Citigroup Gearing Up to Trade CME Bitcoin Futures: Sources

24 August 2021

U.S. banking giant Citigroup (NYSE: C) is awaiting regulatory approval to begin trading bitcoin futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), according to a source within the bank who asked to remain nameless.

The bank is said to be fielding a surge in client demand for cryptocurrency exposure as bitcoin again mounts a climb toward $50,000. Citi, which is still working through the necessary regulatory approvals, would join fellow megabank Goldman Sachs in offering bitcoin futures trading.

A second person familiar with cryptocurrency derivatives markets said Citi is actively recruiting people to join a crypto-focused team in London, adding: 

“The team is likely to win approval to begin trading CME bitcoin futures first and then bitcoin exchange-traded notes (ETNs).” 

“Given the many questions around regulatory frameworks, supervisory expectations, and other factors, we are being very thoughtful about our approach,” a Citigroup spokesperson told CoinDesk via email. “We are presently considering products such as futures for some of our institutional clients, as these operate under strong regulatory frameworks.”

In January, CME took the prime spot on the list of the biggest bitcoin futures trading platforms, indicating a continued rise in institutional participation. 

An increasing number of big banks are venturing into crypto, often by way of cash-settled products that track the price of cryptocurrencies. In July, CoinDesk reported that Bank of America’s prime brokerage unit started the clearing and settlement of cryptocurrency exchange-traded products (ETPs) for hedge funds in Europe.

Citigroup, one of the largest banks in the U.S., holds some $23.7 trillion in assets under custody. In June, Citi launched a business unit to offer cryptocurrency-related products under the bank’s wealth management umbrella. In May 2021, Citi was said to be weighing cryptocurrency trading and custody, according to a Financial Times report.

During the last crypto bull run in 2017, Citi’s U.K. brokerage platform started offering clients access to ETH ETNs. But as the price of bitcoin dropped in 2018, the demand for the products declined and the offering was shelved.

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