Why Do Institutions Need A Digital Asset Custodian?

Shahzad Masood

Digital Asset Custodian

Why do so many CeFi and DeFi institutions suffer breaches despite the formidable security of blockchain’s distributed ledger? The answer lies in manner of treasury management. Treasury management continues to get challenging, with emerging security challenges and roadblocks in the crypto landscape. The key principle of treasury management is simple – to safeguard the private key and, in turn, digital assets from unauthorized access.

However, DeFi protocols and Web3 businesses continue to witness relentless cyberattacks and internal hit jobs. Hackers siphoned off over $3.8 billion in funds in 2022 alone, making it the worst year in terms of crypto hacks. 2023 was even worse. The biggest fear of the stakeholders is the relentless cyberattacks on sensitive on-chain architecture continuing in 2024. Those sticking with traditional cryptographic solutions to safeguard their assets are at the highest risk.

Amidst the increasing risk of cyberattacks and wallet hacks, institutions need digital asset custody solutions. In this blog, we explore why.

Storing Digital Assets Is Complex

First and foremost, storing digital assets is complex due to increasing security risk. The sudden spike in crypto hacks is a testament to the intricacies of digital asset custody. To make matters worse, the blockchain industry continues to undergo a transformation toward an interoperable environment, meaning more chains, more assets, and more security vulnerabilities.

The security architecture must evolve to keep up with this transformation. However, upgrading the security architecture every time a new chain is added could be fatal to the revenue and efficiency of crypto institutions. This is where a reliable custody solution helps crypto businesses beef up their wallet security while optimizing costs.

Increasing Security Risks

Ever-increasing cybersecurity threats make security a paramount concern for institutions. High-profile hacks and breaches continue to highlight the vulnerability of digital assets. To mitigate these risks, institutions must prioritize security measures that go beyond traditional practices. This is where crypto custodians play a crucial role, offering a fortified layer of protection against evolving threats.

Regulatory Compliance

As institutional involvement in cryptocurrencies increases, so does the need for adherence to regulatory standards. Besides safeguarding digital assets, crypto custodians also help institutions comply with regulatory obligations, ensuring a synergy between operations and legal frameworks. For example, Liminal Custody is FSP licensed in ADGM and BitGo is SEC compliant in US to provide regulated custody.

Decoding The Institutional Adoption of Crypto Custodians

A trend in the cryptocurrency market is seldom illogical. An increasing number of crypto institutions are joining with crypto custodians because they are aware of the dire consequences that await in case of a wallet breach or unauthorized access.

Genesis Capital, CoinDCX, Coinsquare, Telos, Cadenza, and G-2 Group, be it exchanges, liquidity protocols, hedge funds, or market markers, institutions across the segments are partnering with custody solutions like Liminal Custody, BitGo, and Copper to safeguard their assets from all possible accounts. These institutions experience tangible benefits in terms of security, regulatory compliance, and overall confidence in navigating the complexities of the crypto market.

The risk is real, and businesses can’t afford to be lenient at a time when we are on the brink of a massive bull run. It could be detrimental to a) business and b) reputation.

How Does A Crypto Custodian Work?

The primary objective is to provide a secure environment for the storage of private keys, which are essential for accessing and managing cryptocurrency holdings. Here’s an overview of how a crypto custody solution typically works:

Account Setup and Onboarding:

  • Users, whether individuals or institutions, initiate the process by creating an account with a crypto custodian.
  • The onboarding process involves identity verification and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Creation of Wallets:

  • Upon successful onboarding, the custodian creates secure wallets for the user. These wallets can be hot wallets (connected to the internet) or cold wallets (offline for enhanced security).

Generation and Storage of Private Keys:

  • The custodian generates private keys for each wallet. Private keys are cryptographic keys that grant access to the associated cryptocurrency funds.
  • Specialized hardware security modules (HSMs) or secure enclaves may be used to generate, store, and manage private keys securely.

Multi-Signature Technology:

  • Many crypto custody solutions leverage multi-signature (multi-sig) technology. With multisig, multiple private keys are required to authorize a transaction, eliminating the risk of a single point of failure.
  • For example, a 2-of-3 multisig setup would require two out of three authorized parties to sign off on a transaction.

Transaction Approval Process:

  • When a user initiates a transaction (such as sending or receiving cryptocurrencies), the custodian follows a predefined approval process.
  • For multi-sig setups, the required number of authorized parties must sign off on the transaction.

Monitoring and Reporting:

  • Custodians typically provide users with tools for monitoring their holdings and transaction history.
  • Regular reporting on the status of assets, transactions, and security measures may be offered to keep users informed.

Compliance and Regulatory Reporting:

  • Crypto custody solutions adhere to regulatory requirements, which may include Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures.
  • The custodian may also provide necessary documentation and reporting to comply with financial regulations.

However, the implementation process may vary from solution to solution, depending on the type of wallet infrastructure they offer.

But how would a business know if a custody solution is right for them? Let’s examine the situation.

How To Choose The Right Crypto Custodian

Different businesses may have different custody requirements depending on their operational geography, fund size, regulatory and security obligations, and customization requirements.

Here are a few key defining factors to make an informed decision:

Solution Type:

Diverse platforms offer varying custody solutions, ranging from non-custodial wallets to self-custody, hot wallets, cold wallets, and more.

The decision-making process should involve a thorough review of security requirements and the preferred type of custody.

Number of Assets Supported:

The range of supported assets can be decisive, with some platforms limited to specific token types (e.g., ERC-20). A careful evaluation of operational needs is necessary to align with the platform’s capabilities.

Security Infrastructure:

The dynamic nature of security trends in the Web3 space necessitates a detailed security architecture review. Whether a business requires a multi-sig wallet architecture or an MPC wallet architecture depends on the operation requirements. Ensuring compatibility with the firm’s security expectations is crucial for a reliable custody solution.


The regulatory landscape in the crypto industry varies across countries, demanding a solution that facilitates compliance with local regulations.

Choosing a solution that assists businesses in meeting regulatory obligations is paramount.


Budget constraints often play a pivotal role in the decision-making process.

It’s advisable to initially assess whether the selected solution aligns with the allocated budget.

Remember, as businesses navigate a complex landscape, there is no hard rule for selecting a custody solution provider. Due diligence is a key aspect of decision-making, and businesses must stay ahead of industry trends to make well-informed decisions.

Wrapping Up

Securing digital assets is and must be a priority for crypto institutions, with more and more users jumping on the bandwagon. More inflows mean increased security and regulatory risks as cybercriminals expand their horizons to siphon off funds from different chains.

It is equally important to note that the scope of modern-day custody solutions extends beyond merely safeguarding private keys. While choosing a custody solution, businesses must evaluate if it helps them tackle security, regulatory, and interoperability challenges. As the adoption of digital assets increases, the role of crypto custody solutions is critical in building trust and creating a secure operational environment.

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