Banca Generali, an Italian private bank, has bought a $14 million stake in Conio, a Milanese fintech which offers consumers a Bitcoin wallet.
The deal will see Conio’s services offered to Banca Generali’s customers sometime next year.
HNWI warm to Bitcoin
In May 2019, a global survey by financial advisory firm deVere Group projected that two thirds of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) will hold crypto assets by 2022.
Nigel Green, CEO of deVere group, puts this down to a few things. One is their borderless nature. Another is popularity amongst younger demographics.
And in the last two years, the interest and capital they’ve generated from institutional investors suggests they’re set to hold ever-growing value.
Banca Generali’s clients are largely these HNWIs. The bank’s CEO Gian Maria Mossa says it “predict[s] that the future structure of financial markets will be influenced by blockchain technology”.
The CEO also cites the progress of various central banks’ digital currency projects.
“Global payment systems players are including this new world in their business models,” he adds. “And in Switzerland we are seeing the creation of the first banks based on blockchain systems.”
Last year, Finma became the world’s first financial regulator to licence crypto lenders – Sygnum and Seba.
Evolution of Conio
Conio, founded in 2015 in San Francisco, is the brainchild of former CheBanca! and ING executive Christian Miccoli, and Amazon-bought GoPago’s co-founder Vincenzo di Nicola.
The start-up serves more than 150,000 cryptocurrency portfolios for Italian customers today.
Banca Generali cites the fintech’s technology patents which ensure “secure custody and reduce[s] counterparty risk”.
This includes the start-up’s digital currency custody system with multiple signatures, that requires three security keys. It has the potential to extend across further digital currencies in the future.
A new era?
“This agreement with Banca Generali is a significant step towards a new era for the whole financial system,” says Christian Miccoli, Conio’s co-CEO.
“After ten years of development and industrial stabilisation, cryptocurrencies are now entering into a tangible new phase. Debuting on the financial institutions’ range of services.
“With this transaction, Banca Generali is positioning Italy as a leading country in Europe in the race towards the development of these new technologies.”
This year has indeed been a big year for crypto. In May, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) clarified its stance on banks providing accounts to traders dealing with virtual currencies. It said “no such prohibition exists” for banks to serve these customers.
In July, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) permitted US national savings banks and federal savings associations can hold cryptocurrencies on behalf of their customers.
This means America’s financial institutions can provide fiat bank accounts and cryptocurrency custodial services to cryptocurrency businesses.
This followed JP Morgan’s decision in May to serve two Bitcoin exchanges – Coinbase and Gemini – as banking clients.
Visa welcomed its first crypto-focused enablement partner for debit cards, Ternio, in October. The deal sees Ternio join the ranks of Visa’s major card-issuing and payment platform partners, such as Marqeta and Stripe.