Amid cryptocurrency boom, Fidelity Digital will expand staff by 70 percent

Fidelity Digital Assets is planning to increase headcount by about 70 percent as demand for cryptocurrency services from institutional investors remains strong.

© Kin Cheung A man used an Ethereum ATM next to a bitcoin ATM in Hong Kong.

The unit of the Boston-based asset manager Fidelity Investments Inc. plans to add about 100 workers in technology and operations in Dublin, Boston, and Salt Lake City, said Tom Jessop, president of Fidelity Digital Assets. They will help the business develop products and expand into cryptocurrencies besides bitcoin, he said.

Last year “was a real breakthrough year for the space, given the interest in bitcoin that accelerated when the pandemic started,” Jessop said. Bitcoin hit a record above $63,000 earlier this year, with other cryptocurrencies including ether also rising to all-time highs before falling by about half in recent weeks. So far, Fidelity Digital offers only custody, trading, and other services for bitcoin.

“We’ve seen more interest in ether, so we want to be ahead of that demand,” Jessop said.

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Fidelity Digital will also push to offer trading during more of the week, he said. Crypto trades all day every day, unlike most financial markets, which close in the afternoon and on weekends. “We want to be at a place where it’s full time for most of the week,” he said.

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As cryptocurrency and decentralized finance gain more acceptance, money has been pouring into the space to fund startups and new ways of conducting traditional financial transactions.

Venture capital funds have already committed more than $17 billion this year to blockchain-based projects, according to data provider PitchBook. That’s by far the most in any single year and almost equal to the total amount raised in all previous years combined. Firms raising money include Chainalysis, Blockdaemon, Coin Metrics, Paxos Trust Co., Alchemy, and Digital Asset Holdings LLC.

Beyond holding and trading in Bitcoin, Fidelity Digital allows its institutional customers to pledge Bitcoin as collateral against cash loans in a partnership with blockchain startup BlockFi Inc.

Institutional investor demand to get access to Bitcoin, Ether, and other digital currencies is only rising, Jessop said. The first clients of Fidelity Digital tended to be family offices and hedge funds, he said. That’s now expanding to retirement advisers and corporations that want to hold crypto as an asset class.

“Bitcoin has been the entry for a lot of institutions,” Jessop said. “It’s now really opening up a window on what else is going on in the space.” A big shift is in “the diversity of interest” from new and existing customers, he said.

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