CBA opens up the CommBank app to cryptocurrencies

- November 3, 2021 3 MIN READ
The Commonwealth Bank is embracing cryptocurrencies, and will allow CommBank app customers to buy, sell and hold crypto assets.

In the a game-changing move for the sector by the country’s biggest bank will see it partnered with crypto exchange Gemini – founded by the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame – and blockchain analysis firm, Chainalysis. Together they’ve been engaged by CBA to design a crypto exchange and custody service as a new feature in the CommBank app.

A pilot will start in the new few weeks with CBA planning to progressively rollout more features to more customers in 2022.

Users  access to up to 10 selected crypto assets including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.

The move follows research by the bank that revealed a large number of its customers want to access crypto assets as an investment class and are already buying, selling and holding them in other exchanges

CBA CEO Matt Comyn said growing demand for digital currencies creates both challenges and opportunities for the financial services sector.

“We believe we can play an important role in crypto to address what’s clearly a growing customer need and provide capability, security and confidence in a crypto trading platform,

“In looking at ways that we can support our customers, we have made the strategic decision to form an exclusive partnership in Australia with Gemini, a global leader with strong security and a track-record of serving large institutions. CBA will leverage Gemini’s crypto exchange and custody service and integrate it into the CommBank app through APIs.”

Gemini’s global head of business development, Dave Abner, said the partnership with CBA will unlock access to cryptocurrency investments for many Australians.

“The exponential growth of digital assets internationally, coupled with Gemini’s institutional-grade security and proactive regulatory approach, positions this partnership to set a new standard for banks and financial platforms in Australia and across the globe,” he said.

CBA has also partnered with Chainalysis, to help compliance teams monitor and mitigate the threat of crime through crypto asset exchanges, with Mat Comyn saying the bank’s customers were concerned about security.

“Customers have expressed concern regarding some of the crypto services in market today, including the friction of using third party exchanges, the risk of fraud, and the lack of trust in some new providers,” he said.

“This is why we see this as an opportunity to bring a trusted and secure experience for our customers.”

The CBA’s push into crypto was welcomed by the sector and Senator Andrew Bragg, chair of a recent Senate inquiry into digital assets and legislative reform.

“For too long, banks have cast aside cryptocurrency as an illegitimate fringe pursuit. I am pleased the tide is turning, as digital assets are mainstreamed,” Senator Bragg said.

“According to Finder, 31% of Gen Z own cryptocurrency, and 15% of all Australians have a cryptocurrency trading app. The people have spoken.”

Caroline Bowler, CEO of BTC Markets said the move was both exciting and inevitable.

“It’s yet another ‘red letter day’ for crypto and it is as though Australia has suddenly put the lead foot down. We have been touted as playing catch up all this while, but now we’re moving into a leadership position globally with our largest bank, and one of the most significant mainstream financial institutions in the world offering millions of customers access to cryptocurrencies,” she said.

“With regulation in the offing and the largest bank in the country allowing it, the floodgates are now open for more appetite from traditional finance and smart money to move into cryptocurrencies.”

Dr Dimitrios Salampasis director of fintech at Swinburne University said the CBA’s decision was a marketing move ensuring a first-mover advantage against rivals Revolut and Square.

“Questions remain around the volatility of bitcoin, the lack of legitimate professional financial advice services on crypto, the lack of proper regulatory mechanisms and the limited usability of cryptocurrencies,” he said

“This portfolio diversification strategy will allow CBA to attract crypto-enthusiasts – mainly millennials.”