Jessop said the project is largely a result of Johnson's early interest. The CEO led the charge into cryptocurrency, one of the riskiest and most volatile asset classes of the past year, as early as 2014.
Fidelity has a few existing cryptocurrency projects: It started bitcoin "mining" at a location in New Hampshire when the digital asset's price was around $180, has a partnership with Coinbase that allows Fidelity customers to check their cryptocurrency balances on the Fidelity app, and in 2015, started facilitating charitable donations in bitcoin.
Johnson "is very interested in this and stays up on developments in the space in quite a significant way," said Jessop, who joined Fidelity in January from cryptocurrency start-up Chain and before that spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs.
The new standalone company, which has about 100 employees and will be headquartered in Boston, is in the process of onboarding its first clients now and will be in the market and "generally available" sometime in early 2019.
Cryptocurrency prices, meanwhile, are still struggling to recover. Bitcoin is down more than 50 percent this year and has yet to get back to its all-time high near $20,000.
Still, Jessop said neither Fidelity nor institutions it services are distracted by price. He compared the technology's long-term potential with moving financial services to the internet.
"No one said when some of these early-stage Internet companies in 2000 were going out of business, 'Gee, the Internet is toast,'" Jessop said. "We don't focus too much on the price. It's a foundational technology — people are trying to get exposure to the trend and expect volatility in the assets themselves."
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