Goldman Sachs will launch a bitcoin trading desk, the investment banking giant confirmed on Wednesday.
The New York Times reports that the firm, one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, is preparing to begin using its own funds to sponsor a variety of investment contracts tied to the bitcoin price and hopes to eventually trade “physical bitcoins” directly.
The bank has been rumored to have been planning to set up a cryptocurrency trading desk since last December, but executives and spokespeople claimed that those reports were false. Indeed, as recently as April 23 — when the bank hired cryptocurrency trader Justin Schmidt — the bank claimed that it had “not reached a conclusion on the scope of our digital asset offering.”
However, the bank has now confirmed that it will begin offering its clients a type of futures contract called a non-deliverable forward that will be linked to bitcoin — an asset which Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein called a “vehicle to perpetrate fraud” last November.
Rana Yared, a Goldman executive who saw the creation of the bitcoin trading desk, told the publication that most of the people involved with the operation remain skeptical of cryptocurrency.
“I would not describe myself as a true believer who wakes up thinking Bitcoin will take over the world,” she said. “For almost every person involved, there has been personal skepticism brought to the table.”
Nevertheless, the bank received enough interest from hedge funds, endowments, and other institutional investors that its board of directors voted to approve the move that will see it become the first major US bank to use its own funds to trade cryptocurrencies or cryptocurrency derivatives.
“It resonates with us when a client says, ‘I want to hold Bitcoin or Bitcoin futures because I think it is an alternate store of value,’” Yared said.
Eventually, the bank hopes to receive regulatory approval from the Federal Reserve and state-level authorities to begin trading actual bitcoins — ironically referred to as “physical bitcoins” — a development that will undoubtedly cement the flagship cryptocurrency’s status as a mainstream financial asset.
“It is not a new risk that we don’t understand,” Yared said of trading bitcoin. “It is just a heightened risk that we need to be extra aware of here.”