NYSE Announces New Global Digital Assets Platform, Plans For Bitcoin Futures Launch

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Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the operator of 23 leading global exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has announced plans to create a Microsoft cloud-powered “open and regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets,” according to a press release published August 3.

The operator of NYSE is forming a new company, dubbed “Bakkt,” and will work alongside a marquee group of enterprises that includes BCG, Microsoft, Starbucks, and others, to create the new ecosystem.

The intention is to create an integrated platform that enables consumers, merchants, and institutional clients to buy, sell, store, and spend digital assets on a “seamless global network,” the press release notes.

First use cases will be for trading and conversion of Bitcoin (BTC) against fiat currencies, which ICE notes is currently “the most liquid cryptocurrency.” This conversion into fiat will enable consumers to purchase any item at their local Starbucks, in what will be crypto’s debut with the popular chain.

The ecosystem is expected to include “federally regulated markets and warehousing” alongside “merchant and consumer applications”:

“As an initial component of the Bakkt offering, Intercontinental Exchange’s U.S.-based futures exchange and clearing house plan to launch a 1-day physically delivered Bitcoin contract along with physical warehousing in November 2018, subject to CFTC review and approval.

These regulated venues will establish new protocols for managing the specific security and settlement requirements of digital currencies. In addition, the clearing house plans to create a separate guarantee fund that will be funded by Bakkt.”

By mobilizing trusted market infrastructure, ICE says it intends to design Bakkt to “support transaction flows” in the $270 billion digital asset marketplace, and facilitate its “secure” and “efficient” evolution.

Investors in the Bakkt ecosystem are expected to include Microsoft’s venture capital arm, Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital, Alan Howard, Pantera Capital, and Susquehanna International Group, LLP, among others.

The news confirms sources in May that had suggested the NYSE operator was considering launching physically-delivered BTC futures contracts, distinct from those currently offered on CMEand CBOE that are ultimately settled in fiat. Analysts said at the time that physical delivery would open “the floodgates” to institutional capital and potentially result in some “big price moves” in the crypto markets.

This chimes with Mike Novogratz’s recent estimation that “a trusted, name custodian — [such as] a Japanese bank or HSBC or ICE or Goldman Sachs — [is what would ultimately] allow institutional investors to feel comfortable.”

Australian bitcoin exchange CoinJar has launched the country’s first cryptocurrency index fund available to wholesale investors.

CoinJar Launches Australia’s First Crypto Fund

Announced on Thursday, the CoinJar Digital Currency Fund provides a convenient way for wealthy Australian investors to obtain exposure to cryptocurrencies while offloading the custodial responsibility to another entity.

The Digital Currency Fund has two classes. The first, Bitcoin Class, exclusively provides investors with exposure to bitcoin (BTC). The second, Mixed Class, tracks the market cap-weighted price movements of four of the six largest cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ethereum (ETH), ripple (XRP), and litecoin (LTC).

Jordan Michaelides, head of institutional at CoinJar states…

“Investing in cryptocurrency carries certain risks and can be an unnecessarily complex process. Traditionally, an individual investor in cryptocurrency has also been exposed to potential loss through cybercrime. We are launching the CoinJar Digital Currency Fund to handle the custody risks, simplify the investment process and provide industry best practice in security for wholesale investors,”

The fund is currently restricted to wholesale investors, that is, high net worth investors who have obtained an accountant’s certification that they have net assets of at least AUD$2.5 million or a gross income of AUD$250,000 for each of the last two years. This classification is roughly equivalent to the accredited investor certification that U.S. buyers must attain before they can invest in cryptocurrency funds and many initial coin offerings (ICOs).

First-time investors must contribute a minimum of $50,000 to the fund, while current investors can make subsequent investments in increments of at least $10,000. The fund carries an annual management fee of 1.3 percent of Bitcoin Class and 1.8 percent for Mixed Class.

Bitcoin Matures as a Mainstream Financial Asset

cryptocurrency wall street bitcoin etf

Though the first cryptocurrency fund available to Australian investors, the CoinJar Digital Currency fund joins a growing list of investment products that present cryptoassets in wrappers familiar — and perhaps more palatable — to sophisticated investors.

The New York-based Grayscale was the leader in this space, launching the Bitcoin Investment Trust (OTC: GBTC) in 2013 and a variety of other investment funds since. Two of these, GBTC and the Ethereum Classic Investment Trust (OTC: ETCG) can now be purchased by retail investors on the secondary market.

The industry has also developed a burgeoning cryptocurrency derivatives market, with products such as futures, options, and swaps available on both established stock exchanges (CME and CBOE) and upstart trading platforms (LedgerX, Crypto Facilities, among others). Earlier this month, two institutional investors completed the first exchange for physical (EFP) involving BTC when they swapped a position in a bitcoin futures contract for an equivalent amount of the physical asset itself.

Mike Novogratz’s crypto-focused merchant bank, Galaxy Digital LP, is set to begin trading on Canada’s TSX Venture Exchange on August 1, Bloomberg reports July 30.

The New-York headquartered firm will reportedly trade on the TSX Venture Exchange through a separate vehicle, Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd., under the GLXY ticker.

For Galaxy’s founder, the former Goldman Sachs partner and crypto bull Mike Novogratz, the route to secure this week’s listing has been long-winded. Without the two years’ of audited financials required for a U.S. initial public offering (IPO), the fledgling bank opted for a so-called “reverse takeover” route by merging with an already TSX-listed shell company.

The process has reportedly taken a “frustrating” — in Novogratz’s words — eight months, with Canadian regulators closely scrutinizing the firm and pushing back its trading debut from April to August. In a TV interview with BNN Bloomberg in Toronto, Novogratz said:

“If I knew what I know now, knew the crypto markets were going to swoon as much, and it was going to take so long, I might have stayed private for another year or so and then gone public. But I don’t think it’s a mistake.”

This spring saw a protracted downtrend in the crypto markets, with Bitcoin (BTC) dipping below $6,000 after its industry record highs of $20,000 in December 2017. According to Bloomberg, Galaxy sold shares at $5 Canadian dollars (about $3.80 USD) apiece in a private placement in January, weeks after Bitcoin had peaked.

“Unfortunately, the Canadian capital markets aren’t roaring anymore,” Novogratz is quoted as saying in the interview, adding that he has “faith that they will come back.” Placing Galaxy’s difficulties in the wider listings landscape, Novogratz noted,

“There was a surge of companies that listed in Canada and they all traded really poorly. I think the regulators got a little bit more nervous and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, let’s make sure we know what we’re seeing here’.”

Brady Fletcher, managing director of the TSX Venture Exchange, told Bloomberg that although the due diligence process “probably takes a little bit longer than entrepreneurs like Mike would like it to,” TSX is nonetheless “excited about the upcoming listing and [thinks that] Galaxy is a great story.”

According to Bloomberg, Novogratz intends to seek further stock listings in Frankfurt, London, and Hong Kong, adding,

“We’re going to be a global company; we want to be globally traded.”

Galaxy Digital released its first quarter report for 2018, posting a $134 million loss with $85.5 million as an unrealized loss on digital assets.

The firm has also recently ventured into the crypto-lending sphere, leading a $52.5 million fundraising round for BlockFi, a firm that offers corporate and retail loans on backed by digital asset holdings.

Both amateur crypto traders and retail investors alike are starting to lose interest within this booming cryptocurrency industry due to the rather lengthy and painful decline of the market. In spite of all this, cryptocurrency as a business continues to scale and evolve, especially cryptocurrency trading platforms.

New players to the cryptocurrency marketplace like Goldman Sachs and Intercontinental exchange (ICE) who is the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) are planning to allow their customers to trade Bitcoin futures. ICE on the other hand will offer swap contracts to banks so that clients can obtain their cryptocurrency the day following their purchase transaction.

While it seems some of the lower skilled investors are starting to leave the market the big players are starting to enter, which represents a huge potential for cryptocurrency trading. It’s more likely than not that cyber criminals will continue to target this industry more heavily now and in the near future.

Several security analysts have come up with a list of techniques that cyber hackers have utilized in order to hack user’s cryptocurrency trading platforms. The list below also includes some of the most common attack methods and highlights countermeasures used to combat these situations.

Phishing Emails Tactic

phishing email scam crypto attack hacker scammerThis includes a scenario where a security system message is sent from a cryptocurrency exchange letting you know that suspicious activity has been detected on your account. In response to this activity, the service send you a notification to your email along with a hyperlink and recommendation to change your password immediately in order to prevent your funds from being stolen.

Despite the simple scheme setup, many novice traders continue to fall for this as they click on the reset link and fill out several fields in order to change the old password to a new one. As you can imagine, once the old password field is completed, this information is transferred over to the hacker where he can readily access your account.

