Financial services giant Fidelity Investments recently detailed plans to pursue blockchain and cryptocurrency-related services, with a goal to release a product as soon as this year.
During an event at the company’s Boston headquarters last Friday, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson specified, “We’ve got a few things underway, a few things that are partially done but also kind of on the shelf because it’s not really the right time. We hope to have some things to announce by the end of the year.”
Fidelity has displayed continuous interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain services but has yet to deliver products that implement those services to the public. Johnson has hinted that projects are in the works, which, when distributed, may help bring digital assets into the mainstream.
In the past, Fidelity Charitable, the firm’s charity organization, began allowing donations of Bitcoin (BTC). Last year, $69 million in cryptocurrency was donated toward the firm’s nonprofits, which was nearly ten times the amount received the year prior, according to the organization.
Regarding the donations, Johnson noted, “It worked out because there were so many people, newly incredibly wealthy through Bitcoin, who were looking to become philanthropists. We made it really easy for them.”
Fidelity also began mining cryptocurrency last year, which proved highly successful, despite Johnson claiming that raising funds from the mining operation was “never the intent.” In regards to the successful project, Johnson stated, “We never thought we’d make money, but we figured it would be a good idea because we’d get in at the ground level and we’d learn something.”
The project began as an attempt to better understand cryptocurrency as a new and viable sector. Two members from the mining operations team left Fidelity earlier this year to pursue the launch of Castle Island Ventures, which amassed $30 million following the company’s debut venture capital fund that invests in blockchain and crypto-related startups.
Fidelity’s interest regarding investments in experimental and new technologies stems from a refusal to be upended by the rapidly evolving financial industry. In addition to blockchain and crypto-related services, Johnson spoke of investments in data analytics and machine learning to promote the cloud-based processing of transactions and further development of a virtual financial assistant named Cora, which utilizes virtual-reality technologies from Amazon.
Still, Johnson isn’t comfortable transitioning to services that are entirely electronic, noting, “Over and over again when we study our customers, we find that most people want to have a conversation on occasion with a real person about their financial situation.”