Matt Comyn, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), believes there is greater risk for the bank in not participating with cryptocurrencies, than in taking part.

As has been widely reported, the CBA will become the first of Australia’s “big four” banks to offer crypto services to all its customers. Earlier this month, the bank announced its banking app will soon support the trading of 10 different digital assets, including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

And speaking with Bloomberg TV the other day about the bank’s view of the crypto sector, Comyn revealed that:

“We see risks in participating, but we see bigger risks in not participating.”

“It’s important to say that we don’t have a view on the asset price itself,” Comyn added. “We see it as a very volatile and speculative asset, but we also don’t think that the sector and the technology is going away any time soon.”

It’s hard to tell at this stage how widespread this sentiment is among industry leaders and decision makers in Australia, but a cautiously positive view of crypto and blockchain tech does seem to be one that’s growing among some pretty influential people.

The Liberal senator Jane Hume, for instance, also said that crypto and decentralised finance “isn’t going away any time soon”, while her colleague, Senator Andrew Bragg, has been championing an innovation-friendly regulatory framework for the crypto industry. Senior ANZ exec Nigel Dobson, too, recently described crypto broadly as “a wall of money you simply can’t ignore”.

Comyn, meanwhile, also hinted that the CBA will be delving deeper into the crypto rabbit hole, emphasising that the bank sees multiple uses for blockchain technology.

“We want to understand it,” said the CBA CEO. “And we want to provide a competitive offering to customers with the right disclosure around risks. We want to build capability in and around DLT and blockchain technology.”


ASIC won’t be cracking down on crypto any time soon

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), has recommended investor caution when it comes to cryptocurrencies, but also noted that it is unable to oversee the sector with regulation at this point.

Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Super & Wealth Summit this week, ASIC chairman Joe Longo emphasised that the financial regulator cannot oversee crypto as the asset class doesn’t fall under the remit of “financial products” in Australia.

“The demand-driven nature of the rush into crypto has thrown up some unique challenges,” said Longo. “At present many crypto assets are probably not ‘financial products’, making it difficult for financial advisers to offer counsel.”

Longo did, however, express the need for a regulatory framework for crypto and referred to Senator Bragg’s select senate committee’s list of 12 regulatory proposals as “a very ambitious agenda” and “a challenging set of policy questions for Parliament to consider”.

He also said that ASIC is working closely with Treasury to assist in answering the questions posed by the senate committee, and made it clear that he is at least holds a certain “fascination” with aspects of cryptocurrency, namely DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations).

“In my view consumers should approach investing in crypto with great caution. The maxim ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ comes to mind” – ASIC chairman Joe Longo

“Its [the crypto industry’s] recent rise to prominence has been nothing short of phenomenal, and impossible to ignore,” said Longo, adding:

“The fact Australia’s largest bank is already proposing a means of crypto exposure for its retail customers is telling. Yes, it’s only a pilot project, but the overall direction is clear. This debate is no longer on the fringes of the financial services industry.

“ASIC has already provided some guidance on exchange traded funds linked to crypto assets – they at least are financial products, and traded on a licensed exchange, so there will be some protections there – but for the most part, for now at least, investors are on their own.”