city skyline banks goldman sachs crypto trading

This week was dominated by rumors that Goldman Sachs has ditched plans for a crypto trading desk, sending crypto prices into a panic. But this is actually good news. Goldman Sachs is instead focusing on a safe, long-term crypto strategy rather than volatile trading.

Bitcoin traders threw themselves into a panic on Wednesday as the market collapsed beneath them.

Bitcoin fell 13% in a day. Altcoins fell as much as 20%. Ethereum hit its lowest price in 12 months.

While other factors were at play for the selloff, many blamed Goldman Sachs, which reportedly sidelined plans for a crypto trading desk.

The Long-Rumored Goldman Sachs Crypto Trading Desk

Goldman Sachs began eying up bitcoin in October 2017. Rumors of a trading desk emerged after they hired Justin Schmidt, a veteran crypto trader. An official from the bank said they were looking into bitcoin possibilities after receiving interest from clients.

This news was among the flurry of optimism that sent bitcoin to $20,000 last winter.

However, nothing was confirmed. In fact, Goldman Sachs distanced itself from crypto trading in January when CEO Lloyd Blankfein said day-to-day trading was not the bank’s priority for crypto. Instead, they would consider buying bitcoin futures contracts for some of its clients.

So Wednesday’s news shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

Clearing up the Rumors

To be clear, Goldman Sachs has not ruled out the possibility of a crypto trading desk. The bank’s CFO even called the recent rumors “fake news.”

“I never thought I would hear myself use this term but I really have to describe that news as fake news.” Martin Chavez, CFO.

The bank is not ditching its plans. A crypto trading desk has simply moved down the priority list while they look at better ways to work with bitcoin.

So What Exactly is Goldman Sachs Doing in Crypto?

Right now, the bank is helping its clients get into crypto by executing bitcoin futures contracts. Bitcoin futures are a way of betting on the future price movements. Goldman Sachs is using the bank’s money (“providing liquidity”) to do this.

At the same time, they are working on some form of derivative for bitcoin. A derivative is like an exchange-traded fund (ETF); an easy investing product that would track the price of bitcoin.

A Safe Way to Store Crypto

Most importantly, Goldman Sachs is working on a custody solution that would allow institutional investors to store millions of dollars in crypto safely.

“Physical bitcoin is something tremendously interesting, and tremendously challenging… From the perspective of custody, we don’t yet see an institutional-grade custodial solution for bitcoin, we’re interested in having that exist and it’s a long road.” Martin Chavez, CFO

Good News for Bitcoin

Don’t believe the panic. Goldman Sachs’ strategy is a sound and sensible way to approach bitcoin.

Goldman first needs to prove it can store bitcoin safely. Can you imagine if Goldman Sachs’ bitcoin accounts were hacked? A custody solution is a necessary first step before traditional investors trust their money to a relatively new phenomenon.

Secondly, the bank’s focus on bitcoin futures and derivatives reveals a long-term approach to trading. They are taking cryptocurrencies seriously. They’re looking to build products their investors understand.

It’s no wonder a crypto trading desk is low on the priority list. They simply don’t yet have the infrastructure to store and handle millions in daily, physical bitcoin trades.

Not only that, but high-volume, daily trading at a Goldman Sachs trading desk would introduce yet more volatility to a volatile market.

Wall Street Isn’t Ready for Crypto Yet

Although Wall Street is dabbling in bitcoin, it’s not yet ready to fully embrace it. As we have seen with bitcoin ETF rejections, Wall Street adoption will take time. But, rest assured, the foundations are being laid.

“When we talked about exploring digital assets that it was going to be exploration that would be evolving over time… Maybe someone who was thinking about our activities here got very excited that we would be making markets as principal and physical bitcoin, and as they got into it they realized part of the evolution but it’s not here yet.” Martin Chavez, CFO.

Wall Street is getting on board, but this will not happen overnight. Patience is key.

ethereum logo on a dark blue background
  • Ethereum futures contracts are expected to launch in the near future via Cboe Global Markets.
  • ‘Futures’ provide an easy way for investors to ‘bet’ on the price of Ethereum.
  • Bitcoin futures (launched in 2017) sent the market to an all-time high, before triggering a 60% reversal.

In December 2017, the price of bitcoin hit a record $20,000. One trigger for this price rise was the launch of a bitcoin ‘futures’ market, introduced by Cboe Global Markets. Cboe is now expected to announce an ethereum futures equivalent.

But what exactly is a futures contract? How will it affect Ethereum and the wider crypto market?

Ethereum futures contract: what is it?

A futures contract allows investors to ‘bet’ on the future price of something.

It’s an easy way to speculate on price rises (and falls) without having to buy the asset itself, in this case, ethereum.

