Despite investors getting burned by bitcoin this year, companies are building key guardrails that could speed up more crypto adoption.
Start-ups are driving ahead with plans to solve the issue of custody, or having a place to securely store cryptocurrency. For institutional investors that are used to having money safely stored or FDIC insured, where they would put their high-paying clients' cryptocurrency is said to be the biggest question mark.
"Institutional investors are very interested in finding a solution, but they haven't seen one that they think is perfect for various reasons," said Monica Summerville, senior analyst at TABB Group specializing in financial technology. "They still self-custody, and manage all their own keys."
Summerville works with one family office that stores clients' cryptocurrency on tiny, USB drive-looking devices in order to guard against hacks. The devices they use are about the size of a baby carrot, and fund managers organize them in binders to keep money organized until there's a better alternative.
Other smaller retail investors opt to keep cryptocurrency on an exchange or have their own offline, arguably safer methods called "cold storage." But it's more complicated for family offices and hedge funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires private funds to use a third party, like a bank or another regulated financial institution for those holding more than $150 million in assets.
In cryptocurrency, often the only thing standing between money and a hacker is what's known as a "private key" or an alphanumeric code to access funds. Companies that manage these cryptographic keys are known as custodians, acting like traditional Wall Street custodians such as State Street and Bank of New York.