Interactive Brokers Reveals Plan to Offer Crypto Trading

Rival firms Fidelity and Schwab have not yet unveiled such a move into the market

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key takeaways

  • Brokerage firm with more than 1.3 million customer accounts expects to provide crypto trading by end of summer
  • Competing brokerage Charles Schwab said last month it would consider more options in market upon increased regulatory guidance

Interactive Brokers expects to offer cryptocurrency trading by the end of the summer, Thomas Peterffy, the firm’s chairman and CEO revealed Wednesday during the Piper Sandler Global Exchange and FinTech Conference.

The Greenwich, Connecticut-based brokerage firm conducts business in 135 markets worldwide and, along with its affiliates, executes about 3.3 million trades per day, according to its website. The firm reported in April that customer accounts rose 74% from the year-ago quarter to more than 1.3 million. 

Interactive Brokers started providing access to cryptocurrency when bitcoin futures began trading on the CME in December 2017. 

Peterffy said at the conference that customers have been asking for direct crypto trading. He added that the greatest hurdle to offering these currencies is keeping customers 100% safe and ensuring that no one steals their coins despite them being untraceable, CNBC reported.

An Interactive Brokers spokesperson did not immediately comment about the firm’s decision to provide this service to customers and how it is preparing to do so in the coming months.

The plans come as Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US, is adding new services to its prime brokerage offering in response to client demand. 

Interactive Brokers competitors Fidelity and Charles Schwab do not currently offer direct access to cryptocurrency. Spokespeople for both firms did not immediately return a request for comment.

Though retail brokerage customers cannot buy or sell any cryptocurrencies at Fidelity, those who have a Coinbase digital currency account can arrange to view those balances on Fidelity’s website, the company wrote in a January blog. 

“Although bitcoin futures are now available for trading on the CBOE and CME, Fidelity does not currently have any plans to offer bitcoin futures trading for its retail brokerage customers,” the post states. 

Meanwhile, Schwab noted in a market commentary post published on its website in May that Schwab’s access to cryptocurrency markets can be accessed through coin trusts such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trusts, Grayscale Ethereum Trusts and Grayscale Litecoin Trust.

The Schwab post notes that aspects of cryptocurrency remain “immature” and can pose risks to clients, and that the SEC’s approval of a cryptocurrency ETF will be a key step to the market’s development.

Amid the success of Canada’s first Bitcoin ETF, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, SkyBridge Capital, NYDIG and VanEck are among the firms that have filed for a cryptocurrency ETF in the US this year, though the products await a green light from regulators. Grayscale Investments announced its intentions in April to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) into an ETF when possible. 

“When there is more regulatory guidance, you can expect Schwab to have more investment options for clients, including spot crypto trading and custody,” according to the company’s website.

The price of bitcoin was above $35,000 on Wednesday morning, according to CoinGecko, after dipping below $34,000 to a two-week low on Tuesday. The currency had hit an all-time high of more than $63,000 in April. 

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