Last week – in an Australian banking first – Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced its strategic partnership with global crypto leaders Gemini and Chainalysis, to enable customers to buy, sell and hold up to 10 different cryptocurrencies through the CommBank app.

At a media roundtable on the day of the announcement – held virtually and attended by CBA CEO, Matt Comyn; Gemini’s Global Head of Business Development, Dave Abner; and Chainalysis CEO and Co-Founder, Michael Gronager – the discussion focused on the new offering and CBA’s commitment to deepen its relationship with customers.

Discussing the bank's motivation to enter the crypto space, Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said the organisation had seen a large proportion of its customers – especially the younger demographic – wanting to access crypto assets. 

Given this pre-existing customer demand, Mr Comyn said an opportunity presented itself for the bank to innovate, evolve its current app, and provide an offering where customers could have confidence and trust in trading through their main financial institution with institutional grade security.

“We do think there is an opportunity for us to provide a high quality and secure offering. I think what is on many people’s minds is both the convenience and integration into the overall banking experience, which we see as being both banking and investing,” said Mr Comyn.

“We think it is an important element of our overall proposition, but one that we also recognise that we are going to continue to iterate and develop over time and respond to customer feedback and demands,” he added.

Given the complexity of the crypto sector – including the various regulatory considerations – Mr Comyn said choosing the right strategic business partners was pivotal to the bank’s future success within the field. 

Gemini’s Global Head of Business Development, Dave Abner, said the business’ industry-leading approach to security and compliance, with an “ask permission first approach” to regulation, is a far cry from the “Wild West” environment co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss first experienced when they got into crypto almost a decade ago.

“Security has been a pillar of Gemini since our inception. Protecting our users' assets is really the cornerstone of our mission. To build the future of money, trust is our product.

“We believe that blockchain technology can improve economic efficiency, productivity and outcomes, as well as promoting financial inclusion. We’re still in the early days of crypto and institutions are in a prime position now to take advantage of the full potential of this asset class,” Mr Abner said

CBA is also partnering with global blockchain data platform, Chainalysis, which will help Commonwealth Bank to monitor for and mitigate the threat of crime through crypto asset exchanges. 

“Our mission is to build trust in blockchains to promote more financial freedom and less risk,” said Mr Gronager, CEO and Co-Founder of Chainalysis.

“Chainalysis works with government agencies, financial institutions, and exchanges to help the entire ecosystem understand the risks and opportunities in cryptocurrency, and work together to build a safer, more equitable financial system.”

Mr Comyn acknowledged that given the degree of regulatory flux globally and the volatility of the market, the bank’s lower risk model will help protect customers, with customer education also a key priority.

“We think it is important to actively support and work constructively with regulators, make sure we are offering a very good proposition to our customers. Of course, investing in cryptocurrencies come with risks. We make it very clear to customers as part of that process that you should only be investing what you are prepared to lose,” said Mr Comyn.

As to the future of the crypto proposition, Mr Comyn said he understood the market would continue to evolve considerably over the next few years.

“Exactly what that proposition looks like and how that evolves over time, is unknown, but as I said, we want to be part of that innovation and we want to be developing that. We do not want be responding and reacting to it after the fact.” 

“We have got very good partners and we are looking forward to seeing what the feedback and the response is from customers over time,” said Mr Comyn.

The custodial service will be piloted to a preselected number of customers in the coming weeks, with the offering extended to a greater number of customers over the course of the next calendar year.

More information about the partnership is available here.