The popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase recently added a new custodian service for major institutional investors. Catering to hedge and state run wealth funds, the new service, Coinbase Custody, has a whopping $10 million minimum deposit with a hefty $100,000 set-up fee.
So what will Coinbase Custody provide for its new class of high-rolling elite investors? The new service offers a suite of overhauled security measures and asset management services designed to encourage traditional investors to enter the Bitcoin market. The custody service features strict financial controls and even includes a personal “regulated digital currency custodian.”
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s CEO, reports that until now, the absence of trusted digital asset custodians has prevented major investors from getting involved with cryptocurrency. In a recent blog, Armstrong notes that “Over 100 hedge funds have been created in the past year exclusively to trade digital currency. An even greater number of traditional institutional investors are starting to look at trading digital assets.” Armstrong goes on to estimate that there’s no less than $10 billion of institutional funds waiting to be invested in crypto—a cash pool Coinbase is eager to engage.
To date, companies providing digital vault and wallet services have dropped the ball on providing full-fledged custodian services for hedge funds and other traditional investment intermediaries. Coinbase’s new custody service addresses what Michael Moro, CEO of Genesis Trading calls a “gaping hole” in the current crypto market.
Moro suggests that the many regulatory ambiguities surrounding know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) laws have left traditional banks and brokerage firms wary of taking on custodial duties over crypto assets. These gun-shy traditional financial institutions have been hamstrung by a formula that requires firms carrying Bitcoin to back it with one-to-one dollar reserves—a formula which presents an especially unappealing option for industry giants like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan who prefer to keep their capital reserves liquid.
Prior to Coinbase’s new custody service, the Hong Kong-based company Xapo was the only major custodian in the crypto world. While Xapo may have been the first major player on the custodial services scene, the company only holds Bitcoin—putting it at a major disadvantage to Coinbase Custody, which can accommodate Ethereum and other popular altcoins as well.
Though Coinbase currently offers only Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin for its standard services, Armstrong has gone on record stating that Coinbase Custody will support “a wide range of digital assets and currencies” when it comes online in 2018.