Goldman to Set up Bank to Trade in Bitcoin

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) perhaps the most storied name in finance, is bucking the risks and moving ahead with plans to set up what appears to be the first Bitcoin trading operation at a Wall Street bank.

In a step that is likely to lend legitimacy to virtual currencies — and create new concerns for Goldman — the bank is about to begin using its own money to trade with clients in a variety of contracts linked to the price of Bitcoin.

While Goldman will not initially be buying and selling actual Bitcoins, a team at the bank is looking at going in that direction if it can get regulatory approval and figure out how to deal with the additional risks associated with holding the virtual currency.

The suggestion that Goldman Sachs, among the most vaunted banks on Wall Street and a frequent target for criticism, would even consider trading Bitcoin would have been viewed as preposterous a few years ago, when Bitcoin was primarily known as a way to buy drugs online.

Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an anonymous figure going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, who talked about replacing Wall Street banks — not giving them a new revenue line.

Over the last two years, however, a growing number of hedge funds and other large investors around the world have expressed an interest in virtual currencies. Tech companies like Square (NYSE: SQ) have begun offering
Bitcoin services to their customers, and the commodity exchanges in Chicago started allowing customers to trade Bitcoin futures contracts in December.

As for Goldman, its shares gave back $1.91 to $232.14 early Thursday.