Bitcoin has plunged in price in the past year, but the CEO of one of the world’s biggest exchange operators isn’t deterred from entering the space.
Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of IntercontinentalExchange (ticker: ICE) and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, spoke enthusiastically about cryptocurrencies at the Consensus Invest conference in New York on Tuesday. With Bitcoin down more than 80% from its highs, he said he’s been seeing headlines asking “Will digital assets survive?”
“I’d say the unequivocal answer is yes,” he said, adding that “we’re kind of agnostic to price.”
Sprecher was on stage with his wife, Kelly Loeffler, the chief executive officer of Bakkt, a crypto platform owned by ICE that is due to begin operations next year. It is designed to allow digital asset trading and make it easier for merchants to accept crypto too.
Bakkt will also be offering a Bitcoin futures contract that will settle every day in Bitcoin. (Bitcoin futures offered by CME Group and Cboe settle in cash). The Bakkt futures contract, Loeffler said, will help Bitcoin traders establish a trusted price. Bitcoin now trades at different prices on different exchanges, many of which are unregulated.
Bakkt was expected to start operations next month, but the opening has been delayed until Jan. 24, 2019. Delaying the rollout will “give more people time to get on board,” said Loeffler.
Starbucks was also part of ICE’s original announcement about Bakkt. The platform was expected to help Starbucks figure out how to help consumers “convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks,” it said at the time.
The coffee company told Barron’s on Tuesday that it had no timeline for when it would allow customers to pay using digital currency. It said working with Bakkt will position it to offer new ways of collecting payments as cryptocurrencies gain traction.
Owners of digital asset businesses consider the Bakkt rollout a bullish sign for the market, perhaps the most important institutional move into the space. At the very least, it’s a good sign that major institutions are doubling down on their investments, even as the price drops, said Pascal Gauthier, presixdent of the crypto wallet company Ledger, in an interview.