The US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, will finally launch its widely-rumoured bitcoin trading operation after the investment banking giant succumbed to pressure from clients enthusiastic about cryptocurrency.
The bank will use its own capital to trade futures and offer a non-deliverable forward to clients wishing to trade bitcoin
The move is set to make Goldman Sachs the first major Wall Street bank to open a bitcoin trading desk, however it will only offer a limited number of derivatives at first. The creation of the trading platform, came after senior figures at Goldman Sachs concluded that bitcoin is not a fraud or simply a speculative bubble.
Led by the firm’s first ever “digital assets” trader Justin Schmidt, the operation is expected to begin within the next few weeks, though an exact date has not been set.
“This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to cryptocurrencies over the last 18 months. Any forward-looking financial institution needs to understand this technology and accept its enormous potential,” said Matthew Newton, an analyst at cryptocurrency retailer eToro,
“Despite some initial posturing, the reality is most big banks have already invested significant amounts in research and development into blockchain technology, and cryptocurrencies themselves. It will still take time for institutional investors to fully come around – and the fact that Goldman won’t be buying or selling actual coins suggest some scepticism remains – but there’s a growing acceptance that these assets are here to stay.” He added
In an interview with the NY Times, Goldman executive Rana Yared, who will oversee the operation, admitted he wasn’t completely sold on digital currencies. “I would not describe myself as a true believer who wakes up thinking bitcoin will take over the world,” he said.
The company will allow clients to trade bitcoin as a non-deliverable forward, where there is no physical exchange of the underlying asset but an exchange of the currency it is quoted in, likely U.S. dollars, on the settlement date of the forward.
As bitcoin continues to trade sideways, other crypto coins continue to push higher. This morning, ether (ETHUSD + 9.30%) which runs on the Ethereum network, traded above $700 for the first time since March 12. The token that is distributed in most initial coin offerings, or ICOs, will continue to flourish as coin offerings increase, according to one analyst.
Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets U.K. said, “Should the ICO trend continue, I predict initial coin offerings to take over traditional ways of fundraising and Ethereum to reach new dizzy highs.”
Ether last traded at $718.94, up 5.7%.
Many experts believe Ether is set to rally in 2018. DeVere Group, a financial consulting firm, said the price of the second largest digital currency, ether, could be in for a record-setting year, predicting the price could rise fourfold.
“The price of Ethereum is predicted to increase significantly this year, and could hit $2,500 by the end of 2018 with a further increase by 2019 and 2020,” wrote Nigel Green, founder and CEO of DeVere Group,
“This general upswing will be fuelled by three main drivers. First, more and more platforms are using Ethereum as a means of trading. Second, the increased use of smart contracts by Ethereum. And third, the decentralisation of cloud computing.”
Green also said regulation in the cryptocurrency sector is inevitable, which will lead to greater investor protection and long-term confidence in the market.
Ether coins, which are underpinned by the Ethereum network, have become the digital currency of choice for new token issuers because of its efficiency and flexibility—the average processing time for transactions on Ethereum is around 14 seconds, compared with Bitcoin’s, which can be up to 10 minutes.
The current market value of ether is $67.4 billion.
Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays, noted the potential of cryptocurrency to transform finance, however, he said that he was still wary of its reputation of being used for criminal activities.
“Cryptocurrency is a real challenge for us because, on the one hand, there is the innovative side of it wanting to stay in the forefront of technology’s improvement in finance,” Mr Staley said at a meeting with shareholders on Tuesday.
“On the other side of it, there is the possibility of cryptocurrencies being used for activities that the bank wants no part of.”
The head of the International Monetary Fund or IMF, Christine Lagarde wrote in March that the semi-anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies meant they were potentially a major new vehicle for money laundering and even financing terrorism which raised some concerns. However, less than two months later the head of the IMF called for an “even-handed approach to cryptocurrencies”
Ms Lagarde said that the transformative potential of the technology could have a “significant impact” on the way people save, invest and pay bills.
“Before crypto-assets can transform financial activity in a meaningful and lasting way, they must earn the confidence and support of consumers and authorities,” Ms Lagarde said.
“An important initial step will be to reach a consensus within the global regulatory community on the role crypto-assets should play. Because crypto-assets know no boundaries, international cooperation will be essential.”