World Money Fair to launch new coins or announce updates to existing gold and silver coins in their range. Surprisingly, the huge US Mint did not have a stand at this year's exhibition, although I understand that it did in previous years.

BullionStar also brought video recording equipment to Berlin and conducted short interviews with various exhibitors about their views on gold. We also recorded some interviews of our own views on the gold market, material which will be used in forthcoming BullionStar audio-visual releases. Finally, at one of the many banknote dealer stands, I purchased a very new looking 100 billion Zimbabwe Dollar note for the knockdown price of €10, which I think is the highest denomination Zim Dollar hyper-inflationary note ever issued.

Rand Refinery
Rand Refinery display - Berlin

Next Year, South Africa is the Guest of Honour country at the World Money Fair, and Rand Refinery and South African Mint will be ‘guest of honour’ companies representing the South African gold market. The year 2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the launch of the famous Krugerrand gold coin, which undoubtedly explains the timing of South Africa receiving this accolade.