At the entrance to a branch of Unicredit in Catania, a wreath of flowers appeared at dawn on 12 January. On the ribbons accompanying them were the words “Felix MT103” and the logos of three companies that deal with Bitcoin.
According to some, it was a “provocation” against “traditional” banks and at the same time a publicity stunt linked to the marketing of Bitcoin.
But according to others, the fact that Unicredit itself was targeted could also be a gesture of protest against the bank’s stance towards cryptocurrency investments.
Unicredit and investments in Bitcoin
Everything would have started from a specific request for information from a customer of the bank on 7 January. The same customer then polemically posted the response received from the bank, which in practice strongly advised against making transactions in virtual currencies.
Non c'è nessun fraintendimento, leggete https://t.co/V3E2Lf66qs
Ho fatto una domanda diretta a #Unicredit proprio per evitare fraintendimenti e hanno risposto in modo chiaro, diretto ed esaustivo.
A meno che non sapete che #Unicredit uscirà con altra nota ufficiale a rettifica
— Chef Luca (@ChefLuca7) January 9, 2022
After explaining that the system can “block payments towards websites dedicated to buying and selling cryptocurrencies for security reasons”, the bank’s customer service added:
“I advise against making such payments as they do not reflect the bank’s policies and this could lead to alerts and even account closure.”
The report on social media triggered a reaction from the bank’s customers and crypto investors who cried censorship and wished the bank would end up like Kodak or Blockbuster.
When asked for clarification, a bank spokesperson confirmed that the bank does not currently allow investments in cryptocurrencies, but nothing was said about the possibility of account closure as a last resort for those wishing to hold digital assets. However, clarification arrived later on social media, stating that the bank does not inhibit its customers from investing in digital currencies.
— UniCredit Italia (@UniCredit_IT) January 12, 2022
Consob and Banks against crypto deregulation
The controversy triggered by Unicredit’s statements is perhaps only the latest in a rather complicated relationship between traditional and digital finance, and not only in Italy.
At the annual meeting of the Italian Banking Association (Abi) on 6 July, President Antonio Patuelli also spoke about cryptocurrencies in his report, stating that:
“We need to curb the disorder of cryptocurrencies, which are not currencies, and the very high risks of illegality that they hide”.
Consob chairman Paolo Savona has also spoken on several occasions on the need to intervene on the regulation of cryptocurrencies, and in November, during a webinar sponsored by Rome’s Sapienza University, he defined cryptocurrencies as the phoenix:
“They exist, but we do not know what they look like. Building an economy with cryptocurrencies requires a better understanding of this complex financial world, which is still evolving”.
On the other hand, the latest Consob report on the investment choices of Italian families, published a few days ago, shows that Italians are increasingly inclined to invest online and especially in cryptocurrencies, which represent 6% of the investments of Italian families.