Two Things We Learned About Coinbase From Its WaPo Profile

North America’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase was the subject of a glowing profile in Washington Post this past week. Here are two things we learned about Coinbase from the profile.

Coinbase has more accounts than Fidelity Investments

Coinbase has more accounts on its platform than Fidelity Investments, the world’s fourth-largest asset manager. The San Francisco-based company had already surpassed Charles Schwab last year. The growth seems to have continued this year despite the slump in crypto prices. According to the Washington Post article, Coinbase has more than 20 million accounts on its platform. But more accounts do not necessarily translate into more assets under management. Coinbase has approximately $20 billion under management while Fidelity is way ahead with more than $7 trillion under management.

There is also a qualitative difference in customer types between both firms. While Fidelity has a roster full of institutional clients, Coinbase is yet to attract a single notable institutional investor. Research firm Superfly Insights reported earlier this year that Coinbase made 43 percent of its revenue in December 2017, thanks to surging bitcoin prices. The average spending amount per user at the beginning of 2017 was $483. By the end of the year, that amount had increased to $1393. Given the diversity of its client portfolio, Fidelity probably has a higher average spending amount per customer. But it is important to note the relative youth of bitcoin as an asset. Fidelity deals in conventional assets, such as bonds and gold. Bitcoin is a novel asset that is less than a decade old.

Coinbase Stores Its Funds Away From The Internet

Bitcoin custody is probably the biggest problem hampering institutional adoption of the cryptocurrency. Hacks and scandals have tarnished its reputation as a store of value. Coinbase is attempting to position itself as an island of stability in an otherwise tumultuous cryptocurrency ecosystem. The company stores 99% of its funds away from the Internet. According to the WaPo article, only 1% of the exchange’s funds are liquid and they are privately-insured with Lloyds of London. Coming as it does on heels of the company’s announcement of its custody solutions, this bit of information is evidently targeted at prospective institutional clients and regulators. Whether this state of affairs lasts remains to be seen. Coinbase has applied with the SEC for license to function as a brokerage. The SEC has fairly stringent requirements for broker-dealers to protect customer funds.