A number of large global banks are weighing up the risks of launching Bitcoin services as interest in the digital coins rises along with their price, insiders have claimed. 

Tom Robinson, the British cofounder of Elliptic, the world’s leading cryptocurrency compliance company, says that he has seen a surge in interest from banks who are asking for help to assess the compliance risk of taking on the digital coin. 

Mr Robinson told the Telegraph that he had seen “a massive uptick in inquiries from large banks” as the price of Bitcoin has risen, and that several financial institutions in the US “are seriously considering launching some type of cryptocurrency service”.

Elliptic’s clients typically include government agencies and cryptocurrency exchanges. 

Bitcoin hit a record price of $50,000 (£35,900) on Tuesday, a week after Tesla boss Elon Musk said the company had invested $1.5bn in the virtual currency. 

Elliptic, which counts the FBI as a customer, said that banks were seeking help to launch services while avoiding exposure to money laundering.

Mr Robinson said that there had been a wave of demand from the US in the past two months, although they were behind the Asian market by at least four months. British banks were the most reticent, he added.  

Banks might need a regulatory go-ahead to dabble in the coin, but specialist government units focused on Bitcoin are already ramping up in the US, said Megan Prendergast Millard, a former New York state official who supervised investigations of licensed institutions that used virtual currency. 

Mrs Prendergast Millard, currently managing director at the risk and compliance firm Guidepost Solutions, said: “All the regulators, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve have innovation departments and are all inviting virtual currency firms for meetings.

“At the moment it is an open door policy for the traditional financial regulator.”

Mrs Prendergast Millard said it was logical for banks to begin opening up to digital coins in the same way that cryptocurrency exchanges have done in order to keep Millennial and Generation Z on board. 

“Financial institutions are looking to keep their customers and they need to think about who those people are,” she said. 

It comes as the OCC provisionally approved cryptocurrency exchange Anchorage to become the first “digital asset bank” in the country. 

Gary Gensler, the incoming chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, is expected to establish rules that allow more firms to handle Bitcoin with increased protection for customers. 

Amid the frenzy, financial experts have warned that retail investors may get caught up in the froth that has taken over the markets in recent weeks, and that regulatory approval does not mean that the price of digital coins will continue on an upward trajectory. 

Dr Thomas Conlon, an associate professor of finance at University College Dublin, warned that buying Bitcoin is a speculative activity and not the safe asset haven to rival gold as some enthusiasts claim.  

He said: “I would be most nervous about investing unless I had a long investment horizon and a high tolerance for risk. 

“While Bitcoin has gained substantially this year, downward movements of 50pc or more have not been unusual during its short life.  

“These have coincided with declines in other traditional markets, ruling out its supposed role as a safe haven asset.”

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