NYSE-owner ICE to form new company for digital assets

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is teaming up with Microsoft, Starbucks and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to launch a platform that lets people and firms buy, sell, store and spend digital assets such as Bitcoin on a seamless global network.

Called Bakkt, the new venture will tap Microsoft cloud technology for a digital asset ecosystem covering federally regulated markets and warehousing as well as merchant and consumer applications.

First up, ICE plans a one-day physically delivered Bitcoin futures contract along with physical warehousing. This means that, unlike similar offerings from CME Group and Cboe, contract owners will get Bitcoin, not cash, upon expiration. Launch is slated for November, subject to CFTC approval.

“Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security and utility,” says Kelly Loeffler, CEO, Bakkt. “We are collaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce.”

Alongside ICE and Microsoft’s venture arm M12, “expected” Bakkt investors include Fortress Investment Group, Eagle Seven, Galaxy Digital, Horizons Ventures, Alan Howard, Pantera Capital, Protocol Ventures, and Susquehanna International Group.

Starbucks is not listed as an investor. Instead, the coffee giant will help to develop ways to finally bring cryptocurrency payments to the high street.

Says Maria Smith, VP, partnerships and payments: “As the flagship retailer, 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.”