HSBC CEO says "volatile" Bitcoin is "not for us"

Noel Quinn’s comments come as Bitcoin tumbled by almost 50%

HSBC will not be offering Bitcoin as an asset class anytime soon, according to comments made by the bank’s chief executive Noel Quinn.

The British banking businessman, who was appointed CEO of the HSBC Group in March 2020, told Reuters that the bank is “not into Bitcoin as an asset class” due to the cryptocurrency’s “volatility”.

“We are not promoting it as an asset class within our wealth management business," he said, adding that, “for similar reasons”, the bank is “not rushing into stablecoins”. 

Quinn’s comments come as Bitcoin fell from this year's record high of over £45,000 to just over £26,000, tumbling almost 50%.

Meanwhile, China, where roughly 65% of all mining globally is based, announced a crackdown on mining and trading behaviour, forcing cryptocurrency exchange platforms to suspend operations. Although Quinn made no mention of China in his comments, recent events might have influenced HSBC’s decision due to the country being inherent to the bank’s growth strategy, according to Reuters.

“I view Bitcoin as more of an asset class than a payments vehicle, with very difficult questions about how to value it on the balance sheet of clients because it is so volatile. Then you get to stablecoins which do have some reserve backing behind them to address the stored value concerns, but it depends on who the sponsoring organisation is plus the structure and accessibility of the reserve,” he told the publication, adding that his sceptical approach to Bitcoin stems from the difficulty of assessing the transparency of cryptocurrency ownership and issues with their ready convertibility into fiat money.

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Quinn’s statement comes weeks after NatWest non-executive director, board member, and chair of the bank’s risk committee, Morten Friis, suggested that the bank would refuse business customers who accept virtual currencies as payment. 

“We have no appetite for dealing with customers, whether taking them on as new clients or having an ongoing relationship with people, whose main business is backed by an exchange for cryptocurrencies, or otherwise transacting in cryptocurrencies as their main activity,” Friis said during an online shareholder event last month.

His comments contrast Mastercard’s decision to support specific cryptocurrencies if they prove to be stable, secure, and compliant with industry standards and regulations.

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