Fidelity Digital Assets is planning to increase head count by about 70% as demand for cryptocurrency services from institutional investors remains strong.
The unit of Boston-based asset manager Fidelity Investments Inc. plans to add about 100 workers in technology and operations in Dublin, Boston and Salt Lake City, Tom Jessop, president of Fidelity Digital Assets, said in an interview. The employees will help the business develop new products and expand into cryptocurrencies besides bitcoin, he said.
Last year "was a real breakthrough year for the space, given the interest in Bitcoin that accelerated when the pandemic started," Mr. Jessop said. Bitcoin hit a record above $63,000 earlier this year, with other cryptocurrencies including ether also rising to all-time highs before falling by about half in recent weeks. So far, Fidelity Digital offers only custody, trading and other services for bitcoin.
"We've seen more interest in Ether, so we want to be ahead of that demand," Mr. Jessop said.
Fidelity Digital will also push to offer trading throughout more of the week, he said. Cryptocurrency trades all day every day, unlike most financial markets, which close in the afternoon and on weekends. "We want to be at a place where it's full-time for most of the week," he said.
As cryptocurrency and decentralized finance gains more mainstream acceptance, money has been pouring into the space to fund startups and new ways of conducting traditional financial transactions.
Venture capital funds have already committed more than $17 billion this year to blockchain-based projects, according to data provider PitchBook. That's by far the most in any single year and almost equal to the total amount raised in all previous years combined. Firms raising money include Chainalysis, Blockdaemon, Coin Metrics, Paxos Trust Co., Alchemy and Digital Asset Holdings.
Beyond holding and trading in bitcoin, Fidelity Digital allows its institutional customers to pledge Bitcoin as collateral against cash loans in a partnership with blockchain startup BlockFi Inc.
Institutional investor demand to get access to bitcoin, ether and other digital currencies is only rising, Mr. Jessop said. The first clients of Fidelity Digital tended to be family offices and hedge funds, he said. That's now expanding to retirement advisers and corporations that want to hold cryptocurrency as an asset class.
"Bitcoin has been the entry for a lot of institutions," Mr. Jessop said. "It's now really opening up a window on what else is going on in the space." A big shift is in "the diversity of interest" from new and existing customers, he said.