Jul 19, 2021 - Economy

Bank of America's bitcoin thaw

Illustration of a spotlight on a bitcoin.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bank of America may be loosening its stance on bitcoin.

Driving the news: Bank of America has approved the trading of cash-settled bitcoin futures for some clients, Coindesk’s Will Canny and Tanzeel Akhtar report.

Why it matters: This would be a change in tone from a bank that's historically distanced itself from the cryptocurrency business.

Flashback: "Currently, we do not lend against cryptocurrencies and do not bank companies whose primary business is cryptocurrency or the facilitation of cryptocurrency trading and investment," Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said to the Senate Banking Committee on May 21.

State of play: Clients of brokerages sitting on the crypto trading sidelines have had other options like fintech startups Coinbase and Robinhood.

Yes, but: "We continue to evaluate the opportunities, risks and client demand for products and services related to cryptocurrency," Moynihan had added in May. This was a sentiment shared by his peers at Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

  • Just last month, CNBC reported Goldman Sachs was trading bitcoin futures with crypto firm Galaxy Digital.

What they're saying: “BofA getting into this as the crypto market cools is an interesting note on the momentum behind bitcoin's institutional moment," Coindesk deputy global news editor Zack Seward tells Axios.

  • "The fact that it's a futures play gives BofA clients the ability to bet on the market through thick and thin."

The bottom line: From weather derivatives to bonds backed by David Bowie’s music, financial services firms have long demonstrated flexibility to create and offer financial products in response to client demand.

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