(Bloomberg) — Tesla Inc.’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin purchase this week sent the cryptocurrency soaring to a record, with many of its most vocal adherents feeling validated in their “to the moon” predictions. For the largest U.S. banks, prospects for the digital asset are decidedly more earthbound.
Top lenders still mostly shy away from crypto. While futures contracts based on Bitcoin and Ether, the second-largest digital currency, are available at major exchanges, none of the six biggest U.S. banks offer their customers access.
Their reticence should come as no surprise: Banks weren’t invited to the crypto party in the first place.
“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution,” Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for the person or people who developed Bitcoin, wrote in the 2008 white paper that helped lay the groundwork for the digital asset.
There are other reasons banks are still mostly on the sidelines. While Bitcoin is now more than 11 years old, there are very few things it can actually buy. And volatility is a major risk, as even Tesla said in a filing disclosing its purchase.
Here is crypto’s state of play at the top U.S. banks:
JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, is the furthest along.
The firm last year agreed to take on Bitcoin exchanges Coinbase Inc. and Gemini Trust Co. as banking clients, breaking with an industry that had routinely forbidden Bitcoin businesses from accessing its services. The