Cast your mind back to 2017 – or not even so far back, if we’re being honest. The thought of traditional finance working with crypto was anathema. Most cryptocurrency companies struggled to get access to banking services, many global regulators and financial institutions were shunning Bitcoin and other digital assets entirely, and key opinion leaders and analysts warned their clients to stay away.
Today, a burgeoning ecosystem of decentralized finance, stablecoins, blockchain-enabled payment platforms, and technological advances has emerged. One by one, the big banks began seeing the benefits of blockchain technology and started running pilots, buying up patents, or launching their own cryptocurrencies for settling payments faster.
A Seachange in Regulation
In July 2020, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ruled that U.S. banks could offer custody services for crypto assets. This opened the gateway for investors to hold all their assets with their habitual custodian, making entering the world of crypto infinitely easier for many.
Shortly after, the OCC made an arguably more substantial move, allowing national banks to provide services to stablecoin issuers, and then, in January 2021, it stated that it would allow banks to use blockchains as a “payment network,” allowing for faster settlement.
All this favorable regulation allowing traditional banks to expand their product ranges into crypto has begun a convergence of the traditional finance and crypto worlds. Today, major global banks, including the largest custodian bank in the world, BNY Mellon, are preparing to roll out crypto custody solutions. This is good news for everyone. Not only will more traditional investors enter the space, but better, faster, and cheaper products will appear for everyone to use.
A Flailing Global Economy
Against the backdrop of unprecedented monetary dilution to fund fiscal stimuli in response to the global pandemic, the stage is set for greater adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as hard assets that can act as a store of value against the eroding purchasing power of fiat currencies.
With almost one-fifth of all US dollars created in 2020 alone, and another $1.9 trillion just created out of thin air, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing the entrance of institutional investors like MicroStrategy, Tesla, Stone Ridge Holdings, Square, and many others, as they reallocate their corporate treasuries to replace (now risky) cash-based holdings with hard assets like BTC.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. ARK Investment Management CEO Cathie Wood believes that many more big corporations will soon follow suit – we’re still early in the game. Even staunch traditional investors like Paul Tudor Jones, Bill Miller, and Stanley Druckenmiller are sufficiently concerned about impending inflation to buy BTC as a hedge.
With all this demand from institutional investors and increasing adoption from the mainstream, as companies like PayPal and Mastercard offer crypto services to their clients, bigger entrants from banks and custodians to investment funds like SkyBridge Capital and Aker have appeared on the scene.
These are all very bullish signals for crypto. Traditional financial institutions and investors entering the space legitimizes it like never before. More investors will come on board through familiar means, bringing more money into the sector and helping to build out the infrastructure even further. And traditional finance will benefit, as well, as it can offer lower-cost transactions, faster settlement, diversification, and products that cater to a newer type of client.
Advanced Tools for Institutional Traders
Just as other sectors of the cryptocurrency industry are evolving to cater to this new demand, so must Bitcoin exchanges like OKEx. We must step up to the plate and offer professional and institutional investors and traders the tools they need to effectively manage their portfolios, enhance their margin, and manage their risk.
Features such as Portfolio Margin (or Unified Account) allow enhanced capital management through the efficient use of margin and cross-collateralization of positions, all while trading multiple assets from within one account.
Now, just as many high net-worth individuals and select brokerage firms have done previously, institutional traders can unify all their assets to magnify their gains. This means that they can choose to use all their purchasing power to execute any trade. Traders do not even need to own the digital asset they wish to trade – but can simply use any of the cryptos in their portfolios as collateral. This is a game-changer for speed and efficiency, and the type of solution that will attract and retain institutional players and their needs.
As traditional finance and crypto converge and we see the institutionalization of the space, it’s easy to feel apprehensive. After all, Bitcoin was a retail-driven movement, an outlier; “magic internet money.” Today, it’s a whole new alternative asset class in its own right pushing traditional finance to make paradigm shifts in the way it operates. It’s the start of the next phase for the crypto space – and there’s no telling just how far we will go.
About the Author: Jay Hao, a tech veteran, seasoned industry leader and the CEO of OKEx is the author of this article. He believes in blockchain’s potential to eliminate all transaction barriers, achieve unparalleled efficiency and lead to an improvement in the global economic system.
Jay views security, innovation and reliability as three core pillars of OKEx. He also places significant emphasis on his role as Chief Customer Service Officer ensuring that users can make their voices heard, leading to improvements in OKEx’ products and services.
With over 21 years of industry experience, Jay has served in multiple leadership roles in blockchain and semiconductor sectors.
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay