Cryptocurrencies grew immensely popular in 2017, but throughout the following year, digital asset markets fell sharply in value. However, over-the-counter (OTC) market makers thrived in 2018, with a slew of business models in the industry catering to OTC clients. 

Billions Swapped Using Over-the-Counter Cryptocurrency Services in 2018

Bitcoin Whales and the Rise of Crypto-Fueled OTC Desks in 2018Even though digital currency markets dropped considerably in value in 2018, early investors and crypto whales who believe in the future of this asset class stocked up. Long term supporters will cost-average their positions by gaining as many coins as they can because they grasp the idea of digital scarcity. One business model that’s been thriving in 2018 is OTC crypto dealers or brokerage providers. Whales and big investors don’t purchase thousands of coins with traditional exchanges, because the premium for the trading fees would be outrageous. Instead, they use OTC providers like Circle, Itbit, Coincola, and Cumberland Mining. Other buyers will connect with miners and pool operators while other businesses and individuals will deal with Telegram, Wechat, and Skype OTC groups. This past April, reports revealed that cryptocurrency-based OTC desks using Skype have traded billions.

This year, many companies that had already provided digital asset exchange services have announced opening OTC desks for institutional clients. In June, Etoro announced opening an OTC platform for institutional buyers, and in May the OTC cryptocurrency service Genesis Global Trading received a Bitlicense to operate in New York. Blockchain.com started OTC operations in September and Coinbase and Hodl Hodl announced the launch of OTC desks in November.

After China banned crypto exchanges last year, over-the-counter trading started heating up. Throughout 2018 there were reports of a flourishing and unregulated OTC market in China. Last April, an executive at Overseas Chinese Investment Management, John DeCleene, described how bitcoin mules were making lots of money smuggling the cryptocurrency into the country.

“Selling and buying bitcoins on those OTC websites is the same as shopping on Taobao,” explained one of the bitcoin smugglers in an interview with Reuters.

Read more