11.07.2017
By Rob Daly

Cboe Readies Bitcoin Futures

Wall Street analysts had bitcoin on their mind during Cboe Global Market’s third-quarter earnings call as they peppered chairman and CEO Edward Tilly for updates on the exchange’s plans to launch trading bitcoin futures.

The CBOE Futures Exchange on which the contract would trade is operationally ready, according to Tilly.

However, the exchange operator is waiting for the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission to grant its final approval.

Edward Tilly, CBOE

Edward Tilly,
Cboe Global Markets

“It is very difficult for us to gauge when the regulator makes a decision,” he said. “We think, with our partner Gemini, that we have been able to answer all of the questions coming from the CFTC. We would not speculate on a date.”

Cboe Global Markets was the second venue to announce its plans to launch a bitcoin derivatives product. The CFTC granted startup LedgerX approval to form a swaps execution facility and derivatives clearing organization to trade and settle bitcoin options in July.

At the end of October, cross-town rival CME Group also announced it also would launch trading in bitcoin futures pending regulatory approval.

“I’m encouraged by the recent announcement as it validates cryptocurrencies and the future of cryptocurrencies,” said Chris Concannon, president and COO at Cboe Global Markets.

The CFE’s bitcoin futures will leverage the model that Cboe Global Markets has used for it VIX futures and options, according to Tilly.

Traders will be able to replicate the positions they have on the Gemini’s bitcoin trading platform using the new futures contracts.

“We will settle our future to the actual trade occurring on Gemini after its auction,” Tilly explained.

Tilly is comfortable in relying on pricing data from Gemini since the trading venue voluntarily registered with the New York State Department of Financial Services to be regulated as a bitcoin exchange.

The CME Group’s offering, on the other hand, will settle using the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate, which the CME Group and its Crypto Facilities partner calculate using data from Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit, and Kraken.

Although the first contract will be for bitcoin, the Cboe Global Markets is not placing a bet on the long-term viability of any one digital currency.

“Whether if that is ether or bitcoin, it will be interesting, but we are not in that fight,” said Tilly. “We know right now that customers are looking for exposure to bitcoin.”

Concannon also noted that a mature and liquid digital currency futures market would be the first stepping stone towards launch exchange-traded funds based on those futures.

“Over time, we do envision ETFs coming to market once the regulated futures market is built and liquid,” he said.

However, that will take some time since bitcoin, the most liquid of digital currencies, only trades about $2 billion a day, according to Concannon. “That is a relatively mid-sized stock listed on one of our equities markets.”

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