BNY Mellon on Thursday said it will hold, transfer and issue cryptocurrencies on behalf of its asset-management clients.
The bank is forming a digital assets unit that is developing a client-facing prototype for a multi-asset digital custody and administration platform, it said in a press release. The bank plans to roll out that capability this year, pending further evaluations and approvals, Roman Regelman, BNY Mellon's CEO of asset servicing and head of digital, said in the release.
"Growing client demand for digital assets, maturity of advanced solutions, and improving regulatory clarity present a tremendous opportunity for us to extend our current service offerings to this emerging field," Regelman said.
That regulatory clarity includes an interpretive letter the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued last month clarifying that banks can use stablecoins to facilitate payment transactions for customers on an independent node verification network. That followed guidance from July specifying that national banks could provide cryptocurrency custody services and hold unique cryptographic "keys" associated with cryptocurrency on behalf of customers.
BNY Mellon's announcement marks the first time a large U.S. custody bank has unveiled a road map to treating digital currencies as any other asset, according to The Wall Street Journal.
JPMorgan Chase announced last spring it would extend banking services to cryptocurrency exchanges Gemini and Coinbase. The bank, at the time, did not agree to process cryptocurrency-based transactions but would provide cash-management services and handle dollar-based transactions for the exchanges' U.S.-based customers, the Journal reported in May.
BNY Mellon's announcement comes a day after Mastercard said it would support certain cryptocurrencies on its network this year.
The BNY Mellon unit charged with accelerating the development of digital asset solutions will be led by Mike Demissie.
"The Digital Assets unit plans to deliver a secure infrastructure for transferring, safekeeping and issuing digital assets," Demissie said. "Consistent with our open-architecture approach, the unit will leverage BNY Mellon's digital expertise and leading technologies from fintechs and other collaborators to speed up product development and help our clients tap into the best available solutions in the market."