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After years of resisting, the world's largest asset manager has finally taken the plunge into crypto in a substantial way. BlackRock, which oversees $10 trillion in assets, is partnering with publicly traded Coinbase to provide its institutional clients with access to cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin is the first digital asset being offered through the partnership, according to a blog post Coinbase, the most popular crypto exchange in the U.S., released on the matter today. BlackRock's Aladdin investment management platform will offer connectivity to Coinbase Prime to offer crypto trading, custody, prime brokerage and reporting capabilities to shared clients.
"Common clients of Aladdin and Coinbase will be able to manage their bitcoin exposures alongside their public and private investments for a whole-portfolio view of risk," BlackRock wrote in an announcement.
The news marks a major shift for BlackRock, whose chairman Larry Fink called bitcoin an "index of money laundering" five years ago. Since then, the asset management firm has made small advances into web3, introducing bitcoin futures trading to its platform and to a couple of its funds last year. Fink told shareholders in a letter in March this year that BlackRock was studying "digital currencies, stablecoins and the underlying technologies" to see how they could help the firm serve its clients.
Coinbase Prime has 13,000 institutional clients using its suite of tools today, according to the company. It remains unclear when the companies plan to add to the platform other cryptocurrency offerings outside of bitcoin.
It's a big day for Coinbase. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced today that his company has added an integration with Coinbase's wallet, among other third-party crypto wallets, to the Instagram platform. Coinbase's stock shot up over 17% as of 11:00 am EST today and it is also up over 70% in the past month, demonstrating that the company has begun to recover from lows it reached in May as the crypto market pullback hit a trough.
Adverse crypto market conditions seemed to hit the exchange particularly hard, as it announced a hiring freeze and a round of layoffs this summer, the latter of which accounted for 18% of its employee base at the time. Its competitors have had varying responses to the "crypto winter" -- Gemini executed two rounds of layoffs in recent months, while Binance.US has been actively making new hires.