Fidelity Investments Entering Crypto as Debate Over ‘Institutionalization’ Grows
One of the world’s biggest asset managers is planning to launch new cryptocurrency offerings by the end of the year, the latest evidence of a broad institutional push to bring digital assets mainstream.
Fidelity to Enter Crypto
Fidelity Investments, the world’s sixth-largest asset manager, is developing a new suite of crypto- and blockchain-focused products, according to CEO Abigail Johnson.
“We’ve got a few things underway, a few things that are partially done but also kind of on the shelf because it’s not really the right time. We hope to have some things to announce by the end of the year,” Johnson told the Boston Fintech Week conference on Friday.
While details remain scant, Johnson said Fidelity’s forthcoming offerings aren’t what she expected when her firm first began researching the space.
As CCN quotes:
“What we started with was building a long list of use cases for either bitcoin, Ethereum, other cryptocurrencies, or potentially just raw blockchain technology. Most of them have been scrapped by now or at least put on the shelf. The things that actually survived were not the things I think necessarily we expected. We were trying to listen to the marketplace and anticipate what would make sense.”
As Hacked reported last October, Fidelity appears to have been one of the first major institutions to mine cryptocurrency. At the time, Johnson acknowledged that her company’s U.S.-based mining operation is “making a lot of money” but the real motivation was to learn how networks and consensus operate.
Crypto Adoption Grows but Questions Remain
With $2.5 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity is one of the biggest players in global finance and its entry into cryptocurrency will provide an instant legitimacy boost to the sector. Despite the recent market downturn, large institutions ranging from Goldman Sachs to Intercontinental Exchange have announced new crypto ventures all designed to bring digital assets to mainstream circles. Although the pace and timing of these initiatives varies, the underlying trend remains overwhelmingly in favor of greater adoption, not less.
Some analysts have warned that the institutionalization of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin undermines the core mandate of peer-to-peer money. This view was recently conveyed by Andreas Antonopoulos, who argued that the inevitable rise of the bitcoin exchange-traded fund could do more harm than good.
“ETFs fundamentally violates the underlying principle of peer-to-peer money, where each user is not operating through a custodian but has direct control of their money because they have direct control of their keys,” Antonopoulos said.
At this stage in the game, evaluating the impact of institutional money on cryptocurrency isn’t an exact science. Several analysts have noted correlations between, say, the launch of bitcoin futures and the meteoric drop in prices, but establishing causality is less credible given the small size of the futures market relative to trading over-the-counter and on digital exchanges. It has also been relatively easy to show the positive impact of bitcoin futures on volatility. As Diar points out, bitcoin’s volatility has declined sharply since December.
Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.