Seattle-based cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex Inc. has established a formal agreement with Signature Bank in New York to allow corporate clients in specific states to purchase virtual tokens using USD. The move is designed to increase the amount of institutional capital making its way through the crypto space.
Chief executive officer of Bittrex Bill Shihara says the exchange has been working on this partnership for months. “It’s been a long path,” he commented. “It’s not just about banks being able to trust Bittrex; it’s about banks being able to trust crypto in general, and I think it’s really showing that crypto is turning the corner in terms of mainstream acceptance.”
Due to regulatory uncertainty surrounding virtual currencies, many established financial institutions continue to associate them with money laundering and related criminal activity, and have chosen to avoid them altogether. Last February, for example, customers who tried to purchase digital currency through Citigroup were treated to serious delays and cancelled transactions after the investment firm made the decision to bar users from buying crypto using their debit cards or checking accounts.
This decision was later replicated by establishments like Chase and Bank of America, both of which implemented bans preventing customers from purchasing cryptocurrencies on major exchanges. Thus, many virtual currency marketplaces still only allow customers to trade between digital assets, rather than dollar for crypto or vice versa.
However, some banks are beginning to show signs of change in both attitude and business protocol, and have become more welcoming of cryptocurrencies. Popular digital currency exchange Coinbase has recently developed partnerships with Cross River Bank, Metropolitan Bank and Silvergate Bank in the United States. The company has even garnered a Barclays PLC bank account in the United Kingdom.
Noble Bank International in San Juan, Puerto Rico, also took over banking duties for Bitfinex in 2017 after the exchange’s relationship with Wells Fargo came to a sudden end.
Discussing the needs of traditional banks, Shihara went on to say, “They really do look and pour through the entire business. They want to make sure we’ve got robust AML/KYC processes and that we’ve got the right controls on our finances. They do background checks and everything. They really look at our business soup to nuts.”
Bittrex, which boasts roughly 3 million customers around the world, allows users to trade up to 200 different digital coins. Fiat trading capabilities will also be launched May 31, 2018, for bitcoin, Tether and TrueUSD. At press time, the service is only available to corporate clients in New York, California, Washington and Montana, though executives say they are working to expand this capability to retail investors once regulations are more defined.