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HSBC to launch custody services for tokenized securities

HSBC is the largest bank in Europe by total assets.

Nicolas Economou | Nurphoto | Getty Images

HSBC on Wednesday announced it will offer custody services for tokenized securities, making the British bank the latest major institution to embrace digital assets.

HSBC is using technology from Swiss crypto custody firm Metaco, which was recently acquired by blockchain startup Ripple, to store bonds and other securities.

In a press release, the bank said that the service would complement its HSBC Orion platform for issuing digital assets, as well as a recently-launched offering for tokenized physical gold.

Metaco will use HSBC’s Harmonize, the bank’s platform for institutions, which “helps unify security and management of digital asset operations,” according to HSBC.

HSBC is the latest institution to embrace digital asset custody, after U.S. banking giant BNY Mellon announced a similar move in 2021.

Tokenized securities are effectively regulated assets, like bonds and equities, in the form of tokens issued on a blockchain.

In turn, a blockchain can be considered a shared ledger on which assets are recorded digitally. The technology served as the foundation upon which bitcoin was built, but its applications in the banking world are very different to those of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

In the case of banks, these institutions are leveraging blockchain for payments, trading, and other purposes, often without a digital token being involved. Banks are finding utility in tokens by digitizing equities, bonds and other assets.

HSBC is “seeing increasing demand for custody and fund administration of digital assets from asset managers and asset owners, as this market continues to evolve,” Zhu Kuang Lee, chief digital, data and innovation officer for securities services at HSBC, said in a statement.

Metaco CEO Adrien Treccani told CNBC via email that the partnership reinforces “continued momentum working with top tier financial institutions.”

“Financial institutions are ready to scale digital assets pilots to real use cases around custody, issuance, trading and settlement of tokenized assets, and in so doing, unlocking economic benefits and new revenue streams.”

It marks another step from HSBC toward embracing digital assets. The bank, which holds about $3 trillion in assets globally, already lets its Hong Kong clients trade in bitcoin and ether exchange-traded funds.

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