Companies like Robinhood, Block, and eToro are already offering crypto alongside their stock offerings, so it's only a matter of time before crypto brokerages begin to offer stocks. That's the opinion of Jesse Powell, the CEO of early Bitcoin exchange Kraken and a well respected veteran of the crypto scene.
On the latest episode of Decrypt's gm podcast, Powell noted that crypto exchanges are moving towards offering a "super wallet" of sorts that allows consumers to buy or trade everything from crypto to NFTs to stocks.
"I think you'll see these crypto exchanges all kind of converge on a very similar feature set that becomes a sort of super wallet, omni-product app with NFTs, spot trading, FX, maybe even stock trading, maybe even some more extreme crypto stuff," said Powell. "I think we've said before that [stocks] are something that we're exploring and I think makes sense to do."
Powell's perspective is worth noting since he has been involved in crypto since almost the very beginning, founding Kraken as a Bitcoin exchange in 2011 after running a previous company that facilitated trading in World of Warcraft gold and other digital items.
Kraken is less well known than its larger rival Coinbase, but the company has long done a healthy trade in the US and other large markets, and is the go-to exchange for many professional crypto traders. More recently, it has focused on trying to lure more retail investors, "trying to onboard the next billion users to crypto," Powell said.
Even as more and more companies offer crypto, Powell says he is not worried this will put significant pressure on the trading fees that are by far the largest revenue stream for Kraken and other exchanges.
"I don't really think there's like a lot of pressure on trading fees. I still feel like they're fairly low." he said. "I guess they could go to zero. But I don't feel like, when the price of something is moving 20 percent everyday, I don't think people bat an eye at 20 basis points."
He added that many investors are "relatively insensitive" to the fees and that, "Ultimately, it's going to come down to the best UX and being able to do more of what you want in one place."
Meanwhile, Powell says Kraken has already been diversifying its revenue streams within crypto. He pointed to the company's forthcoming NFT offering and to DeFi staking, which he says is becoming a part of the company's business.
Powell, who is polite and soft-spoken in person, is also known for his pugnacious stances towards regulators, famously pulling Kraken out of New York in 2015 in response to that state's controversial regulatory framework known as the BitLicense. In 2018, he described New York as "an abusive, controlling ex you broke up with 3 years ago but they keep stalking you."
Kraken's opinion on New York's crypto decree—which was launched by a regulator who left soon after to advise crypto firms on how to navigate the very same license he created—hasn't improved of late.
"After all this time, I mean, if we just looked back and did a study of the economic damage done by the BitLicense, I'm sure it would be tremendous—in the billions of dollars," he said. "But other states are getting to be more open and welcoming of Bitcoin, and even seeing it as something that can create growth in their economy, something they want to attract to their state."
The Kraken CEO also shared his candid perspective on a broad range of other crypto topics, including the forthcoming Ethereum merge and the role of NFTs in gaming. He also offered a salty take on San Francisco, where Kraken recently shut its office due to worsening crime, and a prescient warning about stablecoin-issuer Terra—which collapsed spectacularly this week.
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