Fidelity Investments To Announce Cryptocurrency, Blockchain Products By 2018-End

Fidelity Investments is planning to launch blockchain and cryptocurrency related products by 2018-end. Here, a sign marks a Fidelity Investments office in Boston, Massachusetts, Sept. 21, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Ranjitha Shastry, International Business Times

Speaking at the 2018 edition of Boston Fintech Week, CEO of investment firm Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson, revealed Friday that a team at Fidelity are working on certain blockchain and cryptocurrency related products and services. The details of the products might be announced by the end of 2018.

“We’ve got a few things underway, a few things that are partially done but also kind of on the shelf because it’s not really the right time,” Johnson said, in a conversation with Sarah Biller, cofounder of FinTech Sandbox, Xconomy reported. “We hope to have some things to announce by the end of the year," Johnson added.

Fidelity has tried and tested this emerging technology without being skeptical of the outcome. Johnson said that they started with building a long list of use cases for anything they came across in this space like the then-potentially-raw blockchain technology, or cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum.

“Most of them [use cases] have been scrapped by now or at least put on the shelf. The things that actually survived were not the things I think necessarily we expected. We were trying to listen to the marketplace and anticipate what would make sense," Johnson recalled.

The investment firm has been an advocate for cryptocurrency and blockchain since 2017 when Johnson said at a conference in New York she was a believer of digital currencies and that she favored bitcoin and blockchain to be more user-friendly rather than looking at them as "solutions in search of a problem."

At the same conference, she also revealed that a computer she owned had mined millions of tokens of a cryptocurrency called satoshi, named after the creator or creators of bitcoin (Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity is still unknown). This mining process was started for an educational purpose but ended up making tidy profits for the firm.

Johnson remarked that at the time, it seemed like an ambiguous concept, saying, “We never thought we’d make money, but we figured it would be a good idea because we’d get in at the ground level and we’d learn something.”

The investment firm already lets certain clients view their cryptocurrency holdings right next to their other accounts in their Fidelity portfolio. This was a project started by Fidelity Labs in August 2017, in partnership with cryptocurrency exchange service Coinbase. Talking at the time about the technology, Fidelity Labs managing director and senior vice president Hadley Stern said: “Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies are emerging from their infancy but mass adoption is still many years away."

What is also interesting is the company's charity association, Fidelity Charitable, in 2015 started allowing philanthropists to donate for nonprofit using bitcoin and had raised up to $6 million in cryptocurrency donations in the first half of 2017. According to Johnson, this success was in fact because of the people who had become wealthy because of bitcoin and were looking to become "philanthropists", and the charity provided a platform for it.

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