Spain's second-largest bank, BBVA, is launching a new business for private banking clients in its Swiss arm that will allow investments in alternative digital assets alongside Bitcoin trading and custody services.
The banking giant, which was founded in 1857 and has about $870 billion in assets, first tested the service late last year. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) noted "significant demand" among investors for digital assets. Investors are primarily using the asset class to diversify their portfolios, despite volatility and high risk, according to the major bank.
Launching in Switzerland for now
For now, the services are limited to Bitcoin (BTC), but in the future BBVA plans to expand them to other cryptocurrencies. However, the bank will not offer wealth advisory services for crypto assets. Furthermore, BBVA is limiting the new cryptocurrency services to Switzerland because the country has clear regulation and widespread adoption of digital assets.
"We are bringing the quality of banking services to the fledgling world of crypto-assets. With this innovative offering, BBVA is positioning itself as a benchmark institution in the adoption of blockchain technology. In the coming months, we will continue to enhance and expand the digital asset offering." - Alfonso Gómez, CEO BBVA Switzerland
The major Spanish bank has its own branch in Switzerland, which focuses on international banking services. Expansion to new countries or other clients will depend on whether crypto markets meet the appropriate conditions in terms of maturity, demand and regulation.
Institutional demand for Bitcoin
BBVA is not the first major bank to get involved with Bitcoin & Co. in recent months. Back in December 2020, JPMorgan noted growing institutional interest in the cryptocurrency. In particular, companies with a direct link to digitalization, such as MicroStrategy or Square, stood out. However, insurance firms such as MassMutual also made their first allocations, and risk-averse hedge funds are at the forefront.
In response to rising demand, a lot of major banks, particularly in the United States, have launched services for the asset class. In March, Morgan Stanley became the first established bank to offer a Bitcoin fund to its clients. Goldman Sachs quickly followed with an announcement, and JPMorgan is reportedly looking into its own product.