It works like this: you agree to purchase ethereum for a pre-determined price, on a specific date in the future. That price may be higher or lower than today’s value, depending on whether you think ethereum will move up or down.

A real-life example

Let’s say you think ethereum will go up in value. You agree to buy at $290 (today’s price), but you won’t pay until the contract expires in two month’s time.

If ethereum has increased in value when the futures contract expires, you have successfully bought in at a much lower market price.

Most speculative investors close the trade before the contract expires to lock in the profit (or cut their losses) without having to buy the asset itself.

Betting against crypto

Futures trading also allows you to bet against the market.

This is what we saw in January 2018, when the bitcoin price came tumbling down, shortly after hitting a record high. Investors now had a way to ‘short’ the bitcoin market, and they pounced.

bitcoin price chart after futures launched in December 2017
Chart: Coinmarketcap

What will happen to ethereum?

We may see a similar pattern if the ethereum futures market is launched. Investors will have the opportunity to flood into the market with relative ease. However, they may also bet against ethereum, sending the price down.

Good news for bitcoin?

Tom Lee, who recently reaffirmed his bitcoin price target of $20,000+, thinks the move could be good for bitcoin:

“Since December of this year, if one was bearish on any aspect of crypto but did not want to own the underlying, they could short bitcoin. They can now short ether, means the net short on bitcoin in futures would fall.”

In other words, if investors want to bet against the crypto market right now, shorting bitcoin is their only option. If ethereum futures are launched, however, they will also be able to short ethereum, which could take some of the pressure off bitcoin.

More details about the ethereum futures market

Cboe Global Markets, which owns the Chicago Board Options Exchange, was the first exchange to offer bitcoin futures. It harnesses the Winklevoss Twins’ Gemini market to track the underlying price of bitcoin.

The ethereum futures contracts are expected to use the same underlying Gemini market. They will be ‘cash-settled,’ which means they won’t trade ethereum itself. Rather, they will simply track the price and all positions will be closed before the futures contract expires.

We’re still waiting for a green light from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, there is a precedent since the bitcoin futures market already exists.

Although the SEC is dragging its heels on an exchange-traded fund (ETF), it is much more likely to pass the ethereum futures market proposal.

cex.io chart

CEX.IO is a cryptocurrency exchange and former Bitcoin cloud mining provider. Founded in London in 2013, CEX first began as a cloud mining provider that owned the Ghash.io pool. As an online digital currency exchanger, CEX.IO offers the trading of cryptocurrency for fiat money, including USD, EUR, GBP, and RUB. The exchange charges commissions from 0% to 0.25%  on trades using the Maker-Taker fee schedule. The current list of cryptocurrencies available on CEX.io is Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple, XLM, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Zcash, and Bitcoin Gold.

cex cryptoName: CEX
URL: https://www.cex.io
Total trading pairs: 15
Founded: 2013
Deposit fees: no
Withdrawal fees: no
Trading fees: 0.00% – 0.20%
Margin trading: no
USA accepted: yes
Verification levels and withdrawal limits:

Verification Level

Limits

Basic Daily: 1000 USD; Monthly: 3,000 USD
Verified Unlimited
Verified Plus Unlimited
Corporate Unlimited

Registration

CEX.io allows for initial registration using email, Google Oauth, or Facebook Oauth. To continue after Oauth, you will still need to manually input your email address. An email verification link will be sent to you. Upon verification, you are directed to the /buysell page, which has prices for currency available for purchase by Credit Card, good for the next 66 seconds. After that, a new price is populated, based on exchange rate, and you are given a further 120 seconds.

cex.io screenshot

Verification

A full guide to account verification is available here. With basic registration, you are allowed to buy and sell bitcoin with a daily limit of $1000 via credit card only, and a monthly limit of $3000. Verification allows you to make bank transfers and take commissions as well as removes the deposit/withdrawal account limits on basic registration.

 

CEX.io verification screenshot
CEX.io verification

The Verified level requires the submission of identifying documentation (DL, Passport, or ID card) and a tax reference number, such as a social security number. This will include your address and scans/photos of your identification documents.

CEX personal information verification
CEX personal information verification

In the personal information section, the registree will be required to submit their Gender, date of birth, first, middle, and last name, place of birth, and contact number. Optionally you can submit social media profiles as well. The following page is a simple address verification form.

From the CEX.io website:

PAYMENT OPTIONS

Most popular methods: Visa, MasterCard, bank transfer (SWIFT, SEPA), cryptocurrency

STRONG SECURITY

Protection against DDoS attacks, full data encryption, compliant with PCI DSS standards

WORLD COVERAGE

Providing services in 99% countries around the globe, including 24 states of USA

LEGAL COMPLIANCE

Registration in the UKMSB status in FinCEN, essential licenses and strong relations with banks

MARGIN TRADING

1:2 and 1:3 leverages, automatic funds borrowing, no extra accounts needed, negative balance protection.

