Companies are racing to capture portions of the digital currency market. Currently, Binance, OKEx and Huobi are the top three cryptocurrency exchanges by volume according to CoinMarketCap. In traditional markets, the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE is the world’s largest and oldest stock exchange, with a current market cap of over $23 trillion USD. By comparison, NASDAQ has a market cap of $11 trillion USD. Now, the Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N, or ICE), the owner of the NYSE has announced plans to develop a company, named Bakkt, and digital asset trading platform for Bitcoin and other crypto assets.
Bakkt will be headed by Kelly Loeffler, a senior executive at ICE, and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher’s wife. She plans to include not just digital assets such as Bitcoin, but also derivatives such as a physically delivered Bitcoin futures contract. The platform will be built using Microsoft Corp.’s cloud technology. They will also work with other companies such as Starbucks Corp. and Boston Consulting Group to provide ways for consumers to use and trade cryptocurrencies.
In case you missed it, let me repeat: they are working with Starbucks. There has been tremendous competition among developers to create a crypto-backed electronic wallet that may work at the point of sale. With over 28,000 store locations, if Starbucks were to begin accepting crypto, or at least facilitating the use of a digital wallet that converts crypto assets to fiat, the results could be tremendous for the adoption of cryptocurrencies as a means of exchange. If successful, this model has the potential to be replicated in McDonalds, Subway, Target and a host of other chains.
There isn’t an official launch date for Bakkt, but more specifics are expected to materialize later in August. That said, there are plans to release a one-day physically delivered Bitcoin futures contract, as well as warehousing through its futures exchange and clearinghouse. Assuming it is approved by the US CFTC, we can expect these products to be released by November.
With ICE’s participation in the cryptocurrency marketplace, we can expect traditional financial institutions to develop more interest as the perception of legitimacy in their eyes is secured by the owner of the biggest stock exchange in the world. As reported in Reuters, according to Sprecher, “In bringing regulated, connected infrastructure together with institutional and consumer applications for digital assets, we aim to build confidence in the asset class on a global scale.”
When the platform launches, it will offer trading pairs of Bitcoin against various fiat currencies. Its crypto-trading will put it in direct competition with the major digital currency exchanges, including Coinbase and others, while its derivative product will put it in competition with Cboe and CME. This sweeping move may define the market for the near future, and could put enough pressure on the competition to match its expected standards.
Regarding the Starbucks partnership, Maria Smith, VP of partnerships and payments at Starbucks released a statement. She said, “As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks.”
This could mean that Starbucks may not only accept crypto assets as a payment option, but they may also serve as a retail source for purchasing them. If this happens, then we can expect the developers of Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies to scramble for exposure.