One-fifth of financial firms are thinking about getting involved with cryptocurrency trading within the next year, according to by Thomson Reuters. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs said it is planning a bitcoin () trading desk.
But if Triad Securities, a New York-based investment brokerage and advisory firm, is any indication, many Wall Street companies may be reluctant to help clients invest in cryptocurrencies until there’s more clarity about how they’ll be regulated.
“We’re not going to take bets and then have regulators say, ‘You made the wrong bet, here’s your fine,’ or ‘You’re out of business,’” Scott Daspin, Triad’s director of sales, tells ThirtyK.
Different federal regulators have different views on how to classify cryptocurrencies. That makes some brokerages wary.
The firm, which tracks initial public offerings, has been watching the cryptocurrency market from afar for about a year. Surging client inquiries about initial coin offerings, or ICOs, prompted Triad to conduct client-interest , attend crypto conferences and learn about the underlying blockchain technology.
Triad’s traditional clients have historically traded around the new equity issuance calendar, according to Michael Bird, senior managing director at the firm, but are increasingly looking with interest at new cryptocurrency issuance.
“A lot of our clients have started looking at this space,” Bird tells ThirtyK. “Some have started investing in it. Others are looking to us to help give them direction.”
For now, Triad is waiting on the regulators to figure out what they are doing.
There is no single, definitive federal regulation on bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Different federal regulators have different views on how to classify cryptocurrencies. For example, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said bitcoin qualifies as a currency, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which in charge of regulating derivatives such as futures, designates cryptocurrencies as commodities.
When it comes to tokens issued in ICOs to help companies raises funds, however, the SEC’s Clayton has said that most should be considered securities and thus be subject to existing laws. That means ICOs should register with the SEC. In December, Clayton said no ICOs had registered as securities offerings. But in March, the Praetorian Group with the agency. If the application gets accepted, it will be the first company to hold an ICO regulated by the SEC.
Neither the SEC nor CFTC returned calls from ThirtyK seeking comment.
In its research, Triad has found some opportunities Bird said the firm will continue tracking in hopes they’ll “evolve the way we hope they will.”
Triad has become more optimistic with the rise of cryptocurrency offerings. Under this regulation, securities sold in so-called private placements are exempt from SEC registration. Different exemptions under Reg D limit either the amount of the offering and/or the type of investor eligible to buy the security.
“That’s stuff we understand, we know what the rules are and that makes it more interesting to us,” said Daspin, Triad’s director of sales.