Bitcoin and other cryptos have fallen sharply over the past month in a shakeout that saw some of the early longs decide to take their winnings and walk away. But a 20% drop from the all-time highs hasn’t done much to temper wealthy investors interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as alternative investments potentially worthy of diversification. And with the Greyscale Bitcoin Investment Trust still trading at a ridiculous premium, and the chances of the SEC approving a bitcoin ETF in the US looking increasingly remote, it’s unsurprising that “private wealth managers” and trying to scoop up wealthy customes who have expressed an interest in bitcoin.
But while regulators in the US and in many other part of the developed world have been hesitant to embrace bitcoin, Switzerland may have just given the world's private-wealth specialists the opening they needed.
According to Reuters, private bank Falcon announced Wednesday that it would immediately begin storing and trading bitcoins on behalf of its wealthy customers via the bank's cash holdings, a move that signals the traction the virtual currency is gaining even in slow-changing asset management.
Falcon received approval from Swiss regulators, marking the first time they’ve authorized a Swiss private bank to work with bitcoin, according to CNBC. The decision could prompt other global regulators to loosen restrictions on bitcoin, potentially launching the the global cryptoasset-management industry in earnest.
The decision follows the CFTC's approval last week of the first bitcoin Swap Execution Facility in the US, which opened the door to centrally-cleared bitcoin options and other derivatives that would make it easier for CTAs and hedge funds to speculate on the cryptocurrency.
Falcon made headlines during the investigation into 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that was exposed as a private piggy bank by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Investigators in Singapore shut down the local units of Switzerland's BSI Bank and Falcon Bank due to failures of money laundering controls and improper conduct by senior management. They also froze millions of dollars in customer assets and charged several private bankers, according to Reuters.
But now the bank, which is partnering with cryptocurrency broker Bitcoin Suisse on the bitcoin asset management project, views its it as a way to change the narrative and help burnish the bank’s suffering brand.
"We are proud to be the first-mover in the Swiss private banking area to provide blockchain asset management for our clients," Arthur Vayloyan, Falcon's global head of products and services, said in a statement.
"Falcon is convinced that the time is right to enter this nascent market and it is our firm belief that this new product will fulfill our clients' future needs," he said.
Will the decision inspire US regulators to follow suit and grant the wishes of every HNW investor who wants some exposure to bitcoin in their retirement account? It certainly gives the US asset-management a powerful argument to wield against regulators: They’re doing it so why aren’t we?