Coinbase amasses a $4B war chest

Brian Newar
Brian Newar August 19, 2021
Updated 2021/08/19 at 9:00 AM
3 Min Read

Coinbase, the largest American cryptocurrency exchange, has stockpiled a war chest worth about $4 billion in cash in preparation for decreased crypto retail trading volumes and higher operating costs brought on by regulatory hurdles.

It reportedly expects to use the cash to cover costs incurred by a variety of factors, including conforming to new regulations handed down by the United States legislature.

Coinbase CFO, Alesia Haas, told the Wall Street Journal that no one single danger to the exchange or the industry had compelled the exchange to build its cash reserves, but that it was best to be prepared for the worst while times are good. The company has conducted stress tests to ensure it can meet the costs of compliance, cyber attacks or possible trading declines.

“We want to ensure that we maintain those cash reserves so that we can continue to invest and continue to grow our products and services in the event that we go into a crypto winter.”

‘Crypto winter’ refers to an extended bear market and the term originated in the sustained downturn from early 2018 through 2019.

Regulatory storm clouds are gathering due to a bill which passed in the US Senate last week which is so loosely worded that DeFi platforms, miners, and validators could be defined as brokers for tax purposes. These entities may be required to report user activity to the IRS. The definition of ‘broker’ has many in the crypto space lobbying their representatives hard.

While there are hopes the bill will be amended in the house, there are fears that if the bill gets signed into law as-is, a significant amount of retail crypto trading volume could dry up.

Binance, one of Coinbase’s top competitors, also began stockpiling a similar emergency fund in 2019. The Binance Secure Asset Fund for Users (SAFU) fund, however, is meant to compensate users for security breaches and other cybersecurity-related issues.

Leading up to the fiery debate in the Senate, Coinbase had recorded tremendous profits topping some $740 million in Q1 and $1.6 billion from $2.2 billion in revenue during Q2. Revenue at the exchange is mostly generated by high transaction fees on the platform from nearly nine million retail investors and roughly 9,000 institutional investors.

The ability for Coinbase to generate such high profits based on above-average transaction prices on the platform has seen the market value of Coinbase hover around $51 billion.

Another expense the war chest may need to cover is for new product roll-outs. With its current heavy reliance on transaction fees, Coinbase is vulnerable to a loss of revenue. Therefore, the exchange may focus on launching new financial services in order to diversify its streams of revenue.

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