Trading Legend Don Wilson: Asian Demand High for Bitcoin Futures

Don Wilson, founder of DRW, the Chicago-based high-speed trading firm, discusses his history with crypto assets and the trends he's seeing in Asia.

AccessTimeIconSep 19, 2018 at 4:45 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:23 a.m. UTC

Don Wilson, founder of high-speed trading firm DRW, said bitcoin derivatives trading in Asia hours is almost equal to the volume he's seen in the U.S., something he says is an anomaly when compared to other financial instruments.

In a fireside chat at the CoinDesk Consensus Singapore 2018 conference with Quartz's John Detrixhe, Wilson discussed his observations on cryptocurrency trading trends and his view on the future for the technology.

Referencing bitcoin futures trading data on U.S. exchanges provided by CME and CBOE, Wilson went so far as to suggest there may be demand for similar trading tools in Asia.

He told attendees:

"If you look at the bitcoin futures data from CME and CBOE, volume in Asia hours are almost the same wth the U.S. ... Whereas in like foreign exchange, even for the Japanese yen-dollar trading, volume in Asia is significantly lower."

DRW, one of the earliest institutions that moved into cryptocurrency trading, launched Cumberland, a crypto over-the-counter trading desk in 2014, at a time when others such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have yet to officially roll out similar services. Explaining the initial idea of DRW to start a crypto trading desk, Wilson said it is rooted in his belief that crypto's decentralization feature.

"There's the argument about bitcoin as a store of value. But, more interesting to me, is the usefulness of bitcoin. The ability of transfer values without a trust in the system is hugely disruptive," he said.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cumberland had traded more than $20 billion worth of bitcoin, ether and other crypto assets since 2016.

Wilson added that custody solution could be one key obstacle at the moment to a wider institution adoption of crypto trading as he sees that as a crucial stepping stone. 

Elsewhere in the fireside chat, Wilson also commented on yesterday's report by the New York Office of the Attorney General, one which saw the regulator releasing findings indicating several crypto exchange may be involved in market manipulation and the violation of state laws.

While agreeing to most of the arguments made by the regulator, Wilson sees "one of the biggest problems in this industry is the lack of clarity from regulators on what the rules are," concluding:

"Such uncertainty could drive away innovative projects in the space to other jurisdictions with clearer guidelines such as Switzerland and Singapore."

Cumberland image via Consensus Singapore

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