Wholesale banks have been on the sidelines for the start of the “digital assets revolution,” missing out on almost all the $4 billion to $5 billion in revenue that corporate and institutional clients generated last year, Morgan Stanley said in a research report dated April 12.
The primary hurdle for the banks, which serve corporate clients rather than individuals or small organizations, has been the lack of a clear regulatory framework, analysts led by Betsy Graseck wrote. Still, greater regulation may not be a panacea, as that might encourage more direct participation from institutional investors, leaving the banks still on the sidelines.
Nevertheless, wholesale banks have several advantages over “crypto natives” that may give them a chance to catch up as regulation transforms the market, according to the note.
“Experience operating in a regulated environment, business models designed to deliver returns as margins compress and capital requirements increase, and trusted counterparty status for institutional clients,” are some of the advantages that wholesale banks benefit from, the note said.
Morgan Stanley estimates there is currently as much as $5 billion in revenue and $1 billion in economic value for wholesale banks from direct participation in the crypto ecosystem. That might grow to as high as $16 billion in revenue in the next three to five years, with more possible opportunities from efficiency benefits derived from streamlining the infrastructure for several wholesale banking businesses.
Wholesale banks have both the expertise and business models needed to thrive in a more regulated institutional market for digital assets, the note added.