Fidelity, one of the biggest providers of 401K services and other retirement products to Americans, is plotting the buildout of products that would push the market for bitcoin to the next level.
The wealth firm, which oversees $2.4 trillion in assets, already allows certain clients to view their crypto holdings next to their other accounts in their Fidelity portfolio. And its chief executive officer Abigail Johnson is a noted proponent of bitcoin.
But Business Insider has learned Fidelity is looking for talent to build its own digital asset exchange, according to a job posting sent out to employees at the firm.
Specifically, the firm is looking for a DevOps System Engineer “to help engineer, create and deploy a Digital Asset exchange to both a public and private cloud.”
People with knowledge of Fidelity’s crypto ambitions told Business Insider the firm has been working on an offering that would allow clients to buy and sell certain digital assets for about a year.
If Fidelity does go through with launching a crypto exchange offering, it would arguably be among the biggest moves by a large Wall Street firm into the nascent crypto market, which stands at around $350 billion.
It would also pit Fidelity against a number of established crypto players, such as Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitfinex. To be sure, it’s not exactly clear from the job ad whether the exchange would exist alongside Fidelity’s other offerings on its site.
Such an offering could help legitimize the burgeoning crypto market, said market structure specialist Dave Weisberger.
“Fidelity’s reputation for achieving best execution for their retail clients should help legitimize the asset class,” Weisberger said.
A spokeswoman declined to comment on Fidelity’s crypto ambitions.
Other established Wall Street players are also weighing their own moves into crypto. Goldman Sachs has a team dedicated to building out a trading operation tied to crypto and the New York Stock Exchange is reportedly building a crypto trading platform.
Yet other banks are remaining cautious. Regulatory and security risks are commonly cited as reasons bitcoin hasn’t been adopted more broadly yet.
About a third of all crypto trading platforms have been hacked, according to a report by JPMorgan. The entrant of a player like Fidelity into the space could lure in retail investors into the market weary of trading on existing platforms.
Fidelity is also looking to hire staff to develop “first-in-class custodian services for Bitcoin and other digital currencies,” according to another internal job ad.
The position falls under the firm’s crypto division, the Fidelity Digital Asset Service unit. It is not clear if Fidelity has cleared the regulatory hurdles to operate a qualified custodian product aimed at institutions, of which there are only a handful operating in the crypto space.
On Wall Street, custody banks such as State Street and BNYMellon safeguard large amounts of wealth for other institutions while abiding by strict regulatory requirements.
Some entities offer such solutions in crypto. But they are small firms and their names don’t carry the same weight as a Fidelity. BitGo, another crypto tech provider, is working on a qualified custodian product. Paxos, a New York-based firm, holds a trust company charter in New York.
Crypto exchange Coinbase has its own custody product, Coinbase Custody, which is aimed at institutional Wall Street firms and went live earlier this year.
Weisberger said the move by Fidelity would make a lot of sense strategically.
“They have many of the components already: a significant retail footprint across the spectrum of active to less active traders, a prime brokerage area that knows how to account for custody of assets, they operate an ATS already (called “CrossStream”), and have a reputation for excellence and risk control in their product offerings,” he said.