CBA becomes first Australian bank to offer crypto trading

Commonwealth Bank

Commonwealth Bank is following the lead of Square and Paypal by letting customers use cryptocurrencies on its banking app in a move that signals digital currencies are entering the mainstream.

CBA will allow customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies via a new feature in its app that’s supported by partnerships with the global crypto exchange Gemini and blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis.

The bank’s move into crypto makes it the first Australian bank to offer customers access to digital currencies.

A pilot is expected to launch in the coming weeks, giving customers access to up to 10 crypto assets including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.

Speaking to SmartCompany, BTC Markets chief executive Caroline Bowler noted CBA’s crypto debut is a “significant move” for a large financial institution to make.

“This is a really significant move not just in Australia but also internationally,” Bowler says. “For such a mainstream institution as CBA to offer up crypto to retail clients, it’s very exciting.”

BTC Markets is the largest Australian cryptocurrency exchange that was founded in 2013 when Bitcoin was sold at $110, a small figure compared to today’s price of more than $84,500. To date, BTC Markets has facilitated 325,000 Australians trade $19 billion on its digital platform.

Bowler says the only disappointing part of CBA’s announcement is that the bank hasn’t partnered with an Australian exchange platform to roll out its new offering.

“But that has much to do with the regulatory catch up that Australia has to do here locally and I’m sure CBA will be looking to work with Australian partners in the future.”

Matt Comyn, chief executive of CBA, justified the bank’s debut into crypto in a statement, saying growing demand for digital currencies “creates challenges and opportunities for the financial services sector”.

In fact, research from CBA has found a large number of its customers are already buying, selling and holding cryptocurrencies on a range of alternative exchanges.

“We believe we can play an important role in crypto to address what’s clearly a growing customer need and provide capability, security and confidence in a crypto trading platform,” Comyn said.

CBA’s strategic partnership with Gemini, a global exchange, wallet and custodian based in New York, will allow the bank to integrate Gemini’s services into the CommBank app through APIs.

Bowler says small businesses and crypto startups should pay attention to CBA’s new offering because it will allow thousands of individual investors to buy and sell digital currencies.

“It’s going to be very easy for retail customers to trade crypto on their banking app,” she says.

“If I was a small business in Australia, I would be looking at how to accept crypto as a form of payments.”

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