First digital currency broker-dealer launches

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Genesis Trading, which claims to be the first broker-dealer specializing in digital currencies, launched Thursday amid reports of increasing institutional interest in bitcoin.

The predominant cryptocurrency has seen its price slide about $60 over the past month, but the (active) community surrounding the technology continues to tout major corporations' and financial firms' entrance into the ecosystem in ever greater numbers. Against this backdrop, Genesis officially launched to help institutional investors buy and sell bitcoin and other digital currencies.

The new firm is a spin-off of the trading unit from alternative investment firm SecondMarket—which had already done most of its work with bitcoin—but Genesis CEO Brendan O'Connor said the stand-alone entity signified an important step for the marketplace.

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"Our goal is to become the partner of choice for large institutional buyers and sellers who are beginning to recognize the economic potential of digital currency," he said in a press release announcing the firm.

Those new partnerships would come from the likes of hedge funds, alternative asset fund managers and other trading firms, O'Connor told CNBC.

While the firm's weekly volume as part of SecondMarket was between $3 million and $5 million worth of bitcoin, O'Conner said the firm has processed several individual orders worth more than $15 million.

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In a relatively nonliquid market like bitcoin—which also has a fragment system of exchanges—handling such a bulk order without drastically affecting market prices requires some skill.

Bitcoin already boasts several retail-focused trading platforms, but Genesis is seeking to control the institutional trading space, O'Connor explained.

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Genesis hopes that rebranding as its own entity will help the firm gain new clients, he added.

Although proponents tout bitcoin as something between the future of global exchange and a useful means of value transfer, many criticize its price volatility and the lack of a sophisticated ecosystem. But as banks and companies continue to adopt the technology for various purposes, those two complaints may dissipate, experts say.

Genesis will be a division of SecondMarket, which is already regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to a press release.