As the world’s largest asset manager, Fidelity Investments has been closely watched for its stance on cryptocurrencies. The company first allowed clients to view their bitcoin and cryptocurrency holdings through its website in August 2017.
In October 2017, Fidelity added the ability for clients to track their cryptocurrency balances alongside other Fidelity account holdings such as stocks and mutual funds.
Now, Fidelity is taking the next step by allowing clients to actually buy and sell cryptocurrencies through its platform. The move makes Fidelity the first major financial institution to offer such a service.
The new service, called Fidelity Digital Assets, will initially only be available to institutional investors such as hedge funds and family offices. But the company plans to eventually make it available to all of its 27 million customers.
To buy cryptocurrencies through Fidelity, customers will need to set up an account with the new digital asset platform. Once they have done so, they will be able to link their Fidelity account and make trades directly through the platform.
Fidelity is partnering with Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, to provide custody and trade execution services for the new platform. Coinbase will hold the actual cryptocurrency coins on behalf of Fidelity customers.
And when customers want to buy or sell a particular coin, Coinbase will match them with another customer who wants to trade in the opposite direction.
Fidelity has been testing the new service with a select group of clients over the past few months. And it appears to be off to a good start, with over $1 billion worth of trades executed so far.
So what does this mean for investors?
For starters, it gives them another way to gain exposure to this burgeoning asset class. And because Fidelity is a well-established financial institution, it could help bring more legitimacy to cryptocurrencies in general.
What’s more, the new service could make it easier for investors to cash out of their positions when they want to take profits or exit the market entirely. Right now, converting cryptocurrencies back into traditional fiat currencies can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process.
But with Fidelity handling all of the back-end work, investors will be able to offload their positions much more quickly and easily.
Of course, there are also risks associated with this new service. For one thing, it’s still unclear whether or not cryptocurrencies are here to stay.
They could just as easily crash back down to earth as they have soared over the past year or so. And if that happens, investors who have bet big on crypto could get burned badly.
Another risk is that of cyber theft. Cryptocurrencies are often stored in “digital wallets” which can be hacked just like any other computer system.
If hackers are able steal your coins, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get them back. So investing in crypto comes with a certain amount of risk inherent in any digital investment.