BlackRock is evaluating cryptocurrencies, CEO Fink says

By Trevor Hunnicutt
FILE PHOTO: Larry Fink, Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock, takes part in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc Chief Executive Larry Fink on Monday said the world's largest asset manager has assembled a working group to look at blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but cautioned he does not see massive investor demand.

"We are a big student of blockchain," Fink said in an interview with Reuters. Adding that he doesn't see "huge demand for cryptocurrencies," the company has a working group studying it.

Any move to invest in cryptocurrencies or to use blockchain by BlackRock would mark a pivot for the company and a major institutional endorsement for the insurgent technology. The company managed $6.3 trillion in assets as of June 30.

"BlackRock exploring crypto assets comes as no surprise and is definitely a positive development for the crypto market," said Chris Yoo, a portfolio manager at Black Square Capital Management LLC, a hedge fund focused on the crypto space.

"As the largest asset manager in the world, its interest in crypto assets could be a catalyst for upward price movement and encourage other asset managers, even with more conservative strategies, to seriously explore investing in the crypto space."

Bitcoin was trading up 4.4 percent at more than $6,600 Monday on the Bitstamp exchange, its best showing in more than two weeks, after an initial report describing the working group appeared on the website Financial News late on Sunday. That is still far down from Bitcoin's all-time peak near $20,000 in late 2017.

Last November, in an interview with Reuters, Fink described bitcoin specifically as a "speculative" investment that thrives because of the cryptocurrency's anonymity. While he sounded an optimistic tone on blockchain, the technology used to record bitcoin transactions, Fink also noted the digital currency's association with money laundering.

Some asset managers have been quicker to endorse the potential role of digital currencies. For instance, Fidelity Investments, a top BlackRock competitor in the fund management space, has extensively experimented with the technology.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski)