TL;DR: The cryptocurrency world is abuzz once again with anticipation for Bakkt, a giant, regulated physically-settled bitcoin exchange, to formally enter the ecosystem after months and promises and pullbacks. The last official communication from the company, other than retweeting fawning media hype, came days ago when it teased on the 16th, “Only 7 days until the launch of the bitcoin futures contract. One step closer to delivering on our mission: Expanding access to the global economy by building trust in and unlocking the value of digital assets.”
Will Bakkt Flinch Again?
It has been over a year since Bakkt entered the crypto space’s consciousness, filling Lambo dreamers with all sorts of notions about institutional adoption and legacy finance legitimacy. The exchange was to launch last December. And then it was January of this year. Then it was to be July of this year. Word came it would be September 23rd, 2019 as the we’re-not-kidding, line-in-the-sand rollout. As it stands, at the time of publication, media reports are suggesting Bakkt is slightly moving up their launch to Sunday, September 22nd, 2019, 8pm ET. Its parent company, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owner of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) among others, is set to offer Bakkt Daily and Monthly Bitcoin Futures — the first of their kind traded on a US regulated exchange.
The marquee cryptocurrency BTC, however, has traded sideways in recent days, dipping and then returning to the psychologically important $10,000 price mark while the rest of market is sharply down as of this writing. More than a few analysts have suggested the reason for Bakkt’s previous hesitancy was this exact problem, volatility, spooking them from formally entering. For its part, the as-yet-launched exchange claimed Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regulatory red tape and a New York Department of Financial Services license as root causes for delay.
Indeed, like their non-physically settled futures counterparts at CME and Cboe, the point of Bakkt is an attempt to bring a kind of institutionally desired order to digital assets, to tame them. Both Chicago exchanges have been unable to accomplish that feat by anyone’s measure, and so the jury is still out if Bakkt has requisite muscle. The exchange brings the heft of ICE and its clearinghouse partners used by finance magnets all over the world, and ICE carries legacy gravitas and then some.
Since the year’s-long hype, Bakkt has been steadily readying for today’s rollout. It acquired crypto-trading executive talent such as Adam White from Coinbase, secured more than $182.5 million in funding, and snagged partnerships with the likes of Starbucks and Microsoft. Their careful, methodical entry might just pay off where the clunky and ham-fisted attempts by LedgerX and Facebook Coin Libra clearly failed. The bar is set high for the exchange, especially with its backing and retail connections (many assume Bakkt will venture into payments to undermine credit card cartels at some point), and ICE founder and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher told Fortune just days ago, ” It’s like opening night. Everyone is nervous.”
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DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.