The chief executive of the company that owns and operates the world’s largest stock exchange believes that bitcoin has the potential to be the world’s “first worldwide currency,” and he’s throwing his firm’s weight behind an ambitious plan to make that a reality.
As reported, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) — owner of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) — is forming a new company, dubbed Bakkt, that seeks to bridge the divide between Wall Street, Main Street, and the flagship cryptocurrency.
Speaking with Fortune, ICE founder, Chairman, and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher explained that he believes that — bolstered by Bakkt’s infrastructure — bitcoin could become the currency of choice for global payments.
”Bitcoin would greatly simplify the movement of global money,” said Sprecher. “It has the potential to become the first worldwide currency.”
The move will see ICE not only launch a physically-settled bitcoin futures product but also custody cryptoassets directly and help merchants such as Starbucks — which has already signed onto the platform as a partner — accept digital assets such as bitcoin for everyday payments.
It represents a remarkable about-face for ICE, which said last December that it didn’t want to rush into launching bitcoin products.
All the while though, Sprecher and other ICE executives were scheming to launch the most ambitious crypto play that any Wall Street firm had yet attempted.
And while, if successful, it promises to plant bitcoin firmly in the mainstream, Sprecher says that it could also help conventional asset managers attract younger investors, who are sometimes as skeptical of traditional financial products as asset managers are of bitcoin.
“Millennials don’t trust traditional financial institutions. To gain their trust, banks, brokerages, and asset managers can use a currency that millennials believe in, like Bitcoin. Using digital currencies brings a lot of sizzle,” he told Fortune.
Notably, that comment hearkens back to another statement Sprecher made, months before revealing that ICE intends to take a central role in facilitating that “sizzle.”
“There is a trend here we can’t ignore in my mind, so I don’t discount it,” he said in April. “People put more faith in a guy named Satoshi Nakamoto that no one has ever met than they do in the US Fed.”