The global division of Spanish financial institution Banco Santander – Santander Private Banking International – has reportedly introduced a new feature that enables customers with Swiss accounts to engage in the investment and trading of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).
Given Banco Santander’s extensive history of more than 160 years and its broad customer base of 166 million individuals, the private banking division, which attends to 210,000 affluent clients and oversees assets and deposits amounting to around $315 billion, holds significant influence.
Hence, the decision to permit high-net-worth clients associated with Santander Private Banking International to engage in BTC and ETH trading is noteworthy and has notable implications for the industry.
Santander’s Historic Move
Although Santander’s initial launch of cryptocurrency trading services is said to be limited to BTC and ETH, the banking giant plans to expand its offerings to include other cryptocurrencies once they meet the specified screening criteria, as per information obtained from an internal communication leak reported by Coindesk.
The report states that Santander initiated the provision of BTC and ETH trading services in response to client requests via relationship managers.
The bank intends to safeguard the private cryptographic keys of the tradable assets within a regulated custody framework.
John Whelan, head of crypto and digital assets at Santander, reportedly said in an email,
“The Swiss regulation related to digital assets is one of the first and most advanced in the world since it provides clarity and a comprehensive regulatory environment for our clients. As holding of crypto as an alternative asset class continues to expand, we expect that our clients prefer to rely on their existing financial institutions to be responsible for their assets.”
Santander is yet to officially confirm the development.
Tryst With Crypto
The latest development comes almost a year after Santander announced its intention to restrict UK customers from making real-time payments to cryptocurrency exchanges, citing a commitment to shielding its customers from potential scams.
It had then cited witnessing “a large increase in UK customers becoming victims of cryptocurrency fraud” behind the decision. The financial giant also expressed intention to further “protect customers” by blocking all faster payments they identify to cryptocurrency exchanges from Santander accounts, a move that was expected to be implemented during 2023
However, by June 2023, the bank had shifted its stance and initiated an educational series for its customers focused on digital assets.
What makes this change noteworthy is its alignment with a growing interest from institutional entities in crypto assets. Many traditional institutions have joined the trend of embracing Bitcoin ETFs to offer their clients an indirect exposure to cryptocurrency.