Here are a few rules that you need to follow in order to keep your accounts safe:

  • Always inspect the email address sent to you from the exchange. Official emails are always sent from the official domains. If the email address is different than the one from the actual exchange’s domain, delete and the/or report the email to the official exchange.

Example of spoofed email could be: support@binance.co

  • Double check the URL of the password reset link within the email. The password reset page should always reside on the actual cryptocurrency exchange website. Hackers are very sneaky when it comes to choosing their spoofed domain name, which typically is one or two letters off from the original.

Example of spoofed password reset link could be: http://passwordreset.binaance.com  < notice the double aa.

  • Most cryptocurrency exchanges will not send you a password reset email in the first place, unless you’ve logged into their exchange from a different IP. Obviously, if this never occurred, then delete or report the email.

Phishing Site Tactic

Even the most savvy cryptocurrency trader will input the occasional typo when typing out their favorite cryptocurrency exchange into the address bar. Many have overlooked misspellings and security verification icons within their browser, which lead unsuspecting traders to input their username and password into a fake exchange.

In order to avoid this easy to make mistake be sure to:

  • Bookmark your cryptocurrency exchange trading platforms and only visit the bookmarked link.
  • Always look out for the “padlock symbol” within the address bar of the site you’re visiting. All cryptocurrency exchanges are secured via SSL.

Email Hacking Tactic

email hacking crypto exchange securityThe email link to your cryptocurrency exchange tends to be targeted just as much as your account itself. Once the hacker takes control of your email, he can then initiate a password reset from your cryptocurrency exchange, click the password reset link inside your email account, change your password, and then access your exchange.

This is where the two factor authentication method comes in handy. It’s the most effective protection mechanism to prevent unsuspecting attackers from accessing your account.

Teamviewer Tactic

google authenticator scam hacking crypto exchangeIf you’ve managed to install the Google Authenticator on your computers web browser, then you effectively opened yourself up to a potential attack and rendered this protective measure useless.

With TeamViewer installed, the attacker can access your computer in real time and hack into your exchange utilizing the Google authenticator embedded on your browser.

The 2FA is only effective if it’s installed on another device like your smartphone. This reduces the risk of being hacked considerably. You might find that the two factor authentication is a bit redundant, but you should keep in mind that hackers can outwit even the most successful traders.

It’s extremely crucial to follow these basic and simple guidelines which will significantly reduce the risk of you losing your valuable cryptocurrency in a potential hacking attempt.

Earlier this week, the cryptocurrency markets slumped: Bitcoin (BTC) lost its $6,500 support, and Ethereum (ETC) dropped well below the $400 mark (rates stand at $6,620 and $319 respectively by the press time). While it’s important to remember that on such a volatile and scarcely regulated market, news might affect the prices to a lesser degree, and the recent drop correlated with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision to postpone its verdict on the listing and trading of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) until late September.

The SEC has gained the reputation of being a major news-maker in the cryptocurrency field: The watchdog’s decisions toward the market have been associated with a number of price drops and bull runs.

SEC deems DAO tokens to be illegal securities

When: July 2017

Alleged reaction: Slightly bearish

In July 2017, the SEC came through with a major decision, putting its mark of interest on the crypto market. The regulator reviewed the infamous decentralized autonomous organization (DOA) case and concluded that DAO tokens, issued via its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) back in 2016, were in fact securities and hence had to register with the SEC beforehand.

By making that move, the SEC effectively showed that many other ICOs, which were abundant during their unregulated, ‘free run’ throughout the 2016-2017 period, might be in trouble as well. In order to determine if an ICO constitutes a security or not, the SEC usually applies the Howey Test — essentially, if a token is marketed as a profit-oriented asset, most likely it will be deemed a security being offered by the agency. However, the watchdog has explained that such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, as the facts and circumstances of any investment transaction — including economic realities — will determine whether the transaction constitutes the offer of sale of a security.

Even though the SEC decided not press any charges that time, it gave a clear signal that the ICO frenzy could be over. Nevertheless, the market barely reacted: While the top five coins fell in price on the day of the announcement, the overall reaction wasn’t dramatic. Ethereum went down about 10 percent, but soon bounced back to its previous value. It might have been the result of market volatility rather than the SEC news, as such.

The SEC denies second Winklevoss ETF application

When: July 2018

Alleged reaction: Slightly bearish

The prospect of getting an authority-sanctioned, crypto-backed ETF has been widely discussed in the crypto community. Some believe it will provoke mass adoption, and the prices will ascend, while others remain skeptical — leaning toward crypto-anarchic sentiments. The SEC gets to decide if the industry is ready for an ETF, and the watchdog hasn’t been particularly optimistic thus far.

In either case, the market tends to react to most ETF-related news. A stark example is the recent SEC’s denial of the Winklevoss twins second application on July 26, which happened just prior to the latest ETF-induced panic in the market. The SEC wasn’t convinced by the Winklevoss’ plea that Bitcoin markets are “inherently resistant to manipulation,” which was among the primary reasons for the rejection.

As mentioned above, the Winklevoss brothers had tried registering a Bitcoin ETF before — their first attempt dates back to 2013. That time, it took the SEC four years to come up with a decision: Finally, on March 10 of last year, the agency denied the initial application based on concerns “that significant markets for Bitcoin are unregulated.”

Both times, the market reacted negatively. In March 2017, the price of Bitcoin fell from $1,300 to around $1,100 in a single day. In July 2018, BTC lost over $400 within the span of just three hours, although it managed to regain its value within the following 24 hours — SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce’s statement of official dissent, which was published soon after the hearing, could have helped in that rebound. In it, she opined that the agency’s move “sends a strong signal that innovation is unwelcome in our markets, a signal that may have effects far beyond the fate of Bitcoin ETPs [Exchange Traded Products],” recognizing the SEC’s influence in the market.

The SEC denies VanEck SolidX ETF request

When: August 2018

Alleged reaction: Strongly bearish

Similarly, this catastrophic week on the crypto market is largely associated with the SEC postponing its decision on the listing and trading of a Bitcoin ETF powered by investment firm VanEck and financial services company SolidX until Sept. 30.

The VanEck SolidX ETF application was submitted in June and was generally considered to be the most promising among crypto-backed ETFs: It didn’t feature bold assumptions akin to the one submitted by the Winklevoss twins that claimed BTC markets are “inherently resistant to manipulation.” Moreover, the VanEck SolidX fund is physically backed — meaning that it will actually hold BTC — and both firms have reassured that this will protect against the loss or theft of the cryptocurrency. According to their filing with the SEC, each share of the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust is set to cost a hefty $200,000. As SolidX CEO Daniel Gallancy explained to CNBC, the price is set at a higher rate to focus on institutional investors, and the fund hopes to get listed on the Cboe BZX Equities Exchange.

On Aug. 7, the SEC issued a document citing their right to extend the review period. It also stated that the agency had received more than 1,300 comments on the proposed rule change to list and trade the VanEck SolidX BTC shares. Per the document, within 45 days of the filing of a proposed rule change — the trust submitted their application on June 6 — or within 90 days, should the Commission deem necessary, the Commission will approve, disapprove or extend the period of consideration.

While the news seemed rather neutral, and essentially meant that the SEC simply needs more time to rule whether the crypto industry is suitable for an ETF at the moment, panic induced and the markets plummeted: After solid growth to break above the $7,000 mark earlier that day, BTC saw a loss of around $500 in six hours and has lost around 12 percent this week. Similarly, other coins crashed as well — e.g., Ripple (XRP) lost as much as 23 percent of its value since the news was announced.

On the other hand, bullish news on the market that came out recently, like the announcement of upcoming cryptocurrency project Bakkt by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which operates 23 large global exchanges — including New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) — appeared to be largely ignored. In an interview with CNBC, Pantera Capital CEO Dan Morehead claimed that investors were “overreacting” to the SEC postponing the ETF hearing. He predicted that a Bitcoin ETF approval will take “quite a long time,” citing the nascent stage of crypto adoption. The hedge fund manager also stressed that the most recent asset that gained approval from the SEC for ETF certification was copper, a metal that “has been on earth for 10,000 years.”

SEC and CFTC held a joint meeting where they recognized cryptocurrencies’ importance

When: February 2018

Alleged reaction: Strongly bullish

On Feb. 6, the SEC — along with the Commodities and Future Trading Commission (CFTC) — held a highly anticipated joint hearing in which they elaborated on their stance toward cryptocurrencies, ICOs and blockchain technology. During the meeting, the regulators gave credit to the cryptocurrency industry for adding a new paradigm to the financial system, stressed the importance of fair regulatory frameworks and famously said that “if there was no Bitcoin, there would be no blockchain.”