COMPETITIVE COMMISSIONS

Reasonable trading fees for takers and makers, special conditions for high volume traders, strong offers for market makers.

CROSS-PLATFORM TRADING

Trading via website, mobile appWebSocket and REST API. FIX API for institutional traders

ADVANCED REPORTING

Downloadable reports, real-time balance, transaction history with transparent fees

HIGH LIQUIDITY

Fast order execution, low spread, access to high liquidity orderbook for top currency pairs

Coinone is a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange founded in 2015, it is #8 on BlockExplorer’s top 25 cryptocurrency exchanges of 2017 list. Coinone is one of the larger Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, and as such, it is recommended to mid to large-scale traders, specifically those looking to trade in Won. As all trades on Coinone occur in Won, and all Coinone trading pairs are cryptocurrency to Won.

Coinone

coinone cryptoURL:  coinone.co.kr
Total trading pairs: 9
Deposit fees: No
Withdrawal fees: Yes, per currency
Trading fees: 0.00% – 0.15%
Margin Trading: Yes
Verification: Yes, multiple levels

Registration

Registration is simple, requiring you to enter an email address, password, and solve a simple CAPTCHA-like puzzle. You receive an email to confirm your email address, though it is all in Korean. You can change the language emails are sent in the account configuration, though by default this is set to Korean.

Fees

Coinone breaks down its fees into a tiered maker/taker scheme that is based on the total you have traded in the last 30 days. And that total is updated daily at 3 AM. On the low-end fees are 0.1% for both makers and takers with 100,000,000 Won or lower in trades. On the High end, fees are 0% for makers and 0.02% for takers with 50,000,000,000 Won or more in trades. All margin trades carry a flat 0.15% fee for both makers and takers.

There are no deposit fees, and withdrawal fees differ by currency, there is a list of fees per currency available on Coinone’s site.

Interface

Coinone’s interface is a very clean and bright white with blue highlights. While the trading interface is well thought out there are some sections that are in Korean even when the selected language is English.

There is a chart of your currently selected trading pair at the top of the page. Below the chart on the left is the current order book for the selected trading pair and on the right is where you can submit buy or sell orders. On the right of the entire page is an overview of all currencies Coinone trades and their current price, below which is the status of your current orders. Further below on the right is your current fee rank, with how much more you need to trade to move up a fee level.

Verification

Coinone has four verification levels. And to withdraw currency you are required to have at least level one. Each verification level has higher withdrawal limits than the previous one

Verification Level Requirements Withdrawal Limit
Level 1 Email and location 1,000 KRW
Level 2 Phone number based authentication 500,000 KRW
Level 3 OTP Registration 1,000,000 KRW
Level 4 Review by operations team 100,000,000+ KRW

 

Security

OTP (One time password) also referred to as 2FA is available, though the method of configuration is unclear.

Jay-Z investing

Arrive, which is a subsidiary of  Jay-Z’s entertainment firm Roc Nation, announced in early February 2018 that it is investing in the trading platform Robinhood. Robinhood offers commission-free trading of U.S. stocks, ETFs/options, and in January, it announced it would soon be offering free cryptocurrency trading as well.  Arrive focuses on funding startups and providing “high-growth companies with both capital and consumer engagement through cultural influence.”

Robinhood, Champion of Equitable Financial Access

“We believe in Baiju and Vlad’s mission to make the financial markets more accessible and cost efficient for customers of all size. Robinhood will have our support as they execute the long-term vision of their company,”

Arrive President Neil Sirni said of founders Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, who launched the platform in 2015. Their goal was to make trading easy for anyone through a mobile app and to eliminate the $7 to $10 trade fees charged by most brokerages. In October 2017, they also launched Robinhood for Web, a web platform with investment research and discovery tools. Bhatt told CNN a few years back when the financial services company was first getting off the ground:

“The ability to participate in the stock market is a huge privilege that we as Americans have. Getting it more accessible to large audiences is a huge opportunity,”

Robinhood now has more than 3 million users and was most recently valued at $1.3 billion, the company reports. Over 80 percent of users are millennials and it is currently the fastest-growing brokerage.

Rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is not the first artist in his field to back Robinhood — rappers Nas and Snoop Dogg invested in the fall of 2014, along with actor Jared Leto.

Crypto-Trading on Robinhood Imminent

Robinhood’s crypto-trading is due to begin this month and more than 1 million people have already signed up.

Bhatt recently said:

“It is fairly obvious that people care about [cryptocurrency]. We want to be there and help shape the way the industry goes with a better platform at a better price,”

 

Featured image via The Come Up Show, Flickr.