Safekeeping of cryptocurrencies presents a challenge for institutions holding cryptocurrencies on their clients’ behalf. Cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible and anyone with full access to a wallet’s private key controls the cryptocurrencies that reside within it. Frighteningly, a number of institutional participants and even some large cryptocurrency exchanges rely on subpar custody approaches, leading Opimas to estimate that close to US$200 billion worth of Bitcoin is at risk due to improper safekeeping.
Luckily, a number of companies have emerged to address this problem. There are now several reputable cryptocurrency custody-enabling technology providers and institutional-grade cryptocurrency custodians. Yet no custody solution is equal – there is still no best practice when it comes to security and governance relating to private keys. Some providers may rely on time-tested Hardware Security Modules (HSMs), while others use a newer technology known as Multi-Party Computation (MPC).
Some cryptocurrency custodians have followed in the footsteps of traditional capital markets by adding prime brokerage services to their offerings, including trading and settlement, lending, margin finance, staking, reporting, and capital introduction services.
Regulations surrounding institutions’ ability to store cryptocurrency have become clearer (and in some cases more favorable) in numerous jurisdictions. Notably, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ruling in the US has allowed banks to store cryptocurrencies for their customers. This regulatory clarity has led a number of financial institutions around the world to provide trading and custody for digital assets. Opimas expects that going forward, more institutions will add support for cryptocurrencies.