Crypto Custody, Explained

Connor Blenkinsop
JAN 08, 2020
Crypto Custody, Explained

Partnership Material

1.

What is crypto custody?

Well, it seems to be the latest trend that’s causing a buzz.

For the uninitiated, these services pave the way for digital assets to be securely held in large volumes. Some advocates believe that this could be one of the key factors needed to trigger an influx of new capital from institutional investors.

Many of the solutions out there make use of hot and cold storage. “Hot storage” refers to coins and tokens that are held in an environment that’s connected to the internet. Although this means assets are easier to access, this also means there is a higher risk that funds could be stolen through a cyber attack. “Cold storage” involves storing digital currencies away from an online connection. In theory, cold storage techniques are more secure because there is a lower risk of assets being stolen in cyberattacks and hacks. However, as we’ve seen with cases such as QuadrigaCX, even this approach doesn’t offer a cast-iron guarantee that funds will be kept safe.

2.

What are the advantages of crypto custody?

In theory, crypto custody can help prevent assets from being lost. 

In the world of digital currencies, forgetting a private key can be nothing short of calamitous — without that all-important alphanumeric phrase, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether can be lost forever.

Crypto custody solutions deliver an experience that’s more comparable to mainstream banking — just like a lost PIN code for a debit card can be replaced by a centralized authority without the funds they protect vanishing into thin air, these outfits are designed to keep large volumes of digital assets secure and insured.

3.

Who are crypto custody services aimed at?

Hedge funds with a substantial stake in cryptocurrencies aren’t the only ones who have the potential to benefit.

This market is also proving useful for everyday investors, with exchanges offering the centralized touch that many everyday consumers are used to.

From a regulatory standpoint, the benefits of crypto custody are obvious. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is clear that any institutional investor that holds more than $150,000 in assets needs to ensure they are under the control of a “qualified custodian.”

4.

Are there any early market leaders?

Few crypto-focused entities have cropped up in this space yet.

Coinbase proving itself to be an early market leader in offering institutional-grade solutions. Others include Vontobel, which has established a “digital asset vault” enabling more than 100 banks and wealth managers to orchestrate the purchase, custody and transferal of coins and tokens through the infrastructure and environment they have become accustomed to.

Venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz have backed crypto custody upstarts like Anchorage, and Bakkt has also made in-roads in providing Wall Street investors with ways to trade BTC in a regulated setting. Other well-known names such as Fidelity and Gemini have also launched offerings that are geared toward institutional users.

5.

Is there any chance that crypto services could go mainstream?

Another big development came at the start of December. 

This was when Germany’s parliament passed a law that will enable banks in the country to sell cryptocurrencies and offer custodian services. Some enthusiasts have claimed this bill will pave the way for Europe’s biggest economy to become a crypto haven, while others fear that it could open up new risks to customers. One feared scenario is that the public will begin to invest in volatile coins and tokens without fully understanding the dangers, potentially losing their investments as a result.

6.

Where next for crypto custody?

Financial institutions, regulators and investors are continuing to grapple with the issue of crypto custody.

Hearing stories from those who are plugged into these discussions can offer valuable clarity to what lies ahead.

The Crypto Finance Conference in the Swiss ski resort of St. Moritz, which is being held Jan. 15–17, is the perfect forum for lively debate and intelligence about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the industry in the 2020s. Speakers at the event will include Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — the twins who serve as president and CEO of Gemini respectively — and Hester Peirce, the commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The agenda explores the rapid evolution of the asset management industry and how crypto fits into the picture, and a deep dive into the challenges of banking in the world of blockchain. For those who prize the opportunity to secure new contacts in an infinite setting, and the ability to pose questions about crypto custody to influential figures on a one-to-one basis, organizers say this invite-only event is going to be an essential part of the year.

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