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Crypto broker sees users drawn to bots to beat volatile trading

[SHANGHAI] A fledgling Chinese brokerage is betting that investors will flock to bot trading to capitalise on the price swings in the US$300 billion cryptocurrency market.

BitUniverse, a startup that counts China's Shunwei Capital and ZhenFund among its backers, has a monthly trading volume of around US$5 billion on its online brokerage platform, according to Beijing-based founder Chen Yong. And more than 80 per cent of its 100,000-some users run a grid trading algorithm every day, which automates buy and sell orders at certain regular intervals to capitalise on normal price volatility, Mr Chen said.

The cryptocurrency boom of recent years has given birth to major exchange operators like Binance and Huobi - but brokerage services, which play a major role in traditional financial markets, aren't much of a presence in the arena.

BitUniverse is among a new wave of startups hoping to become a one-stop platform for regular people to trade crypto like Bitcoin and Ether, providing them with the liquidity from a multitude of exchanges. Its algorithms help users place orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week - which some exchanges offer but is more rare from brokerages.

"Trading bots let users overcome their humanity flaws and become a rational investor," Mr Chen said in a video interview. That doesn't mean they will be guaranteed to make money, he adds, but they will "at least lose less".

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Mr Chen, who co-founded utility app provider Cheetah Mobile, started his crypto venture at the end of 2017. BitUniverse's Pionex brokerage service launched a year ago and has already become a major cash cow for the firm. BitUniverse, which is incorporated in Singapore, now makes roughly US$3 million a month by charging a fee of 0.05 per cent per transaction to traders in places from China to Europe and the US, Mr Chen said. About 80 per cent of Pionex's trades are fulfilled by the order books on Binance and Huobi, he said.

In 2018, BitUniverse raised close to US$10 million from prominent Chinese venture capital firms Shunwei, ZhenFund and Gaorong Capital at a US$50 million valuation, according to the company. Mr Chen runs a team of around 80 people, most of whom are developers hailing from Chinese tech firms including Cheetah, Alibaba Group Holding and Baidu, he said.

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