Citigroup Joins Rivals Helping Wealthy Clients Access Crypto

June 24, 2021

Bloomberg – Citigroup Inc. is taking another step into the world of cryptocurrencies.

The Wall Street giant will help its richest clients bet on crypto as part of a new digital assets group inside its burgeoning wealth management unit, according to a memo to staff seen by Bloomberg News. The new effort will be led by Alex Kriete and Greg Girasole.

“They will be responsible for developing our future product capabilities, client delivery mechanisms and thought leadership around all digital assets,” Iain Armitage, Citigroup’s global head of capital markets for its private bank, and Rob Jasminski, who oversees the bank’s investment management arm globally, said in the memo. Kriete and Girasole will serve as liaisons to “all other business groups at Citi who are expanding into this rapidly emerging space also.”

Citigroup is forming the unit as investor demand for digital assets continues to soar, despite wild swings in prices of major cryptocurrencies. The move follows similar efforts at rivals like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, which both recently invested in blockchain or blockchain-related companies.

Citigroup has been building out its wealth management unit ever since forming the division earlier this year and naming longtime executive Jim O’Donnell to lead the effort. More recently, the lender has been focused on building out a series of wealth management hubs across Europe and Asia as it seeks to exit some retail banking operations in both regions.

Under Citigroup’s crypto plan, the new group will help clients invest in the currencies, stable coins, non-fungible tokens as well as central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, according to the memo. The plans were first reported by The Block.

The newly formed unit comes just weeks after the chief executives of the six biggest U.S. banks were grilled by Congress over their ties to cryptocurrencies. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser at the time said her bank was taking tentative steps in the space.

“We proceed with great caution here,” Fraser said.