What are OTC (Over-The-Counter) trades on cryptocurrency exchanges?

What are OTC (Over-The-Counter) trades on cryptocurrency exchanges?

Cryptocurrency exchanges have revolutionized the way individuals and institutions trade digital assets. While traditional exchanges offer a platform for buyers and sellers to trade cryptocurrencies openly, Over-The-Counter (OTC) trades provide an alternative method for executing large transactions off-exchange. In this article, we will explore the concept of OTC trades on cryptocurrency exchanges, their benefits, and how they differ from regular trading.

Understanding OTC trades

OTC trades refer to transactions that occur directly between two parties, without the involvement of an exchange's order book. Unlike regular trading on exchanges, OTC trades are not visible on the public order book and do not influence market prices. It is a private transaction negotiated between the buyer and seller, often facilitated by a broker or an OTC trading desk.

Why choose OTC trades?

There are several reasons why individuals or institutions may opt for OTC trades instead of regular exchange trading. One primary reason is the ability to execute large transactions without causing significant price fluctuations in the market. When large buy or sell orders are placed on an exchange, it often leads to price slippage due to the limited liquidity available at a specific price point. OTC trades help mitigate this issue by matching buyers and sellers directly, ensuring a smoother execution process.

Another advantage of OTC trades is privacy. Regular exchange trading can expose the identity and intentions of traders, potentially affecting market sentiment. OTC trades, on the other hand, offer a higher level of confidentiality since they are conducted privately between the involved parties. This makes OTC trades particularly attractive to institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals who prefer to keep their trading activities discreet.

Additionally, OTC trades often provide more flexibility in terms of settlement options. Unlike regular exchange trading, which typically requires immediate settlement, OTC trades can be structured to accommodate specific payment terms and timelines. This allows participants to negotiate customized agreements that suit their individual preferences and requirements.

OTC trading process

The OTC trading process typically involves several key steps. First, the buyer and seller express their interest in trading a specific cryptocurrency and establish their desired trade parameters, such as the quantity, price, and settlement terms. At this stage, participants may also seek assistance from brokers or OTC trading desks to facilitate the transaction.

Once the terms are agreed upon, the OTC desk or broker seeks counterparties who are willing to match the trade. These counterparties could include other individuals, institutions, or even market makers. The OTC desk acts as an intermediary, connecting buyers and sellers, and negotiating the best possible terms for both parties.

After finding a suitable counterparty, the OTC desk or broker confirms the trade details, including the price, quantity, and settlement terms. The buyer and seller then proceed to transfer the agreed-upon assets or funds directly to each other's accounts, outside the exchange's order book.

Finally, once the assets and funds are transferred successfully, the trade is considered complete, and the OTC desk or broker ensures that all parties fulfill their obligations. Depending on the specific arrangement, the settlement may occur instantly or be scheduled for a later date.

Key differences from regular trading

OTC trades differ significantly from regular trading on cryptocurrency exchanges. One primary distinction is the absence of market impact. Regular trading on exchanges can influence market prices as large buy or sell orders are executed, leading to slippage and price volatility. OTC trades, however, do not impact the market, as they are executed privately and do not rely on order book liquidity.

Another difference lies in the level of customization and negotiation involved. OTC trades allow participants to negotiate specific terms and conditions that suit their requirements, such as settlement timelines and payment options. Regular exchange trading, on the other hand, typically follows standardized rules and immediate settlement requirements.

Furthermore, OTC trades offer a higher level of privacy compared to regular trading. On exchanges, public order books display all trades, exposing the identity and intentions of traders. OTC trades, being conducted off-exchange, provide a more discreet environment for participants, particularly beneficial for institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals.


While regular trading on cryptocurrency exchanges remains the most common method for buying and selling digital assets, OTC trades offer an alternative option for executing large transactions off-exchange. With the ability to provide privacy, minimize market impact, and offer flexibility in settlement options, OTC trades are particularly attractive to institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. As the cryptocurrency market continues to evolve, OTC trading is expected to play a significant role in meeting the diverse needs of market participants.

George Brown

Hello, Prior to becoming a senior copywriter at TypesLawyers, George worked as a freelance copywriter with several clients. George Brown holds a B.B.A. from Harvard University United States of North America and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

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