Deutsche Bank Quietly Plans to Offer Crypto Custody, Prime Brokerage

The bank’s game plan was hidden in plain sight in a widely overlooked report by the World Economic Forum.

AccessTimeIconFeb 13, 2021 at 2:10 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:11 p.m. UTC

Deutsche Bank has joined the growing ranks of large financial institutions exploring cryptocurrency custody, with aspirations to offer high-touch services to hedge funds that invest in the asset class.

The Deutsche Bank Digital Asset Custody prototype aims to develop “a fully integrated custody platform for institutional clients and their digital assets providing seamless connectivity to the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem,” according to a little-noticed report by the World Economic Forum, host of the annual gathering of muckety-mucks in Davos, Switzerland. 

In a passage buried on page 23 of the December 2020 report, Germany's largest bank says it plans to create a trading and token issuance platform, bridging digital assets with traditional banking services, and managing the array of digital assets and fiat holdings in one easy-to-use platform.

Big banks are now announcing plans to enter crypto custody on an almost daily basis, with Bank of New York Mellon, the world’s largest custodian bank, joining the party earlier this week. 

U.S. banks were given some regulatory clarity thanks to last year’s interpretation letters from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. In Germany, firms are queuing up to get their hands on special crypto custody licenses from the country’s regulator, BaFIN. 

Deutsche, the world's 21st largest bank, said it aims to “ensure the safety and accessibility of assets for clients by offering an institutional-grade hot/cold storage solution with insurance-grade protection.” No specific cryptocurrencies or tokens are mentioned.

The digital asset custody platform would be launched in stages. It would eventually provide clients with the ability to buy and sell digital assets via a partnership with prime brokers (which act sort of like concierges for hedge funds), issuers and vetted exchanges.

The bank says it would also provide “value-added services such as taxation, valuation services and fund administration, lending, staking and voting, and provide an open-banking platform to allow onboarding of third-party providers.” 

The service would be aimed at asset managers, wealth managers, family offices, corporates and digital funds, the bank said. 

In terms of a business model, the bank would start out collecting custody fees, it said, later charging fees for tokenization and trading.

Deutsche said it has completed a proof of concept and is aiming for a minimum viable product in 2021, while exploring global client interest for a pilot initiative.

The bank’s press office could not be reached for comment Friday evening. A spokesperson had declined to comment on potential plans for a digital asset custody business when contacted last week by CoinDesk.

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