The world’s biggest Bitcoin wallet company Blockchain launched a cryptocurrency exchange today. Nicole Sherrod, head of retail at Blockchain, said that the custodial exchange, which will be called the PIT, would be connected to non-custodial wallets offered by the company to ensure near-instant transfers.
Custodial exchanges store coins traded on their platform and non-custodial wallets offer full ownership of cryptocurrencies by providing owners with a public and private key to access their holdings. Most popular exchanges, such as Coinbase, offer custodial wallets.
Based on latest statistics, Blockchain claims to have 40 million wallets on its platform. Peter Smith, CEO of Blockchain, told Fortune that about 14 million of those wallets were active.
A Focus on Speed
In an ecosystem crowded with cryptocurrency exchanges, Blockchain plans to distinguish itself with speed and faster execution of orders. The announcement for its exchange states that it has “speeds a quantum faster than any other crypto exchange.”
To that end, the London-based company has also built out an exchange-matching engine for the PIT at the Equinix LD4 data center in London. The data center is a ploy to ensure that large trading firms interested in getting a head start over competitors in order routing by co-locating servers (or placing them within the same premises as those of the exchange).
The matching engine is called Mercury and was developed by Tom Haller, who was once chief software architect at the NYSE. The Blockchain team also boasts experts who previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Google, UBS, Revolut, and Interactive Brokers. It has also colocated its servers with Sherrod said trades on Blockchain’s exchange will be conducted in microseconds, similar to those at mainstream exchanges.
In the Fortune interview, Smith claimed that Mercury was superior to other matching engines in the market and added that the interface would be customized based on investor type and their level of sophistication. A Blockchain spokesperson also told the magazine that Mercury has technology to prevent “opportunistic traders” from front-running, or placing their orders ahead of others to purchase coins for cheap and reselling them to others at inflated prices.
“I would not feel comfortable delivering a platform to retail investors that puts them in a position where they couldn’t get in and out of a trade with lightning-fast speed,” Sherrod told CNBC.
Sherrod said the PIT will focus on crypto offerings but will also have options for margin trading and SegWit software upgrades, which increases the average size of a block to enable more and faster transactions.
Real World Dependencies
Not everyone is impressed with Blockchain’s announcement. One industry insider told Coindesk that it is “almost impossible to model out” real-world infrastructural dependencies. The source also the online publication that the system could only be proved by “real-world trading volumes.” CoinRoutes CEO Dave Weisberger told online publication The Block earlier this year that most cryptocurrency traders are more interested in OTC trading services and block trading services than speed of execution for their orders.
He has a point.
The nascent cryptocurrency ecosystem still does not boast enough liquidity and volumes for order routing speed to be a differentiating factor. That said, the imminent entry of institutional investors and high frequency trading firms, some of which are already part of the ecosystem, will change that dynamic. While it purportedly claims to target retail investors, Blockchain’s move is essentially aimed at the new institutional faces in crypto town.