Exclusive: Goldman Sachs restarts cryptocurrency desk amid bitcoin boom


FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed in the reception of Goldman Sachs in Sydney, Australia, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

LONDON (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc has restarted its cryptocurrency trading desk and will begin dealing bitcoin futures and non-deliverable forwards for clients from next week, a person familiar with the matter said.

The team will sit within the U.S. bank's Global Markets division, the person said.

The desk is part of Goldman's activities within the fast-growing digital assets sector, which also includes projects involving blockchain technology and central bank digital currencies, the person said.

As part of this work, the bank is also exploring the potential for a bitcoin exchange traded fund and has issued a request for information to explore digital asset custody, the source said.

The trading desk reboot comes amid growing interest by institutions in bitcoin, which has soared more than 470% over the past year. The largest cryptocurrency is seen by investors and some companies as a hedge against inflation as governments and central banks turn on the stimulus taps.

While its price has risen significantly over the past year, bitcoin remains highly volatile. The virtual currency smashed through $58,000 on February 21 then fell back by as much as 25% but has recovered some lost ground.

This makes the coin and related derivatives attractive for investors willing to take riskier long or short positions as they hunt for yield in a record-low interest rate environment.

Non-deliverable forwards are a type of derivative that allows investors to take a view on bitcoin's future price.

Goldman first set up a cryptocurrency desk in 2018, just as bitcoin's price was falling from record highs, muting investor interest in digital coins.

Since then, market infrastructure for bitcoin and other large cryptocurrencies has significantly matured, with many established financial institutions offering products and services, including CME Group Inc, Intercontinental Exchange Inc and Fidelity.

The developments have helped to attract more mainstream companies to the sector, ranging from those offering crypto services to retail or institutional investors, to companies opting to hold bitcoin on their balance sheets

Last month, electric car manufacturer Tesla Inc said it had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, while Bank of New York Mellon Corp said it had formed a new unit to help clients hold and transfer digital assets.

(Reporting by Anna Irrera, Iain Withers and Lawrence White in London. Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Jane Merriman)

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