(Bloomberg) -- Standard Chartered Plc is setting up a trading desk for Bitcoin and Ether, people familiar with the matter said, making it one of the first global banks to enter spot cryptocurrency trading. 

The new crypto desk is close to starting operations and will be part of the bank’s FX trading unit, two of the people said, asking not to be named discussing private information. It will be run from London, according to one person.  

Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have been trading cryptocurrency derivatives for years, but strict regulations have kept them from dealing directly in the underlying assets. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has proposed that banks must apply a 1,250% risk weighting to any unhedged crypto exposure, making it difficult to generate profits. 

“We have been working closely with our regulators to support demand from our institutional clients to trade Bitcoin and Ethereum, in line with our strategy to support clients across the wider digital asset ecosystem, from access and custody to tokenization and interoperability,” the bank said in an emailed statement. 

A Standard Chartered spokesperson declined to comment further. 

Standard Chartered is among several large banks pushing deeper into crypto as institutional adoption of the asset class widens. It owns stakes in two crypto firms, Zodia Custody and Zodia Markets, which offer services ranging from custody to over-the-counter trading. 

In November, it launched a blockchain unit called Libeara to help institutions tokenize traditional assets. The unit is supporting the creation of a tokenized government bond fund using the Singaporean dollar.

The latest move comes as Bitcoin’s volatility has been subdued, down more than 20% since the start of 2024 — mirroring developments in equities markets and squeezing profits at trading desks. Bitcoin fell to the lowest since May 15 on Friday morning in London and is down about 14% from its March record. 

Even so, the wildly successful launch of US Bitcoin exchange-traded funds in January have boosted liquidity in cryptocurrency markets and given large institutions more confidence to push into digital assets. 

(Updates to add chart, context on Bitcoin activity in the final paragraph.)

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