Germany's savings banks, a conservative bastion that holds more than 1 trillion euros for thrifty Germans, are considering offering a cryptocurrency wallet, according to a group of the banks on Monday.
The project represents a potentially radical departure for banks, whose customers still prefer cash and avoid risky investments or high borrowing.
They are Germany's largest financial group, having been entrusted with the savings and investments of approximately 50 million customers.
"Interest in crypto assets is huge," said a spokesman for the German Savings Banks Association, referring to the pilot project. He stated that no decision had been made and that the savings bank group was still skeptical.
The move comes against a backdrop of high inflation and negative interest rate penalties for banks and savers, fueling a heated debate in Germany about central bank money printing. It has prompted Germans to increase their investments in real estate and elsewhere in order to avoid what some have dubbed the "expropriation" of their wealth.
Helmut Schleweis, president of the German Savings Bank Association, called the combination of low-interest rates and rising prices a "toxic mix" last month, saying it had become more difficult to halt the erosion of wealth.
Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of approximately $1.2 trillion, has risen sharply, fueled in part by inflationary fears, with its limited supply seen as providing protection. Bitcoin is also up against a slew of smaller competitors, all vying for a piece of the $2 trillion digital currency market.
Among the major "altcoins" - as all cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin are known - Ethereum aspires to be the backbone of a future financial system. Others, such as Dogecoin, are barely used for payment.
Despite their volatile track record, retail investors are pouring money into them in the hopes of making a quick profit.