According to Co-Chief Executive Officer Dennis Dijkstra, Flow Traders NV, an Amsterdam-based speed trader, is making markets in the first exchange-traded notes based on Bitcoin and Ether. XBT Provider, an issuer of crypto ETNs listed in Sweden, said that the Dutch company has “dramatically increased” trading of its securities in the last few months.
There are already five big U.S. speed traders making markets in cryptocurrency futures, or the underlying currencies, but Amsterdam-based Flow Traders is the first firm anywhere to disclose it’s buying and selling crypto notes listed on regulated stock exchanges.
Publicly traded notes or funds would broaden the appeal of virtual money as an asset class by providing a straightforward and cheaper way of investing in Bitcoin and Ether.
Dijkstra said in an interview:
“People underestimate crypto. It’s big, and it is to be regulated very soon. The market participants are much more professional than people think. Institutional investors are interested — we know they are because we get requests.”
However, the enthusiasm from Flow Traders’ investors isn’t reciprocated by its regulator, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets.
Nienke Torensma, a spokeswoman for the AFM, said in a statement:
“We discourage activities in cryptos both by consumers and professional license holders. By virtue of its newness and the anonymity it potentially offers, it is very prone to abuse. Given its inability to serve the promised purpose as a currency, we don’t regard it to be an asset class.”
Despite the concern from AFM, there is little it can do to stop any firm from trading regulated securities or derivatives on a regulated exchange.
Flow Traders is one of a large number of institutional investors that are moving into the fledgling cryptocurrency space. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is setting up a digital-asset trading desk, and Barclays Plc recently agreed to provide U.K. banking services for Coinbase Inc., the San Francisco-based exchange. The push to go mainstream has continued unabated, even though the value of Bitcoin has plunged more than 55 percent this year.
Dijkstra said Flow Traders was hedging its trades of crypto notes with futures contracts run by CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. His firm traded 244 billion euros ($284 billion) of ETFs globally in the first quarter, including 143 billion euros in Europe, these figures make it the region’s biggest trader of the securities.
Last year’s dismal trading volumes in its core market prompted Flow Traders to move into new asset classes. Cryptocurrencies are particularly attractive because speed traders make the most money in the most volatile markets.
Laurent Kssis, managing director at XBT Provider said in a statement:
“With the growing interest from institutional clients willing to invest in digital assets, I can see why so many proprietary trading businesses are now focusing on this new asset class,”
Like regulators in other countries, the AFM wants to see a global agreement to regulate cryptocurrencies.
“Since cryptos are global in nature, we firmly believe only a globally regulatory response has a chance to be effective,”