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Norwegian Bank Grants Access to Bitcoin Investments Through Online Banking

Norwegian online bank Skandiabanken now recognizes bitcoin as a new investment class and allows its customers to access their bitcoin holdings through its online banking platform, according to a Norwegian media report.

Through an integration of the Coinbase wallet, which enables the buying and storing of cryptocurrency holdings in bitcoin, ether and litecoin, the bank’s customers now have direct access to these holdings using Skandiabanken’s online banking.

Christoffer Hernæs, head of innovation and development at Skandiabanken, said that Skandiabanken “recognize[s] cryptocurrency as an investment class” and that it has “an equal footing with other securities.”

Skandiabanken is, therefore, one of the first financial institutions to publicly acknowledge bitcoin as an alternative investment asset class at a time when the vast majority of its competitors are shunning the cryptocurrency that many believe poses a threat to the current banking business model.

Hernæs also points out that Japan has recently moved to officially recognize bitcoin as a legal payment method, and that bitcoin’s average daily volatility has decreased from 10 percent to 4 percent last year.

Bitcoin’s decrease in volatility and the sharp increase in price over the last 12 months have led to a wave of new bitcoin users around the world. In Norway, more and more individuals are now also turning their eyes toward digital currencies, Hernæs stated.

Not all banks in Norway share Skandiabanken’s enthusiasm for offering its users access to bitcoin as a new investment class. Norway’s largest bank, DNB, closed the bank account of Norges Bitcoinforening, Norway’s Bitcoin association, in September 2016, citing concerns that the association’s funds may have a connection with money laundering and terrorist financing.

Hernæs acknowledges DNB’s concern in regard to the country’s strict anti-money laundering regulations that require a stringent assessment of each banking client. However, he also said, “We recognize that this is something people want to put their money in. When we think it is right to look at new solutions we can offer, we think it is a better approach than categorically thinking that this is scary.”

The head of Norway’s Bitcoin association, Stephan Nilsson, is pleased about Skandiabanken’s new Bitcoin service: “This is very positive. These are the signals we have been waiting for from the Norwegian banking industry.”

Skandiabanken joins the ranks of the very few banks in Europe that are embracing Bitcoin. Only Germany-based Fidor Bank and Georgia-based Liberty Bank offer similar services to its customers. Fidor Bank allows German customers to buy and sell bitcoin directly through a collaboration with bitcoin.de, and Liberty Bank allows its customers to buy bitcoin through its ATM network in Georgia.

Alex Lielacher

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