Crypto and Mainstream Finance Move Towards Each Other

The demarcating lines between traditional finance and cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly blurry.

Recent announcements by regulators and crypto companies point the way to a future in which the two ecosystems, different in their working and philosophically antagonistic until recently, are coalescing to become a single entity. FTX has become the first crypto exchange to offer trading of regular stocks to customers while SEC chief Gary Gensler’s plea to increase the agency’s budget based on recent occurrences in crypto highlights the importance of cryptocurrencies to the agency’s future.       

FTX Begins Offering Stock Trading to Select Customers

Crypto exchange FTX.US has begun offering some customers the ability to trade shares of select companies like Apple and in some exchange-traded funds as of today. Brett Harrison, FTX.US president, told Fortune that offering traditional finance products has “always been an aspiration” for the company.

While the ability to trade mainstream products is currently restricted to select customers and some stocks, FTX.US plans to broaden the feature’s capabilities to more stocks and all users by mid-summer. FTX has adopted the playbook of Robinhood, a company that FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried took a stake in, and is offering “no-fee brokerage accounts [and] commission-less trading” to users. Since it is routing orders through NASDAQ, FTX.US is unlikely to face controversies related to the payment for order flow that engulfed Robinhood.

FTX.US’s latest move distinguishes it from crypto exchange competitors, like Coinbase and Kraken. But it is entering a crowded mainstream market in which traders and novice investors are spoilt for choice, as far as trading apps are concerned.  

It is also entering at an inopportune time. Markets across the board, whether mainstream or cryptocurrency, are suffering deep losses and there is talk of recession among economists. FTX.US will have to fight hard to carve out a market share for itself among competitors in this bear market. To that end, the company is not interested in making money from the new initiative. Instead, it will focus on garnering as many users as possible and improving its platform.  

S&P Global Announces Chief DeFi Officer

Another overture from mainstream markets towards crypto was made by ratings agency S&P Global which announced a chief DeFi officer and a Head of DeFi Transformation in a press release earlier this week. “…DeFi is resulting in new market frameworks that will both complement and disrupt the established primary and secondary debt capital markets, with potential implications for all credit market participants,” the company stated in a press release. As such, the new positions are tasked with developing new products and services for the DeFi market.

There have been previous efforts at assigning ratings to cryptos and associated products. Some have failed to gather much traction in the face of crypto’s unpredictable prices and ecosystem while others are not so well-known outside the crypto community. S&P is the first mainstream ratings agency to take a stab at this problem.

SEC Chief Gensler Wants More Money to Fight Crypto Crime  

SEC Chief Gary Gensler used the latest crypto scandal – the depegging of Terra’s UST – to make the case for more budgetary funds from the House Appropriations Committee. “…there was one crypto complex that went from $50 billion in value to zero just in the last three weeks,” he told the committee. He said “the public is not protected” from crypto crime that the agency was “outpersonned” from crypto criminals despite the addition of 20 investigations on its rolls last month. He also said crypto exchanges should register with the agency.

While they might be ominous to crypto businesses operating outside legal bounds, Gensler’s statements are also of the growing importance and heft of crypto and DeFi businesses and products. Many have called for new rules and agencies to regulate crypto; but Gensler says existing rules are enough to police crypto. Either way, the debate is proof of an oncoming merge of crypto and mainstream practices.

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