In a move aimed at further normalizing the otherwise-opaque and difficult-to-trade world of cryptocurrency trading, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) , the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, launched its first-ever cryptocurrency futures contract late Sunday that settles in bitcoin.
The first contract changed hands on Sunday evening on ICE's futures exchange at a price of $10,115, according to Bakkt, the firm behind the contracts. Bakkt is an ICE-backed venture that aims to make trading and paying with cryptocurrencies viable for both retail and institutional investors.
The platform offers daily and monthly trading of physically settled bitcoin futures, to be processed through Bakkt's Bitcoin Warehouse, which began processing withdrawals and deposits at the beginning of September. Days later, Bakkt announced it had secured a $125 million insurance policy protecting bitcoin stored in its warehouse.
Bakkt Bitcoin Futures are now actively trading on ICE Futures U.S., while the Bakkt Warehouse continues to onboard bitcoin
We take our customers' trust seriously, and are excited to serve this market— Bakkt (@Bakkt) September 23, 2019
Traders who hold the ICE futures until they expire will either be paid in bitcoin or deliver bitcoin to Bakkt to settle their bets. Called physical delivery, the same process is used in other futures markets such as bonds, oil and cattle, which traders argue ensures a tight link between futures prices and the price of the underlying market.
The settlement process is different to ICE competitor CME Group (CME) , which introduced its own futures contracts for the digital currency in 2017 that pays out in cash.
Cryptocurrency proponents are hoping that ICE's bitcoin futures, which are federally regulated, will provide legitimacy to the asset class, which has drawn intense skepticism for its lack of transparency and liquidity, and accompanying wild swings in market value.