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Fidelity’s Embrace of Bitcoin Fuels Crypto-Altruism

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To the glee of many crypto enthusiasts in attendance, Abigail Johnson, chief executive at Fidelity a company which manages $1.9 trillion in mutual fund assets admitted at the May Consensus Blockchain conference in New York that she’s “a huge fan of Bitcoin.” As a part of a broader presentation, Johnson went on to tell the audience that she, “loves this (bitcoin) stuff.”

“I’m a believer,” she remarked. “I’m one of the few standing before you today from a large financial services company that has not given up on digital currencies.”

She also announced that Fidelity customers would soon have access to their cryptocurrency balances via the company’s website. The one prerequisite is that these customers must have an account with Coinbase, arguably the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world. This feature is targeted to be released either the second or third quarter of 2017.

The news here comes amid reports that the balance access feature was already available to Fidelity employees. Moreover, staff can pay for their lunch or coffee in bitcoin at the corporate canteen in Boston.

Johnson also noted that a number of other Fidelity projects are in motion with the goal of unlocking the potential of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Included in this lineup is a small bitcoin and ethereum mining operation which she has stated, “is actually making a lot of money.” Ultimately, she said, the goal is to unlock the potential of bitcoin and other digital currencies, believing that it could, “fundamentally change market structures and perhaps the architecture of the internet itself.”  

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Fund Development Efforts Soar

In 2015, Fidelity’s philanthropic arm Fidelity Charitable, an independent public organization that through donor support assisted more than 235,000 nonprofit organizations with $26 billion in grants began accepting bitcoin donations. It received over $7 million in bitcoin donations in 2016 and had already captured $9 million during the first half of 2017, according to its Fidelity Charitable 2017 Giving Report.  

Fidelity is part of a small but growing number of organizations that accept bitcoin charitable donations, including the likes of the American Red Cross.

As covered by BTCManager in December 2016, BitGive, the first Bitcoin 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the U.S. has been a trendsetter in the crypto-giving space. Its stealth platform helps guide and facilitate the transfer, tracking, and recordkeeping of global contributions from receipt to delivery.

The trajectory of activity taking place in this space underscores Bitcoin’s repute as an alternative tool for receiving charitable contributions. While media attention continues to highlight bitcoin as a preferred currency for criminals and even at times suggesting its demise, a strong use case is developing around the viability of digital currency as a philanthropic use case. In fact, growing Bitcoin interest and the strong performance of cryptocurrencies in 2017 are likely two main contributing factors fueling this uptick in crypto-contributions.

This groundswell of bitcoin donations, however, is small in comparison to the overall pool of contributions. In 2016, $796 million in non-publicly traded assets were received; a category which includes bitcoin, real estate, and restricted stock, among others. The remainder of donations were cash or stock based on publicly traded entities. Charities do not house the bitcoins themselves. Rather donors send the coins to an exchange that then convert the bitcoins into cash for deposit with Fidelity Charitable.

Nevertheless, as people discover ways to contribute to our world, bitcoin is proving to a solid alternative for facilitating the transfer of monies. And with growing numbers of nations codifying the legality of cryptocurrencies along with a steady network of users participating in the ecosystem, expect the number of crypto contributions to increase in coming years.