BBVA launches Bitcoin trading and custody
Spain’s second biggest bank will launch its cryptocurrency trading and custody service in January 2021.
BBVA’s Swiss division will handle the rollout, which initially will be dedicated to Bitcoin before exploring other virtual currencies. The bank says it has spent more than five years researching blockchain and its various applications, believing now is the ‘right moment’ to launch into the burgeoning market in response to rocketing demand.
BBVA customers will be able to buy, sell, hold and trade Bitcoin with ‘all the guarantees of any other banking service’.
The service will launch in Switzerland ‘due to the fact that it is the most advanced European country in terms of regulation and adoption of digital assets,” the bank said in a press release. It also highlighted the ‘wide array’ of blockchain companies in Switzerland, making it a strong crucible for wider adoption in Europe.
“Digital assets have enormous potential to transform the way value and information are exchanged through blockchain technology,” said Alicia Pertusa, Head of Client Solutions Strategy at BBVA. “Financial institutions, in collaboration with supervisors, can play a relevant role in the integration of digital assets in current markets and infrastructures.”
Are banks ready for Bitcoin?
Bitcoin and other major altcoins have returned to the fore as potential solutions to the myriad issues thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, including international payments. Cryptocurrencies are attracting vast new stores of personal wealth and institutional capital. Bitcoin rose to a new record value earlier this month at $19,920.53, the first new trading peak since 2017.
In the UK, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey confirmed the bank is exploring launching its own virtual currency. “We are looking at the question of, should we create a Bank of England digital currency,” he said, adding that such a move would have “huge implicaitons” on payments and society.
Across the pond, digital currencies are also gaining favour in the mainstream. “Even the highest echelons of US financial system seem to be considering how crypto may fit into the post-Covid reality,” Dacxi MD Katharine Wooler wrote in a recent column for FinTech Magazine, as officials explore avenues to future proof the USD in an increasingly global, digital financial system.
Five minutes with Helene Panzarino, Associate Director, LIBF
Name: Helene Panzarino
Role: Associate Director for Digital Banking and Finance
Company: The London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF)
We all know the companies, but what about the people behind them? Here, we find out more about Panzarino’s background, why she’s an advocate for entrepreneurs, and her take on US community bank heroism.
Who was your childhood hero, and why?
My dad. It may seem a bit of a cliche, but for someone who left school aged nine, he instilled in me the value of education and self-belief. He also had enormous pride and confidence in me and my abilities. He was my biggest supporter and a wonderfully innocent and kind person who helped shape the person I am today.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
‘Mentors are great, but advocates are better.’ I discovered that it's much harder for entrepreneurs to find true advocates, so this is something I try to do for other people.
Which activity are you most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over?
I can't wait to go to Terroni Brothers in Clerkenwell, London, for some authentic Italian pastries and an espresso that I haven't had to make myself! I wrote most of my books in cafes, and I find a change of scenery also helps me think outside of the box on all my projects.
Is there a personal achievement from 2020 of which you are particularly proud?
I am most proud of having my second book, Reinventing Banking and Finance: Frameworks to Navigate Global Fintech Innovation, published by Kogan.
This book's schedule was very tight, and I was fortunate to have Alessandro Hatami, a good friend and industry peer, as co-author. We've received industry accolades, powerful endorsements, and many compliments on the clarity of thought and content, so it made it even more worthwhile.
What inspires you in fintech today?
I am hugely inspired by the way community banks in the US have become the unexpected heroes of the pandemic, getting money into accounts quickly but also being there for their customers as trusted partners.
Many community banks have been big enough to recognise that they could do more to support their customers, and it has been hugely inspiring to see them partner with the fintech community to drive operational and customer service improvement.
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