Coinbase plans Japan expansion, in talks with MUFG as potential banking partner

Signage is displayed on a monitor as employees work at the Coinbase Inc. office in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Coinbase Inc., one of the largest U.S. digital-currency exchanges, is expanding into one of the world’s hottest crypto markets.

The San Francisco-based company, which operates in 32 countries, is opening an office in Japan as it seeks to further broaden its influence beyond the U.S. Nao Kitazawa, a former investment banker at Morgan Stanley, will be chief executive officer of the new branch.

“As in other markets, we plan to take a deliberate approach to our roll out in Japan, which means working hand-in-hand with the Japanese FSA to ensure compliance with local laws at every stage,” Coinbase, which has served more than 20 million customers, said in a blog post Monday. “As a regulated, compliant crypto company in the U.S., we will focus on building that same level trust with new customers in Japan.”

The exchange operator, which would need a license to expand into Japan, is in active discussions with Japan’s Financial Services Agency, or FSA, Coinbase spokesman Elliott Suthers said in an email.

If the company does secure a license, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. is a potential banking partner, a person familiar with the matter said earlier this month. MUFG, which has invested in Coinbase, partnered with the crypto firm in 2016 to support its international expansion efforts.