Intercontinental Exchange, also known as ICE, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), wants to establish its own cryptocurrency exchange.
The New York Times (NYT) first reported on the developments on May 7, 2018, after four individuals divulged the plans and related emails to the newspaper. While sparse in exact details, the report reveals that the exchange, which would be built for “large investors” in mind, would permit direct bitcoin trading, not futures contracts as we’ve seen with the CBOE and CME.
According to the NYT’s sources, ICE has been in talks with legacy banks and financial institutions to facilitate swap contracts for potential bitcoin trading. These contracts would essentially allow banks to buy contracts for bitcoin, giving the exchange sure anchors of liquidity. Once an exchange user buys one of these contracts, cash changes hands and the corresponding bitcoin would appear in his/her wallet the next day. In practice, a swap contract is more complex than this, but the important thing to note is that it would give the exchange the regulatory backing of existing laws and make it fully compliant with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a status even today’s most popular cryptocurrency exchanges have yet to secure.
While the report makes it clear that ICE is at least in the process of formulating a bitcoin trading strategy, it did not indicate whether the exchange is mulling over listing additional popular cryptocurrencies such as ether or litecoin. Further, it warns that all developments are not final and that plans for the exchange could dissolve given crypto’s unregulated, unfettered landscape.
Still, if ICE does go through with its plans, it would become the first traditional financial market to trade bitcoin directly. This would put it in the company of Goldman Sachs, who announced earlier this week its plans to trade bitcoin futures contracts on behalf of its clients. Goldman Sachs indicated that while it is not comfortable with trading bitcoin directly straight out of the gate, the bank has plans on standby if clearer regulations surface. The institution shares this sentiment with Nasdaq, whose CEO, Adena Friedman, told CNBC that the exchange would open up bitcoin trading when “people are ready for a more regulated market.”
Right now, the only traditional financial exchanges that offer bitcoin options of any kind are the Chicago-based CME and CBOE, both of which began offering futures contracts in December of last year.
A representative for the New York Stock Exchange declined to comment on the developments.