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The Nasdaq is growing in the crypto market in yet another sign that the world’s biggest financial institutions have not been deterred by falling digital asset prices.

The US stock operator said on Tuesday that it was launching a digital asset servicing business that would start with custody of crypto tokens for institutional investors. The New York-based company, which handles billions of dollars worth of trades in stocks such as Apple and Tesla every day, also said it was considering rolling out digital asset trading.

Its push comes on the heels of other big names on Wall Street also introducing crypto services, shaking off a turbulent summer for the market where the most popular crypto tokens such as bitcoin and ethereum have fallen in value, and the failure of the terra stablecoin project has caused the financial ruin of investors.

The size of the crypto market has also shrunk from over $3,000,000,000 to under $1,000,000, claiming once major crypto firms such as Celsius and Three Arrows Capital as casualties.

Asset management group BlackRock has announced the launch of a private spot bitcoin trust made available to institutional clients and connected its trading network to Coinbase, the crypto exchange. Fidelity also said it would allow investors to add cryptocurrencies to their portfolios in 401(k) retirement plans.

Nasdaq said custody of digital assets could lay the groundwork for crypto trading services in the future.

“It’s a progression that Nasdaq is seeing,” said Ira Auerbach, Nasdaq senior vice president and new head of the unit, called Nasdaq Digital Assets.

Auerbach, a former executive at digital exchange Gemini, added that trading is “definitely further down the line. We believe custody is fundamental.

He said market interest in the blockchain technology that underpins many digital assets has sustained market interest despite the crash. “Distributed ledger technology is transformational for business, for finance, and for the world at large,” he added.

However, the crypto asset custody market is becoming increasingly competitive. Unlike traditional assets such as stocks or futures, the owners of the assets are as much responsible for asset backup, as much as they would to protect their money. Nasdaq rival Intercontinental Exchange failed to make headway in the market with its custody business Bakkt.

Auerbach said Nasdaq has “absolutely unparalleled” institutional knowledge and has spoken to market participants about “institutional pain points” involved in the crypto space. “We believe that we are in a unique position and that we have the right to win in this space both in terms of custody and possibly by building more for other services,” he added.

Nasdaq said it would also be able to use its other capital market services, such as surveillance, market abuse and financial crime software, which are widely used by traditional financial institutions. Last year, a record $14 billion worth of cryptocurrencies was used for illicit activity, more than double 2020 figures, according to analytics firm Chainalysis.

“The problem is not going away, rather it is getting worse,” said Valerie Bannert-Thurner, senior vice president of anti-financial crime technology at Nasdaq.



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