Kraken Charters the First Crypto-Bank in the US

San Francisco-based Kraken is leading the way for digital asset banks, as the first to obtain a digital asset charter (through the state of Wyoming) and now well on its way to establishing its own US bank, called Kraken Bank.

Kraken, the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange was founded in 2011 and launched its multi-digital currency trading platform two years later. The company expanded through internal organic growth and external strategic acquisitions, both in the US and abroad. Kraken has long been an innovation leader, becoming the first cryptocurrency trader to have its prices and volume displayed on the Bloomberg terminal. It now employs 2,000 people serving seven million clients worldwide, and is celebrating its tenth birthday this week. 

In September 2020, the state of Wyoming granted the company a license to create a crypto bank there. Kraken took advantage of Wyoming’s innovative approach to regulation of digital assets custody and management, and became the first company to receive such a license. 

A series of innovative laws passed by the state in recent years has enabled Wyoming to be well-positioned as a hub for blockchain-centric businesses. The state’s Division of Banking, which is responsible for chartering and supervision of state banks, has issued a contract to Chainalysis to provide technical security services to help combat money laundering, sanctions violations, and other criminal activities that may use digital assets.

When it opens, Kraken Bank will be a custodian of digital assets, as well as operating traditional payment systems, thus allowing customers to easily switch their funds between fiat and crypto. The bank will operate entirely online, with its administrative headquarters located in Cheyenne, the state capital. 

To head up the new venture, Kraken recruited David Kinitsky in 2020 to be the CEO of Kraken Bank. His strong background in cryptocurrency and financial services includes numerous innovations in the digital assets arena with big-name firms like Grayscale, Fidelity, Circle, and SecondMarket.

Specifically, the new bank is organized as a Special Purpose Depository Institution (SPDI) which, under Wyoming law, requires it to maintain constant custody of all of the customers’ reserves. So, unlike a traditional bank, it is not allowed to issue US Dollar loans using customer deposits. However, the law enables the bank to facilitate customer-directed lending of digital assets. Hence, account holders will be able to make purchases using crypto debit cards, as well as pay bills and receive salaries in cryptocurrency. 

Over time, Mr. Kinitsky anticipates that Kraken Bank will provide a wide variety of wealth management services and other types of investment offerings to its clients. Also, being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kraken, the bank reduces its parent company’s reliance on a third-party banking infrastructure, thereby reducing overhead costs.

As a well-known digital assets exchange that has now legally formed its own bank in the US, Kraken is setting the precedent for other digital asset firms to do the same.  

Bibliography:

DiCamillo, Nate. “Kraken Becomes First Crypto Exchange to Charter a US Bank.” CoinDesk, CoinDesk, 17 Sept. 2020, www.coindesk.com/kraken-crypto-exchange-secures-bank-charter-under-wyoming-law. 

Stevens, Robert. “Kraken Will Be First US Crypto Bank. Here’s Why It Matters.” Decrypt, Decrypt, 4 Dec. 2020, decrypt.co/42077/kraken-first-us-crypto-bank-heres-why-matters. 

KrakenFX. “Meet The Kraken Bank Executive Team: CEO David Kinitsky.” Kraken Blog, 1 Mar. 2021, blog.kraken.com/post/8049/meet-the-kraken-bank-executive-team-ceo-david-kinitsky/.

Read a Previous Article (featuring Kraken)

If you would like to read more about how Kraken gained the first Digital Asset Charter in Wyoming, we invite you to read our previous article.
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Watch a Conference Panel (featuring Kraken)

If you would like to hear more about Kraken’s work from its Managing Director, Jakub Zakrzewski, we encourage you to watch our panel discussion with him at our recent Global Investor Conference.
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