On Monday, April 22, an asset analyst known as Cryptopolis_x on Twitter shared screenshots that appeared to show a bitcoin trading option on TD Ameritrade, an online brokerage that primarily offers traditional assets including stocks and bonds.
In what Cryptopolis_x said was a chat with TD support, it was clarified that BTC/USD was only available as a “paper,” or simulated, trade. The associated ticker symbol, CXERX, is not associated with any existing instrument.
This is a thoroughly unconfirmed leak, but in a followup statement to BREAKERMAG, TD Ameritrade didn’t debunk the idea that they’re testing what could become a real trading option:
“While we currently offer access to bitcoin futures, bitcoin is not available for spot trading on TD Ameritrade’s platform. We always look to implement products our clients have demand for. When it comes to cryptocurrencies, we take a deliberate approach with a focus on education.”
This is an intentionally cryptic way of saying “we’re seriously considering selling bitcoin.” Describing a “deliberate approach with a focus on education” suggests they’re doing it carefully, but are in fact moving forward.
As for what their customers want, there’s every reason to believe demand for bitcoin trading from customers with TD accounts is or would be substantial, especially as the speculative market heats up again. Just turn back the clock to late 2017, when crypto-only platform Coinbase surpassed brokerage Charles Schwab in users (though not in asset volume).
In fact, at 13.3 million users at the time, Coinbase also surpassed TD Ameritrade, which says it currently has 11 million client accounts. Those customers could be well-prepared to trade bitcoin: In addition to CBOE bitcoin futures, TD Ameritrade already offers other volatile, risky, and complex trades, including global fiat currencies.
The obvious take here is that offering bitcoin trading to millions of customers in conventional brokerage accounts is Good for Bitcoin—or at least, the price of bitcoin. It would reduce friction even for people already investing in or crypto through specialty platforms like Kraken or Coinbase, and invite in entirely new investors who had heard of the asset but not taken big steps to explore it.
But longer-term, it’s not obvious expanding access to crypto trading would be so positive. First, because more uninformed investors means more volatility, as emotions dominate market dynamics over strong, long-term theses. Second, and even more importantly, broadening exposure to cryptocurrency as a speculative investment might not do much to advance the cause of actual adoption and use, which is necessary for both long-term price appreciation, and for fulfilling the vision that drove bitcoin’s creation in the first place.