The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is making its long-awaited play to help institutional giants more comfortable using its platform to invest in digital money.
Coinbase is launching Coinbase Custody to help big institutions like sovereign wealth funds, pension plans or asset managers store digital assets, known as a custody service.
The move helps Coinbase build out a new source of revenue, but it also marks an important shift among crypto entrepreneurs to win over Wall Street — not just disrupt it. That means serving large, institutional investors with services they’re used to getting, such as custody.
“The institutional side has not been well served, and that’s for a reason,” said Adam White, a Coinbase vice president who is leading the new efforts. The surge of interest in crypto was led by retail investors, not major financial institutions.
“A bunch of institutions looked up and said, ‘We can’t ignore this anymore. We don’t understand it, but we’re going to have to.’”
Custody has been a concern for major traders, White acknowledged, who didn’t have anyone externally to secure their assets. Even though cryptocurrencies are virtual, crypto holdings still require safe storage. It’s a common service feature for other financial instruments, and custodians sometimes can execute trades on behalf of the client.
Coinbase in the next few weeks will roll out its custodianship services to a few prominent cryptocurrency firms, like Boost VC and Scalar Capital. Some institutions have already been using Coinbase to execute trades — the company says it has stored more than $20 billion in crypto assets — but these major financial players tend to be pretty conservative.
The success of Coinbase so far has largely been due to individuals who are passionate about cryptocurrencies specifically, and not on the backs of big, lumbering institutions that invest professionally in things across different asset classes.
And the finance industry has been chilly to cryptocurrency enthusiasts — some of whom envision an overthrow of the current financial system. But Wall Street is increasingly catering to them: Major investment banks are starting to trade in bitcoin-related deals, and the largest exchanges now allow customers to buy and sell bitcoin futures.
The company is also launching what they call Coinbase Prime, a high-end suite of services that will give additional information to a client like a sovereign wealth fund that one individual trader wouldn’t need when deciding whether to buy or sell. Coinbase is also staffing up a team internally to service these big spenders.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.