Fidelity Beclowns Itself

Fidelity Investments, fresh from the embarrassment of having missed the entirety of the ETF movement’s formative years, is determined not to allow that to happen again.

And so they’re going to be very innovative going forward, no matter what kind of idiotic risks for their customers it engenders.

Here’s how they’re “innovating” in the retirement investing arena (via MarketWatch):

Fidelity has partnered with SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust to allow its clients to save for their retirement by putting the virtual currency in self-directed IRAs.

“If you are a Fidelity client, you can now invest in the Bitcoin Investment Trust through an IRA.”

Allow me to repeat that phrase because I think it’s important:

“to allow its clients to save for their retirement by putting the virtual currency in self-directed IRAs”

Are you out of your mind?

To be clear, I have nothing against Bitcoin and it may well become a widespread medium of exchange in the coming years. But what that has to do with speculating on its “price” in dollars in the context of an IRA account, I have no fucking idea.

Edward Johnson II built Fidelity into a powerhouse financial institution in the 1940’s by instilling the idea of common sense and hard work. This stood out at the time; the culture of investing in those days, from Boston to Chicago to New York City, was essentially an amalgam of insider tipster-ism, naked speculation and outright theft. The success of Fidelity was due to Johnson’s overarching twin principles of deep-rooted respect for the customer and a first-class research process that became a model for the industry by the time Edward’s son Ned was given the reins in the 1950’s.

I don’t think the elder or younger Johnson would be particularly impressed with whatever this Bitcoin gimmick is meant to accomplish. It smacks of attention-seeking and is probably dangerous for even the “accredited” Fidelity account holders who are dumb enough to bite at this trinket being dangled in front of them.

I’m embarrassed for this once-great investment firm. They may as well launch an online roulette wheel.

UPDATED 10:54 AM

Fidelity’s PR flack has reached out to say that MarketWatch’s story is not accurate. I’ve responded that if MarketWatch amends their article, I will include it here.

UPDATED 3:13 PM 

From MarketWatch circa 1:23 PM:

Fidelity Investments is no longer allowing clients to invest in the virtual currency bitcoin through SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a representative for Fidelity told MarketWatch on Thursday.

MarketWatch reported Wednesday that certain Fidelity clients could invest in the Bitcoin Investment Trust through their IRAs. That information was based on an interview with Barry Silbert, chief executive of SecondMarket. Read Wednesday’s post here.

On Thursday,  a Fidelity spokesman told MarketWatch that such investments are no longer allowed. The spokesman couldn’t confirm when or why the policy was changed.

More:

Fidelity halts bitcoin investments from IRAs (MarketWatch)

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