Margin Trading Is so Hot Right Now
Margin trading and initial exchange offerings (IEOs) have proven to be the dominant trends among cryptocurrency exchanges this year. Bibox is the perfect case in point: the exchange, which offers up to 3x leverage on BTC, recently entered the IEO game, announcing the launch of no less than four projects on Bibox Orbit simultaneously to commence on April 22: The Force Protocol (FOR), Ludos (LUD), Staking (SKR), and X-Block (IX).
FTX is another platform that encapsulates one of 2019’s defining crypto exchange trends, in this case for leverage. The derivatives exchange, backed by trading firm Alameda Research, offers futures, leveraged tokens at up to 3x, and OTC trading. With leverage of anywhere from 2-100x, these exchanges multiply the thrill – and the risk – of going long or short on bitcoin and other digital assets. Where once traders had a handful of options, now there are dozens, as the number of platforms offering margin and derivatives products has proliferated.
The Perils of Offering Leverage
On market data sites such as Coincodex, Coinlore, and Coinpaprika, the number of exchanges offering leverage now runs to more than 50. Some provide margin trading on leading coins such as BTC, ETH, and BCH, while others have gotten more adventurous, offering products such as leveraged futures on Telegram’s still unreleased gram token. For traders lured by the prospect of tripling their money through little more than cranking up a slider and letting the multiplier effect take care of the rest, there are a few perils to be aware of – aside from the obvious risk of being liquidated.
Bitmex takes pride in the size of its insurance fund, which currently stands at close to 24,000 BTC, but the majority of leveraged exchanges aren’t nearly so well equipped. With smaller exchanges, a large trader’s account going bankrupt can lead to clawbacks from other accounts to cover the loss. Poorly designed risk management systems exacerbate this risk. The complexities of offering leverage are significant, necessitating collateral to be posted for separate margin wallets for each digital asset. Newly launched futures exchanges also typically suffer from low volume and poor liquidity due to a small customer base, which in turn makes it more difficult to attract customer flow and market makers.
It’s not just new exchanges that can get things from when it comes to managing margin, either: last year Okex suffered a $9M clawback after a trader placed a large BTC order and was then liquidated after the asset crashed. As FTX notes, “If a user has a leveraged futures position on and markets move against their account enough that their net asset value is negative, then someone has to pay for that loss.” It continues:
In crypto you can’t repossess assets from the bankrupt account’s owner from outside the system, so you’re stuck with other users — the users who aren’t getting liquidated — footing the bill.
With the public’s appetite for leveraged everything and IEOs for everything showing no signs of being sated, expect to see plenty more of both in 2019. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, with hundreds of platforms jostling to gain a foothold, margin, despite its hazards, is seen as a key way to attract traders and stay relevant.