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Crypto Exchange Takes on Behemoths With Physical Bitcoin Futures

The contest is heating up to gain market share in one of the most closely watched products in the world of cryptocurrencies: physically delivered Bitcoin futures.

While the owner of the New York Stock Exchange is expected to start offering such contracts shortly and Eris Exchange LLC plans to follow, the firm that says it was first to market has spun off from its previous owners and will provide the derivatives on some of the largest digital coins to Asian retail investors beginning next month.

Started last year as CoinfloorEX, then a unit of the U.K. Bitcoin exchange Coinfloor, the platform will now be called Coin Futures and Lending Exchange, or CoinFLEX. The venture is owned by a consortium including famed early crypto advocate Roger Ver and Trading Technologies International Inc., which develops trading software for brokers and money managers. Coinfloor, the U.K.’s oldest Bitcoin exchange, will also retain an equity stake.

Mark Lamb, a co-founder of Coinfloor, will be the chief executive officer of the new business based in Hong Kong. CoinFLEX, will offer futures contracts for Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum that can be leveraged up to 20 times.

The exchange will likely draw comparisons with, and seek to take business from, BitMEX, one of the largest crypto trading platforms, which also has a sizable presence in Hong Kong and was co-founded by former Citigroup Inc. trader Arthur Hayes. BitMEX offers leverage of up to 100 times on some of its contracts.

Still a key distinguishing factor in CoinFLEX’s favor is that all futures traded on the exchange will be physically-delivered, Lamb said in an interview. That means when the contracts expire, owners will be given the underlying cryptocurrency instead of a cash payment. That’s an important distinction in the largely unregulated markets where Bitcoin and other digital coins currently trade as some big players say the process for settling a contract in cash could be manipulated.

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