Bears may be sniffing around, but Fidelity Digital Assets is still bullish (via Marco Verch CC BY 2.0).

Fidelity bringing bitcoin trading to Europe

The $8 trillion discount brokerage has announced Chris Tyrer will expand its growing Fidelity Digital Assets custody and trading service into the U.K. and EU

Fidelity is expanding its digital assets business into Europe and it has selected Chris Tyrer to lead the charge.

Fidelity Digital Assets Ltd. will offer custody and trade execution services to large European institutional investors. The global discount brokerage firm began offering the same services in the U.S. in October 2018.

Tyrer previously headed up Barclays Investment Bank’s ultimately abortive look at getting into the digital assets market. The British bank ended that work after eight months, leading to Tyrer’s departure, Bloomberg reported in September 2018.

“The demand we’ve seen for Fidelity’s digital asset custody and trade execution services has been borderless, and we’re scaling our business to operate in a variety of jurisdictions to support this industry for the long-term,” Tyrer said in a statement. “In doing so, we’re building on the commitment to make digitally-native assets, such as bitcoin, more accessible to institutional investors.”

Tyrer has a deep background in commodities trading, and specialized in crude oil before taking over as global head of Barclays’ entire commodities trading business in 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The European Fidelity Digital Assets Ltd. will offer trade execution as well as institutional-grade cold storage custody of digital assets. 

Strong market conditions

A bear market that saw bitcoin prices break well below the psychologically important $7,000 level for a second time in 30 days—and is closing in on $6,500— hasn’t dissuaded Fidelity.

Tom Jessop, president of Fidelity Digital Assets, actually see a robust market.

“Since launching Fidelity Digital Assets in the U.S. over a year ago, we’ve seen significant interest and engagement by the institutional community, which show no signs of slowing,” said Jessop, who is also head of corporate business development for Fidelity Investments.

He cited interest from U.K. and European clients, continued investment in fintech infrastructure firms, and “the entry of traditional exchanges into the digital assets ecosystem,” as factors in Fidelity’s decision.

Together they “indicate a market with increasing potential which gives us the confidence to expand the digital assets business geographically,” said Jessop.

New York Stock Exchange parent Intercontinental Exchange launched its Bakkt cryptocurrency futures exchange on Sept. 24. On Dec. 2, the governor of Georgia announced the appointment of Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler to a U.S. Senate seat.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange owner CME Group launched bitcoin futures contracts in late 2017. On Nov. 12, it announced plans to add bitcoin options in January.

On Dec. 16, TD Ameritrade-backed ErisX announced that it has gone live with physically settled bitcoin futures. That makes the cryptocurrency derivatives exchange the second company, along with Bakkt, to offer futures contracts settled by turning over actual bitcoins rather than settling in cash. Fidelity, Nasdaq, and Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe) are also investors. Cboe shut down its own bitcoin futures product in March.

Earlier this month, LedgerX removed its CEO and COO, Paul and Juthica Chou. That came after an embarrassingly high-profile but  incorrect announcement that it had won the first Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) license to offer physically settled bitcoin futures. 

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.