Nasdaq President and CEO Adena Friedman said on Tuesday that the exchange operator is investigating whether and how to launch bitcoin futures contracts but that those plans are still in the “exploratory phase.”
Friedman, who was in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, confirmed reports that Nasdaq is interested in launching bitcoin futures, but she tempered those remarks by stating that the plans were far from reaching fruition.
“As of right now, we’re still in the mode of exploring that,” Friedman told Fox Business host Maria Bartriomo. “So we’ve been talking with clients. We want to make sure that if we choose to enter into the market in terms of providing a future in the market that we, number one, have client demand, and, number two, that we put the right risk management protocols in place to make it so that people feel confidence in what we’re providing and how that becomes an investable product. So we’re still in that exploratory phase of working with our clients right now.”
Previously, The Wall Street Journal had reported that the exchange would list bitcoin futures within the first half of the year. While Friedman did not lay out a specific timetable, her remarks cast doubt on whether the products will be released according to that reported roadmap.
At the time of writing, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) are the only regulated US exchanges that offer bitcoin futures products. The owner of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has filed to list several bitcoin ETFs, but it has not yet launched its own cryptocurrency futures products.
One reason for Nasdaq’s delay in launching these products is that the exchange desires to list a product that is different than those offered by CME and CBOE.
Speaking with CNBC, Friedman suggested that Nasdaq’s product might track a spot rate rather than a future price, which she said will allow it to function more like an investment.
“What we might look at is more of a total return futures, so it’s a little bit of a different construct,” she said, adding that it meant it was “more of an investment than a tracking stock.”
Of course, Nasdaq and other exchanges looking to list cryptocurrency derivatives may have to jump through a few more regulatory hurdles than CME and CBOE did if they hope to bring their products to market. Responding to criticism about its handling of the first cryptocurrency futures listings, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said it would implement a “heightened review process” for these nascent products.
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