Andrés Engler is a CoinDesk business reporter based in Argentina, where he covers the Latin American crypto ecosystem. He holds no crypto.
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Nubank, the largest Brazilian digital bank by market value, is adding the option for customers to buy and sell bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) on its platform, the company announced Wednesday.
Nu Holdings, Nubank’s parent company, also said it is allocating roughly 1% of the cash on its balance sheet to bitcoin to show its belief in the cryptocurrency.
The crypto trading and custody service will be provided by Paxos’ blockchain infrastructure, Paxos told CoinDesk.
The product will gradually be made available to Nubank users in Brazil on Thursday, Paxos said, adding that it will reach all of its customers by the end of July. Regarding the available cryptocurrencies in the future, the company added that it “will do frequent curation to add more.”
According to Paxos, users will be able to buy and sell crypto with Brazilian reals, but initially won’t be able to withdraw or deposit crypto.
Brazil is experiencing major crypto adoption growth. According to Receita Federal, the Brazilian tax authority, between January and November of 2021, locals traded $11.4 billion in stablecoins, almost triple the amount traded the previous year.
Until now, Nubank allowed users to invest in crypto only through exchange-traded funds available through its investment unit, NuInvest, according to the company’s website.
“There is no doubt that crypto is a growing trend in Latin America, one that we have been following closely and believe will have a transformational impact on the region. Yet the trading experience is still very niche as customers either lack information to feel confident to enter this new market or just get frustrated by complex experiences,” Nubank CEO and co-founder David Vélez said in a statement.
Nubank has 53.9 million users in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, according to its 2021 annual report. Last year, the bank reported revenues of $1.7 billion
In December, Nu Holdings went public at an initial valuation of $41.5 billion, making it one of Brazil’s most valuable companies, though its market cap has since fallen to around $17.4 billion. As of February, Berkshire Hathaway owned about $1 billion worth of shares in the company, despite CEO Warren Buffett being famously critical of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.
In December, Paxos partnered with Mercado Pago, the digital wallet of Mercado Libre, Latin America’s largest e-commerce company by market value, to allow its users in Brazil to buy and sell bitcoin, ether and the stablecoin Pax dollar (USDP).
UPDATE (May 11, 19:39 UTC): Added info about Nu’s bitcoin allocation and background on Nubank.