Goldman Sachs launches limited BTC derivatives trading desk


After years of anticipation, Goldman is finally offering institutional partners trading services.

One of the largest investment banks in the world just launched a cryptocurrency trading desk — though executives made sure to specify they would only be trading derivatives, and will not have actual digital assets on the books. 

A CNBC report this morning revealed a internal Goldman Sachs memo announcing the launch of a cryptocurrency trading desk. The desk will be part of Goldman’s Global Currencies and Emerging Markets division, and overseen by Digital Assets head Mathew McDermott.

The news comes shortly after a report yesterday that Goldman had begun offering BTC trading to clients via non-deliverable forwards (NDFs), a derivative tied to the price of Bitcoin. Observers noted that this choice of derivative lessens Goldman’s risk of exposure to BTC because the vehicles are bought and settled in cash.

The memo, written by Goldman partner Rajesh Venkataramani, noted that the newly-formed trading desk currently will only trade in NDFs, alongside “CME BTC future trades on a principal basis, all cash settling.”

Venkataramani noted that the asset management giant “is not in a position to trade bitcoin, or any cryptocurrency (including Ethereum) on a physical basis” and that they would be circumspect about trading and offering clients exposure to assets aside from Bitcoin derivatives.

“Looking ahead, as we continue to broaden our market presence, albeit in a measured way, we are selectively onboarding new liquidity providers to help us in expanding our offering,” he wrote.

Goldman has maintained a on-again, off-again relationship with cryptocurrencies. In late 2017 there were rumors that the asset management firm was exploring a desk (though they were concerned with security then, as well), a move that some jokingly refer to as a top signal — though in 2019 Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon refuted that story.

Despite the cautious entry into trading, Goldman has been aggressively pursuing other avenues to benefit from blockchain technology. The firm is participating in a recently-announced $120 million digital bond sale on Ethereum, and earlier in the week participated in a $15 million raise for crypto intelligence startup Coin Metrics. 

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