Argentina’s Biggest Private Bank Adds Crypto Trading

A new feature on Banco Galicia’s investment platform allows clients to buy bitcoin, ether, USDC and Ripple’s XRP


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key takeaways

  • Banco Galicia’s move targets young clients and highlights a global trend in crypto adoption by traditional banks
  • Argentines are increasingly using cryptocurrency to protect their savings against rampant inflation

Banco Galicia, Argentina’s biggest private bank by market cap, has added crypto trading to its investment platform, the bank confirmed Monday. Argentines rank among the world’s top adopters of digital assets in part due to inflation in the South American country.

The move targets young clients, who survey data shows want streamlined access to crypto via traditional banking avenues, the bank’s senior product manager Nicolas de Giovanni told Bloomberg

Clients can buy digital assets on the same platform they use to buy stocks or bonds through the bank’s partnership with crypto wallet Lirium. Unlike with other exchanges, however, users can’t withdraw or send their cryptocurrency.

The bank confirmed it was launching crypto trading in the home banking app after Argentines spotted the new function on Monday. The feature will initially only be available to clients who receive their income via direct deposit.

Banco Galicia, which is listed on the Nasdaq and the Buenos Aires stock exchange, is the first major bank in the country to provide such services.

But it won’t be the only one: Digital bank Brubank SAU will also offer crypto trading services, including bitcoin, ether and USDC, starting this week as well. 

Until now, Argentines had to use centralized exchanges through wallets or trade directly through over-the-counter exchanges.

Argentina has been grappling with high inflation and the devaluation of its currency, the peso, for years now. In 2017 it received a $44 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, the institution’s largest-ever relief package. Locals in turn have started investing in crypto to protect their savings from shrinking purchasing power.

Banco Galicia joins a growing number of traditional banks worldwide moving into digital assets. Last month, Commerzbank, Germany’s fourth-largest bank, confirmed it wants to offer digital assets custody and exchange services to clients, focusing initially on institutional customers.

In Argentina, as well as other Latin American countries such as El Salvador, crypto adoption is becoming mainstream. Recently, Argentine authorities announced an innovation hub to boost fintech and crypto startups in a regulated environment. Employers can also pay up to 20% of an employee’s salary in cryptocurrencies.

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