Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has become the first mainstream bank in Australia to offer crypto services, following prolonged hesitation from the industry.
To offer these services, CBA has partnered with American crypto exchange Gemini and blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. The partnerships have enabled the bank to design a crypto exchange and custody service that will allow its customers the ability to buy, sell and hold up to ten selected crypto assets including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin through its CommBank app. The bank added that the pilot would begin in a few weeks, and it intends to progressively roll out more features in 2022.
CBA CEO Matt Comyn explained that customer demand for the services drove the decision. The bank’s research revealed that many of its customers were already buying, selling and holding crypto assets through a variety of crypto exchanges.
“We believe we can play an important role in crypto to address what’s clearly a growing customer need and provide capability, security and confidence in a crypto trading platform,” Comyn said. “CBA will leverage Gemini’s crypto exchange and custody service and integrate it into the CommBank app through APIs.”
First on the block
So far, major institutional banks in Australia have refrained from involving themselves with cryptocurrencies. Last month, a pair of such banks defended their decision against having business relationships with cryptocurrency providers. Banks had been so hesitant to engage with crypto firms, the practice became widespread enough to become known as ‘debanking.’ One Australian crypto trader even claimed to have been rejected by over 90 banks.
Despite the institutional skepticism, cryptocurrencies are proving popular in the Oceanic country. According to researcher Finder, one in six Australians owned cryptocurrency in 2021, amounting to a total of A$8 billion ($6.02 billion). Australian lawmakers led by liberal senator Andrew Bragg recently introduced a major new package of cryptocurrency reforms. These wide-ranging changes would allow more cryptocurrency-focused businesses in the country. Along with more business, it also encouraged more direct pathways for these companies to access banking services.
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