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Bitcoin Custody for Institutions | Caitlin Long & Wes Knobel

Jan 25, 2024
Bitcoin Basics

Bitcoin Custody for Institutions | Caitlin Long & Wes Knobel

Bitcoin Custody for Institutions | Caitlin Long & Wes Knobel

Key Takeaways

Understanding Bailment:

This episode of The Investors Podcast with Preston Pysh delves into the concept of bailment, a term that is gaining significant traction in the context of bitcoin custody. Bailment is likened to valet parking or a coat check - a temporary transfer of possession without transferring legal title. This concept is crucial in the custody of assets like bitcoin, as it allows for temporary possession by a custodian without relinquishing ownership.

The Importance of Custody in Bitcoin ETFs:

The episode highlights concerns regarding the custody solutions employed by most Bitcoin ETFs, which tend to rely on a single custodian. The risks associated with this approach are profound given the mantra of "not your keys, not your coins." The discussion emphasizes the importance of reducing risk through diversified and secure custody arrangements.

2019 marked a significant year for the legal framework of bailment in Wyoming, setting a precedent for how custody should be approached. Custodia Bank, discussed in the episode, is built on this framework, differentiating itself from trust companies by being a bank that cannot be dragged into federal bankruptcy court, offering a layer of protection for assets.

The Interplay of Custody and Regulation:

The episode examines the impact of SEC regulations, like SAB 121, on traditional banks entering bitcoin custody and how it inadvertently favored crypto-native companies like Coinbase and Fidelity. The discussion also touches on the potential implications of a 6102-like government confiscation of bitcoin and the protections that state charters like Wyoming's might offer.

Custodia Bank's Approach:

Custodia Bank's unique custody solution ensures asset segregation on-chain, avoiding omnibus pooling, and allowing customers to see their funds at any time. This transparency and customer-focused approach highlight the bank's commitment to the bitcoin ethos and secure asset management.

Looking Forward:

The conversation speculates on the future of bitcoin adoption, the potential of layer two solutions like the Lightning Network, and the evolving landscape of ETFs. There is a sense of excitement about what the next iteration of bitcoin-related financial products might look like, particularly with the possibility of physical redemption options for ETFs.

Best Quotes

  1. "Not your keys, not your coins. Not your legal title, not your coins." – This quote is a play on the common bitcoin saying, emphasizing the importance of legal ownership, not just possession, in the context of custody.
  2. "Banks cannot be dragged into federal bankruptcy court. They are expressly excluded." – This quote underscores the significance of Custodia Bank's status and how it offers a protective edge over trust companies in the event of insolvency.
  3. "Every one of them is using a trust company structure. Custodia is a bank. There is a difference." – This quote distinguishes the unique position of Custodia Bank amidst other custodians in the market.
  4. "We custody UTXOs, others will custody omnibus bitcoin." – This quote illustrates Custodia Bank’s commitment to transparent, segregated custody of bitcoin assets, as opposed to the less transparent practices of omnibus accounts.
  5. "If you're a bank, it's going to attract a tier one capital charge." – Discussing the implications of SAB 121, this quote explains the financial burdens placed on banks holding bitcoin and how regulation shapes the industry.
  6. "We are onshore in the United States... A third-party counterparty that is regulated has to comply with the laws." – This quote speaks to the reality of operating within a regulated environment and the potential risks of government action against bitcoin holdings.


This episode of The Investors Podcast presents a thought-provoking discussion on the intricacies of bitcoin custody and the legal framework surrounding it. Bailment emerges as a key concept, offering a secure path forward for institutional and individual asset holders within the regulated space. The conversation also touches on the potential challenges and opportunities for bitcoin ETFs, highlighting the importance of transparency and customer protections in custody solutions. Custodia Bank's approach, with its emphasis on legal ownership and on-chain segregation, sets a new standard for custody services, aligning with the core principles of the bitcoin community. As the landscape continues to evolve, the future of bitcoin custody and its integration into traditional finance is poised for innovative developments, with the potential for more user-centric features like physical redemption options for ETFs. The overarching message is clear: with the right structures in place, the custody of digital assets can be secure, transparent, and aligned with the ethos of bitcoin, paving the way for broader adoption and a more resilient financial ecosystem.


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