Another cryptocurrency exchange? Fidelity Investments may be getting ready to have you “turn here.”
The financial giant, with nearly $2.5 trillion in managed assets, has reportedly posted internal job openings for system engineers for digital asset exchanges and custodian services for digital currencies.
Fidelity spokesperson Jessica Macdonald told ThirtyK Thursday that “we see the future of financial services taking place on open and permissionless ledgers, with technologies like digital assets, currencies, and blockchains, and we are very actively exploring what this may mean for Fidelity.”
She added, “We are hiring to meet the demand for this exploration, but we have nothing to announce today.”
Job openings have become one way to suss out the cryptocurrency-related plans of a financial services firm. But in Fidelity’s case, the reported move shouldn’t be seen as a total surprise.
Fidelity has long thought blockchain could change the market structure of currencies. But is it forming its own exchange to cash in?
Fidelity Chair and CEO Abigail Johnson has long embraced the technology’s potential. “I love this stuff,” she said during the 2017 Consensus industry gathering, according to . The company has experimented with small mining operations for several years, developed a proof-of-concept for cryptocurrency microtransactions, and even allowed employees to use bitcoin (BTC) in its cafeteria, although it’s not clear whether anyone used it to purchase the proverbial cup of coffee that’s inspired .
Its R&D arm, , was the first financial industry member of , a university faculty-led research consortium focused on cryptocurrencies and contracts. It also created a solution in 2015 along with other non-cash assets to Fidelity Charity. (Fidelity Charity reportedly received last year.) Also, the brokerage has sought a for a blockchain-based voting system and a for the term “Fidelitycoin.”
And while Fidelity investors can’t invest in cryptocurrencies — at least not yet — they have been able to monitor the value of their virtual currency holdings since last August through a .
In addition, Fidelity includes among its materials for investors a advises, among other things, that “future developments in blockchain could alter financial markets in the same way that the internet did. Just as the internet made sending letters and other information more efficient, blockchain could change the market structure of currencies and perhaps even some aspects of the architecture of the internet itself.”
Although it is a household name because of its outsized presence in retirement investments, Fidelity isn’t the only player exploring the possibility. Susquehanna International Group is already slowly expanding trading to its customers, while Goldman Sachs is reportedly moving in the same direction.
Still, it’s not clear if or when a Fidelity-branded cryptocurrency exchange will become available. But investing is a numbers game, and Macdonald offers a series of statistics that highlight both the interest and the limitations of the technology today. “Internally, Fidelity launched a Bits and Blocks Club in 2015 which now has more than 2,500 employees taking part. Together, we have educated thousands of Fidelity associates,” she said. As for the bitcoin-powered cafeteria program, “while fewer than 10 employees actually used it, we learned more about how people use bitcoin,” she added.
This article has been updated to include comments from a Fidelity spokesperson.