By Tanaya Macheel
Citibank is exploring various crypto products that it could offer consumers, according to a person familiar with Citi’s plans.
The bank is still in the early stages of determining what crypto-related services it could make available to retail customers and could ultimately decide not to pilot any related offerings.
Most financial firms have groups dedicated to studying crypto assets and blockchain technology. But Citi has moved beyond thinking about crypto “in an abstract way” to consider how it could package a consumer product, the person said.
Juliana Berger, a senior vice president of product in Citi’s mobile bank division, is overseeing the exploration of crypto-related products. But Citi appears reluctant to draw attention to the initiative. She removed “Head of Consumer Crypto Asset Innovation” from her job title on LinkedIn after Cheddar approached Citi for comment on Wednesday.
A Citi spokeswoman said the bank has conducted some consumer sentiment research about offering cryptocurrencies but that it “does not have plans for any crypto products or partnerships."
Giving retail customers exposure to crypto assets would be a significant development for Citi, the third largest U.S. bank by assets.
Major institutions have largely been publicly dismissive of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. And for good reason: banks need to protect customers from price volatility, and so far there’s little regulatory clarity around crypto assets.
But the lack of crypto offerings from traditional banks has given well-funded Silicon Valley start-ups such as Robinhood and Coinbase a head start on giving consumers easy access to the crypto markets. JPMorgan Chase [recently appointed] (https://www.businessinsider.com/jpmorgan-ask-oliver-harris-to-explore-cryptocurrency-strategy-2018-5) someone to spearhead its crypto strategy, and Bank of America has listed cryptocurrency as a competitive risk to its business [in filings] (https://www.coindesk.com/bank-of-america-cryptocurrency-risk-factor-annual-report-10-k/) with the SEC.
Citi CEO Michael Corbat appeared bullish on the idea of cryptocurrencies when he spoke with Cheddar in June. Citi has already embraced the underlying blockchain technology behind crypto assets; Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions, for example, integrated a blockchain-based payment solution last year.