Futures & Commodities

The CFTC is on a technology-centered drive, says its chairman

Key Points
  • The CFTC is on a drive to move into a more technology-driven market environment, said its chairman
  • CFTC now reviewing CME's Bitcoin futures
This bitcoin exchange has the power to punish rogue traders

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is on a drive to move into a more technology-centered market environment, its chairman said Wednesday.

"The markets are evolving so fast, the impact of technology is so great. As an agency, we have to understand that evolution," Chris Giancarlo told CNBC on the sidelines of the Singapore Fintech Festival.

Giancarlo, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August, said there is a need for the CFTC catch up with the pace of change in technology, as regulators tend to be conservative.

The CFTC needs to start formulating its policy around market innovations and to use technology to become a better regulator, he added.

The CFTC in July granted New York-based LedgerX, a bitcoin options exchange, the first ever license to clear and settle derivative contracts for digital currencies.

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The regulator is now reviewing CME's bid to launch bitcoin futures, an ongoing process on which Giancarlo declined comment.

CME announced on Oct. 31 it would launch bitcoin futures by the end of the year, pending regulatory review. The futures contract will be cash-settled according to the daily settlement price of the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR), which tracks a few major bitcoin exchanges.

Bitcoin has come a long way in the last decade. The digital currency was once the focus of a small group of technology enthusiasts, and often linked to illegal online commerce.

Since then, an entire industry has emerged with companies offering bitcoin mining and trading services, as well as selling digital mining equipment. Some of Wall Street's veterans are moving into digital asset investing and more than 120 "cryptofunds" now exist, according to financial research firm Autonomous Next. What was once a fringe item has become an asset into which established financial institutions are looking to expand.

— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this article.