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Kraken, one of the largest and oldest digital asset exchanges, was granted a Special Purpose Depository Institution charter by Wyoming on September 16, 2020. Kraken is the first digital asset firm in the U.S. to be granted a bank charter. The bank charter could allow Kraken to provide additional customer services without having to use a bank service provider.  

The SPDI charter permits Kraken to take deposits from legal entities and engage in fiduciary asset management, custody and related services. Kraken is not permitted to make loans and is not required to obtain FDIC insurance. The bank charter could allow Kraken to provide additional customer services without having to use a bank service provider – for example, payment services. Further, the charter could permit Kraken to be a “qualified custodian” under SEC regulations.


The SPDI charter requires heightened reserves requirements, so it may not be as attractive as, say, trust company charters for smaller companies and start-ups seeking to enter the space. Also, an SPDI that opts not to have FDIC insurance may not be eligible for all of the regulatory benefits enjoyed by FDIC-insured banks and may not be recognized as a bank at all in some states. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.


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Anthony Tu-Sekine | Partner

As the head of Seward & Kissel’s Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Group and a frequent commentator on all things crypto, Anthony advises clients on a wide range of evolving topics, including how to structure and issue security and utility tokens, registered and unregistered offerings of security tokens, token custody, transfer and liquidity issues, non-security opinions, and investments in crypto assets by funds and other investors. A recognized leader on physical precious metals funds, Anthony represented APMEX Inc. and alternative asset manager Sprott Inc. in connection with the launch of OneGold.com, which allows investors to own gold documented on blockchain. He also:

  • Represents ShelterZoom, a leading blockchain-based SaaS contract management platform;

  • Helped form a tokenized hedge fund;

  • Provides advice in connection with ransomware payments made in cryptocurrencies; and

  • Worked with sponsors of bitcoin ETF and OTC products.

“You can work with regulators or you can really try to piss them off… If you really want to do the latter, then you should expect that they will bring every tool they have against you.”

Anthony’s thoughts on BitMEX indictment, as published in Law360 article “BitMEX Case Seen as Blessing in Disguise for Crypto Sector”