• Bloomberg

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The largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange has teamed up with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. to start a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan, allowing account holders at the nation’s biggest bank to buy and sell virtual currencies.

Coinbase Global Inc. secured regulatory approval earlier this year in Japan, where 31 companies are registered to trade the assets, and faces local competition from companies such as Coincheck Inc., owned by Monex Group Inc., and GMO Coin Inc.

“We aim to reach out to a wide range of customers by offering low-hurdle services,” Nao Kitazawa, head of Coinbase Japan, said in a briefing Thursday. The company has begun by allowing trading in five digital coins: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash and Stellar.

Coinbase said MUFG Bank was a payment partner in Japan and that the bank’s account holders could easily buy cryptocurrencies on the exchange. MUFG is an investor in Coinbase Global. Account holders at other banks can’t do transactions with Coinbase, Kitazawa said.

In an interview, Kitazawa, a former Morgan Stanley banker, said Coinbase Japan had staff of about 30 people currently and was looking to hire more for product development.

While Coinbase has started by targeting retail customers in Japan, Kitazawa said he is optimistic about the prospect for institutional business, given the global trend of a growing number of asset management companies, pensions and endowments allocating money to cryptocurrencies.

An increasing number of institutional investors want to talk with us, he said. “Their questions have been getting more specific recently,” adding that the company may hire staff to cater to institutional investors in Japan if it sees demand.

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