Via a series of acquisitions, Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE:ICE) has built a vast global empire of financial exchanges and clearing houses, including its crown jewel, the New York Stock Exchange.
Now, Intercontinental Exchange has its sights set on expanding into the dynamic world of cryptocurrencies, following the 2018 launch of its majority-owned digital asset trading platform, Bakkt.
To help spearhead its new crypto initiatives, Intercontinental Exchange appointed two executives to new senior leadership roles at Bakkt on Monday.
Mike Blandina will take on the role of chief executive officer of Bakkt. The position became available when former CEO Kelly Loeffler stepped down after being appointed to the U.S. Senate by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to fill the seat of retiring Senator Johnny Isakson.
Blandina joined Bakkt in April and has served as its chief product officer. He previously worked at digital payments giant PayPal and internet search titan Google.
"As CEO, Mike will chart Bakkt's strategic direction, payment products and markets, as well as overseeing the regulatory and financial performance of the company," ICE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher said in a press release. "His more than 25 years of experience in payments across product, engineering, strategy and operations will continue to serve us well."
Meanwhile, Adam White will take on the role of president. White has served as Bakkt's chief operating officer since joining the company in 2018. He previously held a leadership role at the popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. Prior to that, White served as an officer and test pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
"In his new role as President, Adam will focus on digital asset markets, custody and trading, as well as Bakkt's strategic direction," Sprecher said. "Adam's breadth of experience in crypto markets, and his work as a founding executive at Bakkt, give him a unique perspective that will help shape our future successes."
Bakkt's grand crypto plan
ICE has some bold ambitions for Bakkt. The digital asset platform already offers trading in bitcoin futures contracts. Unlike competitor CME Group's cash-settled contracts, Bakkt's bitcoin futures are physically delivered, meaning that when the contracts expire, the seller of the contract must deliver actual bitcoin to the buyer. Some traders believe physically settled bitcoin futures are less prone to price manipulation.
Bakkt also recently launched options on its bitcoin futures contracts, which the company says offer "important hedging, trading and income-generating opportunities to market participants around the world."
Even more exciting are Bakkt's plans to launch "an innovative consumer payments app" in 2020. The company is developing a digital asset payments platform that Blandina says will allow people to make purchases with cryptocurrencies "as seamlessly as investors transact in stocks in a retail brokerage account." Bakkt is currently testing the application with coffee giant Starbucks, and it plans to launch the app in the first half of next year.
If Bakkt's new consumer payments app is successful, it could have a game-changing impact on the crypto markets, particularly if it can help bitcoin become a more widely accepted form of payment.