JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon famously called bitcoin a “fraud,” but that opinion is not shared by The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS). Goldman’s board of directors has approved a management decision to begin trading bitcoin contracts using the bank’s own money to trade with clients in a number of contracts linked to the cryptocurrency’s price.
The bank will allow clients to trade bitcoin as a non-deliverable forward where no physical exchange of the underlying asset occurs. The exchange will take place in the currency the trade is quoted in on the settlement date of the forward contract. That currency is most likely to be dollars.
Even though Goldman will not be buying or selling bitcoin, the bank has created a group to consider such market-making provided it receives regulatory approval and can come to grips with the additional risks surrounding virtual currency.
Goldman’s Rana Yared, one of the executives helping create the trading operation, said that it “resonates” with the bank when its clients say they want to hold bitcoin or bitcoin futures because they believe it is an alternative to gold as a store of value.
Another issue the bank has to deal with if it wants to trade actual bitcoin is how to hold the virtual currency while protecting it from being stolen by hackers. Yared and trader Justin Schmidt, whom the bank recently hired as its virtual currency trader, agree that current options for holding actual bitcoin do not yet meet financial industry standards.
An exact date for the start of trading has not been set but the trading operation is expected to launch in the next few weeks. The new trading desk will be open only for institutional investors.