In today’s environment of high-profile hacks and cyber security breaches, it’s not a huge surprise to me that the majority of my fund manager clients who trade digital-assets have a distrust of institutions that claim that they can safeguard their assets. In addition, despite the exponential growth of managers trading digital-assets over the past few years, there is still a dearth of service providers willing and able to service the industry (custodians included) which means the prices that institutional custodians currently charge are not yet at levels that can be tolerated by emerging managers. Finally, there’s the question of frequency of trading; by placing their digital-assets with a third party, many managers feel that this will slow down their ability to react to market volatility and take advantage of arbitrage opportunities between different exchanges.
The combination of these factors (perceived security risks, high costs and a reduced speed of trading) means that the majority of my fund manager clients trading digital-assets prefer to safeguard their own assets through the use of cold storage e.g. by sharding their private keys, putting them on individual thumb drives and, sometimes, even placing them in different safety deposit boxes in various locations. The number one question I get asked by my clients at the beginning of any engagement is can they self-custody their assets and, if so, should they do this? With this mind, I thought it would be helpful to set out the regulatory requirements (from a BVI and Cayman law perspective) together with what we see as current market practice.