Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest investment firms with $2.3 trillion in managed assets, is taking a long look at cryptocurrencies.
The firm has been experimenting internally with bitcoin, but is now bringing some of those features out to its broad customer base.
According to reports in Quartz and The Financial Times, Fidelity’s chief executive, Abigail Johnson, spoke at length about the company’s commitment to cryptocurrency at Consensus, a bitcoin-themed conference in New York.
Johnson said that the company had made several venture investments in bitcoin-related businesses and that the company was looking at applications of blockchain technologies alongside several leading universities.
According to Quartz, Fidelity has also set up a small mining operation inside the asset manager — one that’s making money for the company.
One of Fidelity’s projects is mining bitcoin and ethereum, which Johnson said was started for educational purposes, but now turns a tidy profit. “We set up a small bitcoin and ethereum mining operation…that miraculously now is actually making a lot of money,” she said.
The FT reported that the company had bought its mining hardware from the now-pivoted 21 Inc. (whose chief executive appeared onstage at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco last week).
Johnson, herself is a huge proponent of the digital currency and has mined roughly 200,000 satoshis, according to the FT report.
Beyond the firm’s internal work, it’s also now making cryptocurrency balances visible on the Fidelity website for customers that hold an account with Coinbase — one of the world’s biggest trading and storage service providers for the cryptocurrency market.
Bitcoin is now trading at around $4,200 coming off of a few recent price shocks related to a regulatory crackdown in China on cryptocurrencies.
Fidelity becomes one of the largest financial services firm to speak publicly about its cryptocurrency operations, even as most of the large banks have begun experimenting with bitcoin, ethereum and other blockchain-based protocols internally.
Indeed, even as J.P. Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon was publicly decrying Bitcoin on CNBC, his company’s traders were buying shares of an exchange traded fund that tracks cryptocurrencies.
Meanwhile, James Gorman, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, said that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were certainly “more than just a fad.”
Applications for blockchain technologies extend far beyond financial services, but the hope of return from investing bitcoin as a speculative store of value has been at the heart of the boom in cryptocurrencies for at least the past two years.