German Banking Giant’s Move into Crypto Highlights Growing Trend in Europe

The bank plans to focus on institutional clients at first


Source: Shutterstock


key takeaways

  • Crypto custodial services were first brought under the purview of German financial regulators in January 2020
  • European Union watchdogs are still in the process of drafting and implementing their own regulatory measures on digital assets

Commerzbank, Germany’s fourth-largest bank, has confirmed it wants to offer digital assets custody and exchange services to clients, joining a growing number of conservative banks in Europe moving into digital assets.

Bernd Reh, a Commerzbank senior spokesman, confirmed to local media Börsen-Zeitung last week that the bank applied for a license in January from BaFin, Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, and that the bank would first focus on institutional customers. The banking giant currently has 70,000 corporate and institutional clients worldwide.

“Where traditional and large banks until very recently have seen crypto as competition and shied away from it, we now start to see adoption even from some of the most conservative players in the banking field,” Mikkel Morch, executive director at crypto hedge fund ARK36, said. Commerzbank, which had some 541 billion euros ($583 billion) under management in late 2021 according to its latest financial statement, has been working on several blockchain projects since 2018.

In January 2020, Germany introduced crypto custody into the German Banking Act as a new financial service. “Crypto custody business is also subject to the notice issued by [the German central bank] Deutsche Bundesbank on the granting of authorization to provide financial services,” BaFin says on its website dedicated to crypto licensing. 

The regulator is also cracking down on unauthorized activity. Recently, the supervisory authority opened investigations into several crypto services companies that have not been granted authorization to operate in the country. If found guilty, individuals involved could face up to five years in prison.

Authorities and legislators in the European Union are still in the process of building regulatory regimes, but some, such as those in Germany and Portugal, already have registration procedures in place.

And traditional banks are increasingly applying for crypto licenses in Europe, including in Portugal, where Bison Bank last week became the first authorized bank to receive a crypto license from the country’s central bank.

Last July, Coinbase was awarded Germany’s first crypto license. A report by Coincub last week ranked Germany as the most crypto-friendly country.

Added Morch: “These moves can be interpreted as the beginnings of a race within the traditional banking field to gain a competitive edge by being the first entity in its local market to offer crypto services.”

As a result, crypto adoption will increase, he believes, and it will be a mainstream financial service – instead of the “next big thing.”

Don’t miss the next big story – join our free daily newsletter.


Upcoming Events

MON - WED, MARCH 18 - 20, 2024

Digital Asset Summit (DAS) is returning March 2024. What you can expect: And more! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be in the room when the future of crypto is decided. Join us and help shape the future of our […]

recent research

Research report - cover graphics-2.jpg


Base has doubled-down on its commitment to the Superchain vision, has shown early signs of success with nearly $400M in TVL, and has become home to novel dapps such as which has seen significant traction.


The bitcoin halving slated for April 2024 — an event expected to spur upward price action for BTC — could be a boon for Block’s stock price, analysts say


Seed Club founder Jess Sloss is excited to “open the doors and let other people see what we’ve been seeing for the last few months”


Blockchain is a “natural fit” in games based on open economies and user-generated content, says Wyatt


Their current stance is a half-baked attempt that could stifle innovation and burden an emerging industry


Maker’s DeFi-focused “subDAO” passed a proposal activating a lending market for DAI on the Gnosis Chain


Certain creditors could be repaid sooner, with one hedge fund exec telling Blockworks it expects a payout by the end of the year