Spanish financial services company BBVA is to offer its first crypto-asset service on Monday, with a Bitcoin offering for private banking customers in Switzerland.
The service is only available in Switzerland and includes Bitcoin trading and custody services, with the aim of extending it to other cryptocurrencies.
BBVA will not offer advice on crypto-investments.
The offering follows six months of testing, a gradual roll-out during which the company found there was “significant desire” among investors for digital assets as a way of diversifying their portfolios, despite their “volatility and high risk”, BBVA Switzerland chief executive Alfonso Gómez said in a statement.
There is growing institutional interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are seen by some investors as a hedge against inflation as governments worldwide release stimulus funding.
BBVA said its Bitcoin management system is integrated into its app, allowing traditional and digital assets to be managed in the same investment portfolio.
The company said it uses several sources for converting cryptocurrencies, ensuring they can be exchanged for euros or other currencies around the clock.
“Over the coming months, we will continue to enhance and expand the digital asset offering,” said Gómez.
BBVA said it is limiting the offering to Switzerland for the time being because the country has widespread adoption of digital assets and a clear regulatory framework.
The company is present in Switzerland through a wholly owned franchise, focused on international banking services.
El Salvador has become the world’s first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, but most central banks have warned of cryptocurrencies’ notorious volatility.
China, the United States and other major economies have in recent weeks indicated they plan to take a more restrictive approach to crypto-assets.
A recent move by China to shut down crypto-mining operations in the country helped to spur Bitcoin’s latest slide, which continued on Friday with a 7 percent drop to around $35,000 (£25,000).
As recently as 14 April the asset traded at a high of nearly double that figure, or $64,895.22.
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