Firm sold RM42m bitcoin, now wants to help you store it

NEW YORKBack in the spring, Roy Sebag’s precious metals investment firm Goldmoney Inc dumped millions of dollars in bitcoins, calling the digital money “a bubble”. Now he wants to sell you cryptocurrency trading and storage services.

Sebag, who had originally named his Toronto-based company “BitGold Inc” when it was founded in 2014, claimed he’s not back-tracking.

He’s bearish because he expects regulation to weigh on prices as the market matures. Cryptocurrencies fell in overnight trading after South Korea banned initial coin offerings.

“For the industry to succeed, it needs to be regulated, and once it is, prices won’t go up like this anymore,” Sebag said in an interview.

“What we’re saying is, you guys want this industry to grow up? Then it needs to have standards, it’s got to be auditable and insurable. What I’m excited about is moving the industry in the right direction.”

Bitcoin’s meteoric rise this year is attracting tonnes of attention, but most institutional investors are staying on the sidelines as cryptocurrencies are too volatile and don’t have the safeguards that most financial assets do.

Some companies are stepping up efforts to bring the market to the mainstream, opening regulated exchanges, creating futures contracts and attempting to list exchange-traded funds. Goldmoney’s is the latest in these forays.

The firm is taking a page from its history in precious metals, and proposes physically storing bitcoin and ether in vaults across the globe.

The mechanism, called “cold blocks”, seems like something from a James Bond movie: They’re engraving parts of the cryptopgraphic signature, which is used to bind the buyer with the value, on three different pieces of gold stored in three separate vaults.

“It’s like having three physical golden keys,” he explains.

One key will be stored with an insurance provider, the second with an auditor, and the third with the vault provider.

That way, Goldmoney’s financial statements can be audited and clients can be insured against theft. Investors will be able to trade ownership of the metal key.

Even though the question of whether a digital currency traded over a peer-to-peer network needs storage remains open, Goldmoney

shares jumped as much as 20% after the announcement last Thursday.

Similarly, shares of Overstock. com Inc jumped 23% last Wednesday when the company said it’s starting a regulated digital currency exchange.

Goldmoney has offered its clients the option of exchanging their bitcoin for precious metals since 2014.

Its cryptocurrency holdings got as large as US$10 million in the second quarter, when Sebag decided to sell.

Bitcoin was trading at around US$3,000. The firm has since accumulated around US$5 million as clients exchange their bitcoin.

Sebag is betting a big part of his clients’ US$2 billion of assets will go into the company’s new cryptocurrency offering.

Longer term, he believes even trillions of dollars will pour into the sector from institutional investors who are currently unable to invest due to a lack of custodial transparency, institutional-grade insurance, anti-money laundering standards and auditable financial statements.

“If cold blocks works, it’s going to be transformative,” he said. — Bloomberg