The Pros and Cons of Over the Counter (OTC) Crypto Trading

The Pros and Cons of Over the Counter

When it comes to trading cryptocurrencies investors have choices to consider such as exchanges and over-the-counter (OTC) markets. OTC cryptocurrency trading refers to off-exchange trades that occur directly between buyers and sellers bypassing the public order books of exchanges. OTC markets are particularly important for investors who want to trade large volumes of cryptocurrencies without impacting the market price. However, OTC trading also has its advantages and disadvantages, which we will examine in detail.

Advantages of OTC Trading

Privacy and Confidentiality; Since OTC trades happen directly between parties involved they provide privacy compared to exchanges where orders are visible to other traders. In some cases, nondisclosure agreements accompany OTC trades further enhancing the confidentiality of the parties.

Increased Flexibility; OTC trades also offer flexibility in terms of trading pairs and volumes. Unlike exchanges that impose restrictions on trading pairs and limit orders, OTC desks can facilitate trades between any two parties for any desired amount.

Reduced Market Impact; As OTC trades do not impact market prices directly they result in market impact and slippage. This can be particularly advantageous, for traders who wish to avoid price volatility.

Advantages of Favorable Pricing; When it comes to, over-the-counter (OTC) trades market makers play a role in providing liquidity to the market. This often translates into prices for investors compared to what public exchanges offer.

Drawbacks of OTC Trading

Increased Risk of Scams; OTC markets have a susceptibility to scams and fraudulent activities due to the lack of oversight and protection. Investors need to exercise caution and thoroughly research their counterparts before engaging in any OTC trades.

Lack of Transparency; Unlike exchanges OTC trades are conducted privately limiting investors’ access to information about market prices, liquidity, and transaction history. This limited transparency can put investors at a disadvantage when they rely on market data to make decisions.

Liquidity Risk; OTC markets can sometimes suffer from illiquidity meaning there might not be buyers or sellers at any given time. This can lead to challenges with price discovery. Increase the risk of counterparty default posing risks for investors.

Limited Regulatory Oversight; Unlike exchanges that operate under oversight OTC markets lack such supervision. As a result, investors have protections, in cases involving fraud or misconduct.

OTC Trading, in Cryptocurrency Markets

The cryptocurrency industry heavily relies on OTC markets, where large amounts of Bitcoin are often traded privately. OTC desks facilitate trades between buyers and sellers allowing them to negotiate prices and trading volumes. These desks offer privacy, flexibility, and favorable pricing compared to exchanges for larger trades.

Factors Impacting OTC Liquidity and Market Efficiency

Several factors contribute to the liquidity and efficiency of OTC markets including the size and depth of the OTC desk, the reliability of counterparties involved and the supply-demand dynamics of cryptocurrencies. Market makers and intermediaries also play a role in facilitating trades and providing liquidity.

Evaluating Risks and Rewards in OTC Trading

Investors must exercise caution when engaging in OTC trading by conducting diligence. This includes assessing the reputation, trading history, and credibility of counterparties involved. Additionally, implementing risk management strategies like diversification, hedging or limit orders can help mitigate exposure to price volatility and liquidity risks.

Balancing Pros and Cons of OTC Trading

Before deciding whether to participate in OTC markets it is important for investors to assess their risk appetite, investment goals, and trading experience. Seeking guidance from a cryptocurrency broker can also be beneficial in making informed decisions.

One significant difference between OTC and exchange trading lies in the structure of trading fees. Exchanges typically charge a percentage fee based on the trade value ranging from 0.1% to 0.5% depending on the platform. On the other hand, OTC desks establish a fixed rate, for trades that are negotiated between the investor and the broker. While exchanges offer transparency and convenience in terms of fees OTC desks provide pricing flexibility and an opportunity to negotiate rates for trades.

This model can prove to be especially advantageous, for institutions and high-worth investors who engage in large trades.

Slippage and Liquidity

Slippage occurs when there is a difference between the expected price of a trade and the price at which it is executed. Slippage can occur on both exchanges and OTC desks. It tends to have a significant impact on exchanges with lower liquidity. Liquidity on the hand pertains to the amount of assets that can be traded on a platform. While exchanges generally offer liquidity and faster execution times OTC desks provide refined and personalized trading options that cater specifically to an investor’s requirements. These include order sizes, specific asset pairings, and enhanced market access.

Custody and Ownership

Custody denotes the safeguarding of assets while ownership concerns an investor’s rights over their assets. On exchanges, investors may have concerns regarding custody since the exchange holds their keys. In contrast, OTC desks allow investors to maintain ownership by facilitating transfers from sellers to buyers. This model grants control over assets as investors have the choice of storing and managing their investments, in storage facilities or digital wallets.

However, there is a drawback to consider; it can be more difficult to easily sell off assets since the investor must first transfer ownership to a buyer.

KYC Process

The KYC (Know Your Customer) process refers to the identification and verification of investor identities to prevent fraud and comply with money laundering regulations. Exchanges typically have KYC requirements as they need to adhere to government regulations while providing protection against hacking and fraud. On the hand, OTC desks usually have lenient KYC policies as they cater primarily to high-net-worth investors and institutions. This approach allows investors to maintain their anonymity and privacy. It also carries risks of fraud or unauthorized access by parties.


Both OTC desks and exchanges offer options for cryptocurrency trading. The choice of platform depends on an investor’s needs, goals, and preferences. By understanding the variances in trading costs, liquidity, custody, ownership, and KYC requirements investors can make decisions that maximize returns while minimizing risks.