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The New York Stock Exchange Owner Wants You to Retire With Bitcoin

In the near future, you may be able to contribute to your 401k and buy your Venti latte using the cryptocurrency

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September 4, 2018

For years, the major barrier for mainstream cryptocurrency adoption has been its Wild West reputation—the lack of institutional controls has kept major financial players and most retail investors away. But Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, plans to unlock the trillion-dollar promise of cryptocurrencies that evangelists have spoke of for years.

 

The project—slated to launch this November—is called Bakkt and promises to offer a “secure global platform that will connect investors, merchants and consumers, making it easier, faster and more cost-effective to access, trade and use digital assets.” While Bakkt is not the first company to try to bring crypto to daily transactions, it’s by far the most reputable, with institutional backing from power players like Microsoft, Starbucks and Boston Consulting Group, among others.

 

Maria Smith, the vice president of partnerships and payments for Starbucks stated that as part of the partnership, “Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks.”

Bakkt doesn’t intend to just stop at your grande latte, with plans to offer exchange-traded funds, mutual funds and pension funds backed by Bitcoin. This would open up the possibility for bitcoin funds to be added to 401(k) plans nationwide. While multiple entities (most notably, ProShares and the Winklevoss twins) have attempted to gain SEC approval for Bitcoin ETFs without success, Bakkt hopes that the integration of Microsoft cloud solutions will provide the legitimacy to quell the concerns of fraud and manipulation in Bitcoin that the SEC has cited in past rejections.

 

“In bringing regulated, connected infrastructure together with institutional and consumer applications for digital assets, we aim to build confidence in the asset class on a global scale, consistent with our track record of bringing transparency and trust to previously unregulated markets,” said Jeffrey C. Sprecher, founder, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange.

 

Bakkt arrives at an tenuous moment for cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is down 67 percent from its peak of $19,783 at the height of the crypto boom in January, but has held steady (by crypto standards) since May, oscillating between $6,300 and $8,000 throughout the past four months. In August, a Yale University study by Professor Aleh Tsyvinki recommended all Americans have a portfolio with at least four percent in Bitcoin, regardless of your optimism in the digital currency. However, just eight percent of Americans held Bitcoin as of February, according to a survey by Finder.com.

 

A more recent survey by YouGov Omnibus in August shows a much more bullish sentiment by millennials, with 44 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 stating they believe cryptocurrencies will be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ widely accepted in the next ten years.

 

So what do you think? Would you allocate Bitcoin in your 401(k) when it becomes available?