Initially all reluctant vis-à-vis cryptocurrencies, more and more large international banks have finally decided to embark on this field.
Faced with the rise of cryptocurrencies, and the interest of individuals and more recently of investors, the major banks are seeking to make their mark in this area.
In this area, American banks have a definite advantage, as the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the United States remains more developed and mature than the European ecosystem. For example, according to US giant Fidelity, around 80 million Americans own or have owned investments in digital currencies.
This Thursday, the famous American bank Goldman Sachs became the first bank to offer a secured loan in Bitcoin, which allows borrowers to use bitcoin as collateral for a cash loan. It also became the first global bank in March to trade bitcoin options over-the-counter at Galaxy Digital, a crypto-focused asset manager.
But Goldman Sachs is not the only American bank to ride this trend. Some also want to allow their customers to diversify their portfolios, by exposing them to cryptocurrencies. For the past year, the giants Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Well Fargo have allowed their wealthy clients to gain exposure to these assets.
Similarly, faced with the rise of cryptocurrency trading platforms, and in particular giants such as Robinhood and Revolut, American banks have decided to improve their trading services. Since March 2021, Golman Sachs has, for example, been offering bitcoin futures and non-deliverable futures, which allow clients to comment on the future price of Bitcoin. Two other American banks are well on their way to also offering this type of service: Bank of America and Citigroup.
In Europe, more discreet initiatives
In Europe, initiatives remain more discreet, at a time when European institutions are considering regulating the cryptocurrency sector. It seems, at this stage, that Germany has a head start. In late February, Germany’s second-largest bank, Commerzbank, applied for a license from the German regulator, allowing it to offer cryptocurrency exchange and custody services. If it were to obtain such a license, it would become the first major German bank to embark on the adventure. 25 German banking establishments would seek to date, to obtain such a grail.
For its part, the largest German bank, Deutsche Bank, is preparing to launch a cryptocurrency custody service. The announcement was made over a year ago. Contacted by BFM Crypto, Deutsche Bank does not wish to comment on a launch date. Last week, Portuguese bank Bison Bank became the first bank in the country to offer cryptocurrency-related services.
Only one bank in France
In France, the big banks remain cautious in terms of cryptocurrencies. If BNP Paribas or Société Générale forge partnerships in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, all remain on their guard. Banque Delubac & Cie became the first French bank to obtain registration as a digital asset service provider (PSAN) with the AMF at the end of March. While the bank had announced that its offer would be available at the end of April, it seems that it is taking a little delay.
“We are going to launch the offer very soon, it is an environment that is very flexible, which evolves very quickly. We have planned several launches over the next few months with services that will expand as we go, “explains to BFM Crypto Edodie Trevillot, the bank’s compliance manager.
The bank is expected to officially launch its services in mid-May, including its cryptocurrency buy-sell and custody offerings. Thereafter, it will think about developing its online banking platform, with a product offer of broader tokens. The bank ensures that the offer will concern all customers, from individuals to institutions.
In Europe, Switzerland is an exception, with its attractive cryptocurrency tax system. At the beginning of September, the giant BBVA announced the launch of a cryptocurrency wallet. For its part, Axa Switzerland accepts the payment of insurance premiums in bitcoin.
“While Swiss banks have so far been cautious in offering cryptocurrency investment opportunities, more than half of the banks surveyed (55%) now plan to launch a cryptoasset investment offering in over the next three years,” said a recent EY report.
It is clear that banks are getting into cryptocurrencies, and although cryptocurrencies are of more and more interest to individuals and investors, the services are limited to professionals and wealthy customers.