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Brazil’s Largest Bank Expands Bitcoin and Ether Trading to All Customers

Sujha Sundararajan
Last updated: | 1 min read
Brazil Bitcoin trading

Brazil-based Itaú Unibanco, one of the largest private banks in Latin America, has announced expanding its Bitcoin and Ether trading services to all customers.

The bank with over 60 million customers, started offering to buy and sell cryptos through its investment platform – ‘Ion’ – in December 2023. Initially, the bank offered the services to selected clients, slowly opening to wider customer base who download the platform’s app.

Guto Antunes, head of Itaú Digital Assets, confirmed the move during an interview with a local publication on Monday. He noted that the bank has been carrying out weekly surveys with customers for whom cryptocurrency operations were permitted.

The survey found high degree of acceptance and that clients had huge trust in Itaú’s custody. Notably, the financial institution did not hire third-party services to keep customers’ crypto wallets safe, but created a tool internally. However, the bank received support from tokenizer Liqi for the development of the solution.

“We have a stake and a partnership with Liqi, but nothing in terms of custody. The entire custody solution, since it was conceived, was created with architecture and fiduciary duty within Itaú.”

In Align With the Central Bank of Brazil

Further, the bank created a separate digital wallet for each client, Antunes added. This would satisfy the asset segregation requirements, required by Brazil’s Central Bank (BC) in the infra legal regulation of cryptos.

Brazil’s central bank has planned to divide crypto regulation process into segments, with regulatory proposals expected by the end of this year.

The bank’s ‘Ion’ app saw over 3.5 million downloads both in Android and iOS, per Antunes’ statement. “Even in the staggered phase it was a relevant number for the crypto universe and a surprise,” he noted.

The bank currently supports Bitcoin and Ether trading, with plans to expand it to other cryptocurrencies as customer demand rises. This also depends on the process of regulatory risk analysis, he said.

Additionally, Itaú is anticipating the BC to present a set of rules that provide clarity on stablecoin operations in Brazil.

“We are aligned with the BC in the development of regulation, we want to grow in the right way.”

Antunes said that the real challenge during the testing was training managers on advising clients regarding the new asset type. “We created a network-first solution, an AI chatbot, that experts and managers have access to to understand key customer questions,” he added.