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Coinbase Global  teamed up with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) to start a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan, which allows account holders at the nation’s biggest bank to buy and sell virtual currencies.

The largest US cryptocurrency exchange got regulatory approval earlier in 2021 in Japan, where 31 companies are registered to trade the assets, and faces local competition from companies such as Coincheck  that is owned by Monex Group  and GMO Coin.

“We aim to reach out to a wide range of customers by offering low-hurdle services,” Nao Kitazawa, head of Coinbase Japan, said in a briefing on Thursday. The company started by allowing trading in five digital coins: bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, bitcoin cash and stellar.

Coinbase said MUFG is a payment partner in Japan and the bank’s account holders can easily buy crypto on the exchange. MUFG is an investor in Coinbase Global. Account holders at other banks cannot do transactions with Coinbase, Kitazawa said.

Hiring more 

In an interview, Kitazawa, a former Morgan Stanley banker, said Coinbase Japan has staff of about 30 people and is planning to hire more for product development.  

While Coinbase started by targeting retail customers in Japan, Kitazawa said he is optimistic about the prospect for institutional business, given the global trend of a growing number of asset management companies, pensions and endowments allocating money to crypto.

An increasing number of institutional investors want to talk with us, he said. “Their questions have been getting more specific recently,” adding that the company may hire staff to cater to institutional investors in Japan if it sees demand. 

Coinbase went public through a direct listing in April, which saw its valuation rise to as high as $112bn on the first day of trading, according to Reuters.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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