- Crypto exchange Kraken launched its mobile app in the U.S. on Wednesday, the company announced. U.S. customers can buy and sell more than 50 crypto tokens from their mobile phones with a starting investment of as little as $10, Kraken said.
- The app doesn’t yet allow credit and debit card payments. However, the company plans to enhance its offerings in coming weeks and months, it said.
- The service is not available to New York or Washington state residents because of the "cost of maintaining regulatory compliance." Kraken pulled out of New York in 2015, for example, after executives saw the state's BitLicense as too invasive.
Kraken made headlines in September when it obtained a special-purpose charter from Wyoming to become the first licensed bank to provide deposit-taking, custody and fiduciary services for digital assets.
Since January, Kraken’s monthly trading volume has grown sixfold, CNBC reported, making it the world’s fourth-largest digital currency exchange.
"The last five months have been pretty unreal at Kraken," the exchange’s chief product officer, Jeremy Welch, told the network. "We’ve seen a surge in new clients and in all-time highs."
The app’s U.S. launch follows a similar rollout in Europe earlier this year. Kraken’s margin and futures trading offerings have helped the exchange grow overseas, but those are not yet available to U.S. consumers.
Kraken CEO Jesse Powell told CNBC in April he feels the U.S. is more "shortsighted" than other countries and vulnerable to pressure from banks that may be missing out on gains crypto could have provided them if they’d embraced the space earlier.
Wells Fargo last month said it planned to begin offering its crypto investment platform to wealthy clients in mid-June. Citi’s global head of foreign exchange said last month his bank is weighing offering its clients cryptocurrency trading, custody and financing options — but is proceeding with caution.
Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, announced in March that it would relaunch its crypto trading desk. BNY Mellon said a month earlier it would hold, transfer and issue cryptocurrencies on behalf of its asset-management clients. And JPMorgan Chase last year began extending its banking services to crypto exchanges Coinbase and Gemini.
Among the challenger bank crowd, Current said it plans to use some of its $220 million Series D fundraise to launch cryptocurrency products. And Wicket by Paybby, a neobank targeting Black and Brown communities, said it plans to launch cryptocurrency investing on its platform this summer.
For Kraken, the app’s launch represents "our first major foray into supporting wider consumer adoption in a much more simplified, easy-to-use interface," Welch said.
But the rollout also comes amid a downturn for crypto’s flagship currency, Bitcoin. The token has lost roughly 40% of its value since it traded at a high of $64,863 on April 14. Still, it has more than quadrupled since a year ago.
That volatility has caused some banks and policymakers to hedge on digital currencies’ potential. HSBC CEO Noel Quinn said last week his bank wouldn’t promote crypto as an asset class. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly said he’s in no rush for the central bank to roll out its own digital coin — although last month he said he thought a Fed paper due this summer would spur "broad conversation" on the topic.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), however, has taken steps to draw crypto into the mainstream fold. It said in January that nationally chartered banks could use stablecoins and blockchains to facilitate payments and other activities.
Kraken is not regulated by the OCC but is registered as a money services business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.