Bitcoin

Coinbase acquires trading platform Paradex in its latest move to dominate the crypto economy

Key Points
  • Popular U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced it would acquire trading platform Paradex in the company's latest attempt to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive crypto economy.
  • The Paradex platform will be integrated directly into the company's new product Coinbase Pro over the coming weeks but is only available to customers outside of the U.S.
  • "This will significantly enhance the proposition for our customers in terms of what they want to trade, and how they want to trade it," says Asiff Hirji, Coinbase president and chief operating officer.
The Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange application seen on the screen of an iPhone.
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Top U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced it would acquire trading platform Paradex in the start-up's latest attempt to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive crypto economy.

The San Francisco-based company, which landed at the No. 10 spot on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, is also overhauling its flagship trading platform GDAX designed for professional investors. GDAX and the new product, Coinbase Pro, will exist side-by-side until June 29 when all customers will be rolled over to the newer version.

Paradex will be integrated into that new product in the coming weeks, the company said.

"This will significantly enhance the proposition for our customers in terms of what they want to trade and how they want to trade it," Asiff Hirji, Coinbase president and chief operating officer told CNBC's "Fast Money" Wednesday.

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A key distinction between Paradex and other exchanges is that it does not hold tokens on behalf of its customers. Users instead trade peer-to-peer, directly from their own "wallets." Coinbase in contrast, acts as a trusted custodian for digital assets on its exchange.

"This peer-to-peer trading removes the need for third-party custodianship and the associated security risks," Coinbase said in a blog post. "It is another step toward creating a truly decentralized crypto economy."

Paradex's platform offers hundreds of digital tokens for trading, while Coinbase notoriously only offers four. Initially, only customers outside of the U.S. will have access to the new exchange but Coinbase said it's "actively working toward" regulatory clearance for the product in the U.S.

"As soon as we can we're going to turn it on in the U.S," Hirji said. "We're greatly increasing the number of things you can trade and we're doing it in a compliant way."

Some U.S. exchanges have been cautious about listing ICO tokens because of concerns that they might be considered unregistered securities and could require platforms that list them to be licensed by regulators. In March the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors that platforms offering trading of digital assets that are securities and operate as an "exchange" must register with regulators.

Hirji said Coinbase would like to list "as many assets as possible," but despite increased discussions with regulators, the company has not gotten increased guidance.

"As soon as there is more clarity we will list them as long as they adhere to our framework," Hirji said. "But clarity is needed and I don't think we're close to that unfortunately."

Coinbase has traded $150 billion in assets for more than 20 million customers and had a reported revenue last year of $1 billion as the price of bitcoin skyrocketed. While the company is best known as the leading U.S. cryptocurrency trading platform, Coinbase has been pouring money into plans to stay ahead in a larger cryptocurrency economy.

The company is looking to lure institutional investors, a group that have been especially careful when entering the volatile cryptocurrency market. Coinbase launched four new products last week: Coinbase Custody, Coinbase Markets, The Coinbase Institutional Coverage Group and Coinbase Prime to cater to the "white glove" investors.

Like GDAX, Coinbase Pro customers will have access the single pool of liquidity shared by all Coinbase products.