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Brazil’s Largest Bank Expands Bitcoin and Ether Trading to All Customers

Itaú Unibanco, a prominent private bank in Latin America headquartered in Brazil, has unveiled its plans to extend Bitcoin and Ether trading services to all of its customers.

Having amassed a customer base exceeding 60 million, the bank commenced offering cryptocurrency trading through its investment platform, ‘Ion,’ back in December 2023. Initially rolled out to a select group of clients, the service gradually expanded to encompass a broader audience through the platform’s app.

Guto Antunes, the head of Itaú Digital Assets, confirmed this development in a recent interview with a local publication on Monday. He emphasized that the bank regularly conducts surveys with customers eligible for cryptocurrency transactions.

The surveys revealed a significant level of acceptance among clients and a strong trust in Itaú’s custodial services. Remarkably, the financial institution opted not to rely on third-party providers for safeguarding customers’ crypto assets but instead developed an in-house solution. However, Itaú did collaborate with tokenizer Liqi to support the development of this solution.

Antunes clarified, “We have a stake and a partnership with Liqi, but nothing in terms of custody. The entire custody solution, from its inception, was developed internally at Itaú with a focus on architectural integrity and fiduciary responsibility.”

In Align With the Central Bank of Brazil

Additionally, Antunes disclosed that the bank had established individual digital wallets for each client. This measure was implemented to comply with Brazil’s Central Bank (BC) regulations regarding asset segregation in the cryptocurrency sphere.

The Central Bank of Brazil has outlined a phased approach to cryptocurrency regulation, with regulatory frameworks anticipated to be introduced by the year’s end.

According to Antunes, the ‘Ion’ app developed by the bank has garnered over 3.5 million downloads across Android and iOS platforms. He remarked, “Even during the phased rollout, this figure was significant within the crypto community and came as a surprise.”

Currently, the bank facilitates trading in Bitcoin and Ether, with intentions to incorporate additional cryptocurrencies in response to growing customer demand. However, Antunes emphasized that this expansion is contingent upon thorough regulatory risk assessments.

Furthermore, Itaú is eagerly awaiting the Central Bank’s presentation of a regulatory framework that will offer clarity on stablecoin operations within Brazil.

“We are in sync with the Central Bank in the regulatory development process; our aim is to foster growth in a responsible manner,” Antunes affirmed.

Antunes highlighted that a significant challenge encountered during the testing phase was ensuring that managers were equipped to advise clients on the intricacies of this new asset class. “To address this, we developed a network-first solution—an AI chatbot—accessible to both experts and managers to address key customer inquiries,” he elaborated.

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I want to save money. Will cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

Every cryptocurrency has two main components: the units of digital exchange called “coins” and the network within which the exchange takes place. These units can be transferred between wallets and exchanged on exchanges. The networks in which these coins exist are called blockchains, which translates to “chains of blocks.”

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