Bitcoin futures exchange Bakkt announced Monday that it is moving forward with plans to launch physically-settled bitcoin futures products.
In a blog post, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler wrote that Bakkt had “worked closely” with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the regulatory agency in charge of overseeing derivatives products in the country, and would be testing its bitcoin futures contracts this summer.
No launch date was announced, and indeed, Loeffler did not explicitly say that the company’s proposal to self-custody its bitcoin and clear through its parent company’s warehouse (Intercontinental Exchange’s ICE Clear US) had been approved.
Rather, Bakkt, through ICE, will self-certify its bitcoin futures products, meaning that the CFTC will have to assess whether or not the proposals violate any laws or regulations. If the regulator does not find any issues within a 10-day deadline, the products will move forward.
This is different from asking the CFTC to explicitly approve a product, which Bakkt was previously said to be doing. CME and Cboe both self-certified their bitcoin futures contracts when they were first announced in 2017.
However, unlike CME and Cboe’s products, Bakkt will deliver actual bitcoin, rather than the cash equivalent, upon a contract’s expiration.
An individual familiar with Bakkt’s process, who did not want to be named, told CoinDesk that the company does not have a final launch date set yet, but would be cleared to proceed should the CFTC not raise any objections.
The individual added:
“We did self-certify. What the blog post effectively means is we filed with the CFTC, it’s two [contracts], a daily and a monthly and what happens is after 10 days, they can self-certify.”
In the blog post, Loeffler wrote that “we’ll be working with our customers over the next several weeks to prepare for user acceptance testing (UAT) for futures and custody, which we expect to start in July.”
“We expect to use UAT to ensure that customers have time to onboard and can test the trading and custody model we’ve built to their satisfaction,” she wrote, adding that future details will be shared in upcoming posts.
Still, Loeffler shared some new information about Bakkt’s upcoming products.
For one thing, the firm will list two different futures contracts: a daily settlement bitcoin future, “which will enable customers to transact in a same-day market,” and a monthly futures contract. This is different from the one-day futures contract that the platform originally announced.
Specifically, the firm’s new products will be:
- A daily settlement bitcoin future, “which will enable customers to transact in a same-day market;”
- And a monthly futures contract, which is different from the one-day futures contract that the platform originally announced.
Bakkt will also place $35 million of its own funding into the clearinghouse risk waterfall, which “puts our own ‘skin in the game’ and aligns our interests for market integrity and safety with market participants,” Loeffler wrote.
In addition, Bakkt plans to use its own qualified custodian to provide custody services, though this remains subject to regulatory approval.
The individual told CoinDesk that part of this effort revolved around Bakkt’s efforts to secure a trust company license with the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), rather than secure a federal license.
UPDATE (May 13, 15:40 UTC): This article has been updated with additional details.
Kelly Loeffler image via CoinDesk archives