Nasdaq is open to becoming cryptocurrency exchange, CEO says
"Certainly Nasdaq would consider becoming a crypto exchange over time," Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman told CNBC's Squawk Box Wednesday. "If we do look at it and say 'it's time, people are ready for a more regulated market,' for something that provides a fair experience for investors."
A key roadblock for the Nasdaq and other institutional investors is regulation, which Friedman said needs to be ironed out before the company would add an exchange. But she was bullish on the future of digital assets.
"I believe that digital currencies will continue to persist it's just a matter of how long it will take for that space to mature," Friedman said. "Once you look at it and say, 'do we want to provide a regulated market for this?' Certainly Nasdaq would consider it."
In the meantime, the Nasdaq is supporting existing cryptoexchanges.
On Wednesday, the company announced a collaboration with cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, founded by early bitcoin investors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. The deal gives Gemini access to Nasdaq's surveillance technology to help make sure the platform provides a fair and "rules-based marketplace," for their own participants, Gemini CEO Tyler Winklevoss said in a statement.
While Friedman was optimistic about the future of cryptocurrencies she was less so on the fundraising process known as an initial coin offering, or ICO.
ICOs need to be regulated," she said. "The SEC is right that those are securities and need to be regulated as such."
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has cracked down on ICO fraud in 2018, and said in March it is looking to apply securities laws to everything from cryptocurrency exchanges to digital asset storage companies known as wallets. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said the watchdog is devoting a "significant portion of resources" to the ICO market.
The more than 1,300 percent rise of bitcoin prices last year certainly caught the attention of regulators. Bitcoin neared $20,000 in December before having its worst first quarter in history, dropping 48 percent in the first three months of this year. The cryptocurrency has recovered above $9,000 this week, and hit a high of $9,746.82 Wednesday, according to CoinDesk. The digital currency is up roughly 20 percent this week.