Jeff Sprecher, CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), has been at the apex of fintech, where technology and finance intersect, for nearly 20 years. Time after time, his company has consolidated, organized, and demystified the trading of financial assets. “We started out at the beginning of this century looking at the opaque world of energy trading and imagining how the process could become transparent, efficient, and technology-driven,” Sprecher says. “We’ve repeated that basic challenge, again and again, for asset class after asset class.”
ICE quickly grew to include foreign currencies, soft commodities such as cotton and soy, credit default swaps, and index futures. Today, ICE operates 23 exchanges and marketplaces, including the New York Stock Exchange, plus seven clearinghouses. “Fintech is increasingly at the center of the conversation,” Sprecher says. “I’ve never been more excited about the potential to improve markets.”
In August, ICE announced its next goal: launching a federally regulated market for digital assets like Bitcoin. To accomplish this, Sprecher conceived a new company, Bakkt. It has partnered with Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group, and Starbucks to lay the groundwork. Bakkt aims to allow users to move money through cryptocurrency in the same way they do now with credit cards. “I’m reminded about the movie A League of Their Own,” Sprecher says. “Tom Hanks, the coach, says ‘It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.’ When an airline buys or leases a new aircraft by moving digital currency and considers that traditional finance, we’ll be close to a disruptive moment,” he says. “It can happen faster than we think.”
This article originally appeared in our November 2018 issue.