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Singapore bank DBS to launch digital exchange as demand for virtual currencies soar

HONG KONG (Reuters) - DBS Group Holdings, Southeast Asia’s biggest bank, is to set up an exchange for digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, that will provide tokenisation, trading and custody services to institutional and accredited investors.

A worker walks past a DBS logo before an event in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

The DBS Digital Exchange will use blockchain technology to provide a platform for fundraising through asset tokenisation and secondary trading of digital assets, the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

The tokenisation process represents converting rights to an underlying asset class such as shares of unlisted companies and private equity funds into a unique digital form, which then becomes eligible for trading.

DBS said Singapore Exchange will take a 10% stake in the digital exchange, while the rest will be owned by the bank.

The move comes as institutional investors pumped $429 million into cryptocurrency funds and products for the week ended Dec. 7, the second highest on record, based on Monday’s data from digital asset manager CoinShares.

The investments pushed the sector’s assets under management to an all-time peak of $15 billion, the Coinshares report said.

Bitcoin, the biggest and original cryptocurrency, soared to a record $19,918 earlier this month, buoyed by demand from investors who variously view the virtual currency as a “risk-on” asset, a hedge against inflation and a payment method gaining mainstream acceptance.

“I believe that the time is right for this (digital assets) industry to increasingly find partnership and sponsorship from the formal banking sector,” DBS Chief Executive Piyush Gupta told reporters.

“There are thousands of different coins today being traded on different exchange, and increasingly you are beginning to find that they are forming an important part of the asset allocation of wealth and private investors.”

The exchange will permit trading of four types of tokens - bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether and XRP - which account for 70-80% of global crypto trading volume, the bank said, adding the trading activity on the digital bourse will start next week.

“We are on the cusp of a massive tokenization and therefore you’ll find tokenization of all kind of assets around the world and I think more and more exchanges will start dealing with the tokenized assets,” Gupta said.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee. Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter