Nasdaq, owner and operator of the second-largest stock exchange in the United States, is launching a group dedicated to digital assets.

Leading this new unit, which will initially offer custody services for Bitcoin and Ethereum to institutional investors, will be the former head of prime broker services at the Gemini crypto exchange, Ira Auerbach.

Prolonged demand from institutional investors has prompted a major opening by the electronic stock market, so much so that Executive Vice President Tal Cohen said the initial offering of custody services will allow for further expansion of cryptocurrency offerings.

Although the company has no immediate plans to launch an exchange, Cohen said it will evaluate the opportunity based on the regulatory environment and competitive landscape.

Against a bear market backdrop, the words of project manager Ira Auerbach come across as enthusiastic.

“We believe the next wave of revolution will be driven by mass institutional adoption,” he said, continuing with, “I can’t think of a better place than Nasdaq to bring this trust and this brand to market.”

The process of getting into the mainstream began with Nasdaq applying to become a custodian of digital assets with the New York Department of Financial Services.

“Custody is critical” Cohen said. “With custody, we can start to develop other solutions, offer execution services, liquidity services and think about how to support new markets.” 

BNY Mellon recently began providing cryptocurrency custody to institutional clients, but this initiative runs afoul of recent SEC guidance that made holding tokens on behalf of clients more burdensome for public companies, essentially precluding banks from offering custody services.