Goldman Sachs has finally confirmed that it is getting into bitcoin trading.
A New York Times report this morning confirms that the Wall Street bank, which has a storied history, plans to begin trading the newest investment instrument on the block in the next few weeks. According to the report, Goldman will use its own money to trade bitcoin futures contracts and is working to develop a new type of derivative – non-deliverable forward (probably named so because bitcoin futures are cash-settled). Rana Yared, managing director of the securities division at Goldman Sachs, attributed the investment firm’s decision to demand from clients like hedge funds. Endowments and foundations also became interested in bitcoin trading after they received donations from “newly-minted” bitcoin millionaires.
A key point to note here is that Goldman’s clients were mostly interested in using bitcoin as a store of value. The cryptocurrency’s price has skyrocketed in the last year even as its utility as a medium for daily transactions has diminished. Long wait times and high fees to process transactions coupled with hesitation by consumers and retailers to use it for purchase or sale have converted its perceived convenience into an annoyance.
Goldman’s decision to enter bitcoin trading is a brave one. Institutional investors are still grappling with bitcoin’s status and have largely stayed away from investing in it. Some investment banks, such as Bank of America, have also issued explicit instructions warning their trading desks from dealing in bitcoin. Goldman, itself, has maintained a cryptic stance regarding the cryptocurrency. Its CEO Lloyd Blankfein has not dismissed it but his employees have declared that bitcoin is not the new gold.
Goldman is also a clearing agent for bitcoin futures and, according to reports, charges premium margin for the task. In her interview with the New York Times, Yared said that the bank was “cleareyed” about its decision to begin bitcoin trading. “It is not a new risk that we don’t understand,” Ms. Yared said. “It is just a heightened risk that we need to be extra aware of here.”