Why Bakkt Is A Game Changer

NEW YORK – The much-hyped Bakkt, the brainchild of the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, called the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), will launch its Bitcoin futures platform in December, according to a document released this week.

Bakkt is a new cryptocurrency platform proposed by Jeff Sprecher, the founder, chairman, and CEO of ICE. Bakkt also is backed by Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boston Consulting Group. The document explains that ICE will list Bakkt Bitcoin (USD) Daily Futures Contracts for trading on Dec. 12, 2018. The product will be physically-settled and cleared by ICE Clear U.S., Inc.

The Platform’s Big Plans

Bakkt hopes to create an integrated platform that enables consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets on a seamless global network. It also will be creating a program that allows larger businesses to conduct business with digital currencies more efficiently.

The company’s first contracts will be physically-delivered BTC futures contracts versus fiat currencies against U.S. dollars, pounds sterling, and euro.

However, Bakkt will not support margin trading for its BTC contract. Nor will it allow leveraging and cash settlements, as its focus is to better support market integrity. Instead, the company believes simply following market price formations is the key to “advancing the promise of digital currencies.”

“The Biggest News of the Year”

Starbucks Crypto Venture boss Brian Kelly called the cryptocurrency deal “the biggest news of the year for bitcoin,” given that it paves the way for a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Funds, or baskets of related assets that trade on stock exchanges.

What’s more, Starbucks’ decision to accept cryptocurrencies makes them much more mainstream, plus it means users can spend their digital fortunes almost anywhere, he said.

Indeed, the founding imperative for Bakkt is to make Bitcoin a sound and secure offering for key constituents that now mostly shun it—the world’s big financial institutions.

“Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility,” said Kelly Loeffler, ICE’s head of digital assets, who will serve as CEO of Bakkt. “We are collaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce.”

In a Fortune interview, Loeffler explains that “Bakkt” is a play on “backed,” as in “asset-backed securities,” and it’s meant to evoke a highly-trusted investment.

Bakkt Promotes Mass Adoption

If the Bakkt blueprint works as planned, a panoply of new Bitcoin funds will tap the pent-up demand for the cryptocurrency. Bakkt’s backing will also make these funds a safe and comfortable choice for everyday investors—particularly millennials starting their first 401(k)s. Wall Street might then tap Bitcoin’s popularity as an alternative to stocks and bonds, generating enormous trading volumes as a result. And that flood of institutional buying and selling, in turn, would smooth out Bitcoin’s wild price swings and alleviate fears about its future value.

Cracking the 401(k) and IRA market for cryptocurrency would be a massive win for Bakkt. However, the startup’s plans raise the prospect of an even more ambitious goal: Using Bitcoin to streamline and disrupt the world of retail payments. This would entail having consumers move from swiping credit cards to scanning their Bitcoin apps. If they succeed, mass adoption of cryptocurrencies will not be far behind.

The present market opportunity is gigantic: Consumers worldwide are paying lofty credit card or online-shopping fees on $25 trillion a year in annual purchases. Fortunately, Bakkt is moving to provide consumers with a viable and far less expensive alternative.

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