Consequently, that promoted a bullish trend, and the community reaction following the hearing had a positive effect on the crypto market — which was staggering at the time, likely due to China reiteration of it’s zero-tolerance of crypto, rumors of a ban in India and some mainstream banks prohibiting cryptocurrency purchases with their credit cards. After the SEC/CFTC showed their positive stance in regard to some crypto industries features, Bitcoin and Ethereum saw 20 percent growth in value, and the rest of the cryptocurrency market rallied into the green.

SEC rules that BTC and ETH are “not securities”

When: June 2018

Alleged reaction: Slightly bullish

The SEC’s approach to cryptocurrencies is still not crystal clear. However, at this point it becomes evident that, while the agency considers most ICOs to be securities, the two leading cryptos — Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) — are not seen as such. That sentiment was recently voiced by Jay Clayton, the chair of the SEC, who declared that BTC is not a security because it acts as a replacement for sovereign currencies:

“Replace the dollar, the yen, the euro with Bitcoin. That type of currency is not a security.”

Soon after the news broke, Bitcoin’s price went from $7,525 up to $7,728 within 24 hours, showing a slight growth.

A couple of days after that, William Hinman, the director of the SEC’s division of corporation finance, claimed that Ethereum (ETH) isn’t a security either, putting an end to a months-long dilemma that could have potentially ended up with Ethereum’s 2014 ICO being outlawed:

“Putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions[…] And, as with Bitcoin, applying the disclosure regime of the federal securities laws to current transactions in Ether would seem to add little value.”

That signal was positive for ETH, meaning that it wouldn’t face any charges. Consequently, the coin’s price rose as much as 11 percent, up to $520.68.

Cryptocurrencies and the SEC

The SEC reminds that exchanges should be registered with the agency

When: March 2018

Alleged reaction: Slightly bearish

In March 2018, the SEC issued a public warning aimed at crypto exchanges. The watchdog explicitly stated that platforms who trade “securities” — and the SEC deems many altcoins as such — “must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange or be exempt from registration.” The announcement read:

“The SEC staff has concerns that many online trading platforms appear to investors as SEC-registered and regulated marketplaces when they are not.  Many platforms refer to themselves as ‘exchanges,’ which can give the misimpression to investors that they are regulated or meet the regulatory standards of a national securities exchange.”

Hence, major crypto exchanges were urged to comply with the SEC’s regulations, entailing a strick Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering( ATL) approach, among other things — some major U.S.-based exchanges, like Coinbase, have since tried to register with the authority.

The news coincided with a noticeable downtrend in the market: For instance, BTC went down 8.6 percent from 24 hours earlier, losing its $10,000 support. However, the surge could have been initiated by other factors, such as rumours about an alleged Binance security breach that were spreading around the time.

Starbucks has clarified that it will not be accepting Bitcoin (BTC) or other cryptocurrencies as payment, despite misleading reports from mainstream media, a spokesperson told MotherboardFriday, July 3.

Earlier on Friday, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) operator the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) announced plans to create a new “global platform and ecosystem for digital assets,” dubbed “Bakkt,” alongside a group of big name enterprises including Starbucks, BCG and Microsoft.

Following the major announcement, a number of mainstream media outlets, including Bloombergand CNBC, ran misleading headlines –– such as CNBC’s “New Starbucks partnership with Microsoft allows customers to pay for Frappuccinos with bitcoin” –– directly implying that the partnership would mean customers could purchase items at Starbucks for crypto.

A spokesperson for the multinational coffee chain clarified in comments to Motherboard that in fact “customers will not be able to pay for Frappuccinos with bitcoin,” but rather the company is part of a new venture creating a platform, Bakkt, to “convert digital assets like Bitcoin into U.S. dollars, which can be used at Starbucks,” adding:

“At the current time, we are announcing the launch of trading and conversion of Bitcoin. However, we will continue to talk with customers and regulators as the space evolves.”

Starbucks’ official press release Friday elaborated on the project, stating that it would, pending regulation, include physically delivered Bitcoin futures:

“As an initial component of the Bakkt offering, Intercontinental Exchange’s U.S.-based futures exchange and clearing house plan to launch a 1-day physically delivered Bitcoin contract along with physical warehousing in November 2018, subject to CFTC review and approval.”

In May, the New York Times reported on sources suggesting the ICE was considering launching physically-delivered BTC futures contracts, a move Friday’s news confirms.

In late July, former Wall Street exec turned crypto entrepreneur stated crypto markets “need a trusted, name custodian — a Japanese bank or HSBC or ICE or Goldman Sachs — to allow institutional investors to feel comfortable.”

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