Abrdn boss Stephen Bird plots digital assets push: ‘Expect to hear more from me on this’


Abrdn is on the cusp of making its first foray into digital assets — a segment of the non-traditional finance market that is fast becoming an attractive target for the global fund management sector.

“You can expect more from me very shortly on this,” Abrdn CEO Stephen Bird told Financial News when asked about plans to build out the £508bn group’s digital assets capabilities.

“Tokenisation, digital assets, digital exchanges and blockchain technology will transform asset management for cost, speed and control reasons.”

He added: “But you’ve got to be highly selective on where you do it — there is a lot of rubbish out there, frankly. You need to really know what you are investing in.”

Digital assets have become a big focus for some of the world’s largest asset managers, as an increasing number of institutional investors begin to invest in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

READSchroders takes stake in digital assets firm Forteus in step towards tokenised funds

BlackRock last week announced a tie-up with crypto exchange Coinbase — a move the world’s largest asset manager said would help some of its largest clients trade bitcoin via its Aladdin platform.

The tie-up came after BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in March that the firm was looking at how digital assets and stablecoins can be used to help its clients.

Salim Ramji, global head of iShares and index investments at BlackRock told Financial News in July that blockchain technology is “incredibly innovative and incredibly disruptive”.

Elsewhere UK-listed Schroders said in July that as part of its push into digital assets it had acquired a minority stake in Forteus — the asset management arm of Swiss firm Numeus Group.

Located in Zug’s ‘Crypto Valley’, Numeus describes itself as a “crypto collective focusing on research, venture capital, market making, asset management and algorithmic trading”.

READ Fidelity’s crypto unit revenue surges 1,800% as hiring boom adds to costs

Schroders said Numeus’ research and technology platform will enable it to “harness the transformational benefits that blockchain can bring to the asset management industry and develop our tokenisation strategy”.

Forteus will offer a range of investment solutions, spanning customised portfolios of external managers, yield generation, actively managed thematic portfolios and — over the long term — tokenisation.

Meanwhile, Fidelity’s fledgling digital assets business posted a more than 1,800% increase in revenue in the UK last year as the result of more institutional investors trading and holding crypto.

Accounts filed with Companies House show Fidelity Digital Assets generated revenue of £758,950 in the 12 months to the end of December 2021, up from £39,856 for 2020.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Ricketts

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