Fidelity has been at this for three years, using its own computers to harvest the cheap bitcoin mining currencies bitcoin and Ethereum. Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson surprised a tech conference this spring by revealing the brokerage giant didn’t just study cryptocurrency.
It was also mining the digital assets—and making money while doing so. Hadley Stern of Fidelity Labs tells Fortune that the U. Those profits are nice, of course, but for Fidelity they are not the point. Stern says the real purpose of the mining is to learn about the burgeoning cryptocurrency market. Think of it as an experiment.
Stern, referring to aspects of the mining process, which involves a network of computers competing to solve complex math problems. Stern adds that Fidelity’s mining project is not sophisticated compared to professional operations, which involve companies, most of them in China, connecting giant rooms of specialized computers to cheap sources of electricity. Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter. Fidelity’s mining operations aren’t the only way the company is gaining insights into cryptocurrency.
This summer, the brokerage entered an arrangement with Coinbase, a popular San Francisco-based exchange, to let customers view the value of their digital currency alongside stocks and others assets on their Fidelity homepage. The Coinbase tie-up is a convenience for customers, but also lets Fidelity gain insight into how many how investors are interested in cryptocurrency. Meanwhile, Fidelity has also included bitcoin in a program that helps individuals donate specialized assets, such as fine art, to charity. Stern says the company often conducts interviews with customers who donate bitcoin, in part to learn about their interest in the cryptocurrency. This article is part of Fortune’s new initiative, The Ledger, a trusted news source at the intersection of tech and finance.