It sometimes feels like the price of Bitcoin rises and falls on the turn of a speculative dime, and yesterday we saw one such moment come to pass, when it was reported that Goldman Sachs was planning to drop a plan to build a Bitcoin trading platform, causing the price of the cryptocurrency to crash. But today, at TechCrunch Disrupt, the CFO of Goldman Sachs described the story as “fake news,” and said that in fact the bank is still considering how to offer services that involved physical Bitcoin, but that it has not yet set a timeline for it.
“I was in New York yesterday and I was co-chairing our risk committee, and I saw the news article,” said CFO Marty Chavez, referring to the report yesterday. “It wasn’t like we announced anything or that anything had changed for us… I never thought I’d hear myself actually use this term, but I’d really have to describe that as fake news.”
As Chavez described it, Goldman Sachs had been building a Bitcoin trading platform modelled on a commodities futures trading platform, where there is never any Bitcoin traded, but more the promise of how the currency might move.
“Our institutional clients said, ‘We would love for you to clear these new Bitcoin-linked futures contracts offered by the exchanges,’ so we’ve been doing that, and then clients since May [started to ask], ‘We would like for you also to provide us liquidity and trade the principal as principal the futures contracts, not just clear them,’ and so we’ve been doing that, the next stage of the exploration, what we call ‘non-deliverable forwards.’
“These are derivatives, over the counter derivatives,” he continued. “They’re settled in U.S. dollars and the reference price is the Bitcoin U.S. dollar price established by a set of exchanges, the same one that’s referenced in the futures contracts, and we’re working on that now because the clients wanted physical Bitcoin — something tremendously interesting and tremendously challenging. From the perspective of custody, we don’t yet see an institutional grade custody cases custodian solution for Bitcoin.”
While companies like Coinbase are trying to tap into that demand by offering custodial services aimed squarely at institutional money, but Goldman itself still has no timeline for when its own offering might be ready.
“We’re interested in having that exist, and it’s a long road and so I would just be speculating. Maybe someone who was thinking about our activities here got very excited that we would be making markets as principal and physical Bitcoin, and as they got into realizing that that’s part of the evolution but it’s not here yet.”
Bitcoin — and the crypto market generally — suffered significant price losses this week off the back of reports of Goldman’s aborted plans, but that wasn’t the sole trigger. Reuters also reported that EU is looking into regulating crypto and is preparing a report that proposes to regulate exchanges and ICOs.
Bitcoin hit a record valuation of nearly $20,000 in January, and it has struggled to return to those highs during the rest of this year. The cryptocurrency was priced at $6,536 at the time of writing, some way short of a months-long high of $8,266 on July 26, according to information from Coinmarketcap.com.