Since Bitcoin volumes began to dissipate in late-2018, which came alongside price plunges, the crypto’s curious investors have sought to determine where the money has fled. For the longest time, it was assumed that over-the-counter (OTC) desks picked up where spot exchanges, namely Bitfinex and Coinbase, were slacking. Yet, a recent company update from Circle has touted OTC statistics that could be deemed lackluster.
Last week, the Goldman Sachs-backed, Boston-based Circle, a leading player in the nascent OTC market, released its year in review, compiling pertinent data from fiscal 2018 in an apparent stab at transparency. Circle Trade, the startup’s OTC arm, reportedly transacted $24 billion in notional volumes across 10,000 transactions, which serviced 36 distinct crypto assets and 600 counterparties.
Alex Krüger broke down the statistics in-depth via Twitter. Krüger, a leading crypto researcher and commentator, noted that assuming 75% of Trade’s volume was the BTC/USD pair, $49 million was traded each day on average. While Trade’s figures aren’t shabby by any means, as they accentuate the fact that institutions are still throwing billions at Bitcoin, there’s much to be desired. Krüger explained that “in contrast,” BitMEX and Bitfinex, traded an average of $2.1 billion and $278 million each day respectively. Even discounting leverage trades on these platforms and volume from competing BTC/fiat exchanges, there’s still an ostensible gap.
And considering that Trade is the pinnacle of OTC desks, the figures are that much more harrowing, especially if you factor in the optimistic talk that Wall Street is going all-in on Bitcoin.
Maybe It’s Not Too Bad After All
However, considering that no other preeminent dark pools or OTC markets have divulged their trading statistics, there is a chance that Circle makes up a mere percentage of this subsector, contrary to community sentiment. Moreover, a recent statement from Christine Sandler, head of coverage at Coinbase, indicates that this little-known segment of the cryptosphere is still doing alright. Sandler, admitting that Coinbase’s OTC launch was “opportunistic,” stated:
“We found that a lot of institutions are using OTC to on-ramp [their fiat] for crypto trading. And so we felt that this was a huge benefit for our clients to leverage our exchange and our OTC desk.”
Speaking with Ran NeuNer of CNBC Africa, Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive at Binance, recently noted that the volume drought of 2018 can be attributed to the rise in dark pools. Citing sources, Zhao noted that OTC markets could be “at least as large as the live recorded volumes [on CoinMarketCap].” If the Binance chief’s comments are accurate, this could indicate that commentators en-masse have been overestimating Circle’s impact. So, maybe Wall Street hotshots are still emptying their bank accounts to buy cryptocurrencies after all.