Who invented perpetual futures?

by Jennifer

In the dynamic world of financial markets, perpetual futures have emerged as a significant innovation, providing traders with a unique instrument for navigating various market conditions. The evolution of financial derivatives has a rich history, and perpetual futures represent a noteworthy milestone in this journey. In this article, we will delve into the origins of perpetual futures, shedding light on the pioneers and pivotal moments that led to the creation of this innovative financial product.

The Concept of Futures Contracts

Before exploring the origins of perpetual futures, it’s essential to understand the broader context of futures contracts. Futures contracts are financial agreements between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price on a specified future date. These standardized contracts, often traded on organized exchanges, serve as valuable tools for hedging against price fluctuations and speculating on market movements.


Evolution of Futures Markets

The concept of futures dates back centuries, with historical roots in agricultural markets. Farmers and merchants engaged in forward contracts to secure prices for their crops or commodities well in advance, mitigating the risks associated with unpredictable market conditions. Over time, futures markets expanded beyond agriculture to include a wide range of assets, from commodities and currencies to equity indices and interest rates.


The Birth of Perpetual Futures

The introduction of perpetual futures represents a significant evolution in the world of derivatives. Unlike traditional futures contracts with predetermined expiration dates, perpetual futures are designed to remain open indefinitely. This innovation addresses a limitation of standard futures contracts, where traders must regularly roll over their positions to avoid expiration and physical settlement.

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Cryptocurrency Markets and Perpetual Futures

The genesis of perpetual futures can be traced to the cryptocurrency space, where the need for a more flexible and continuous trading instrument arose. Bitcoin, the pioneer of cryptocurrencies, served as the catalyst for this innovation. The concept gained prominence with the emergence of cryptocurrency exchanges offering perpetual futures contracts, allowing traders to engage in leveraged trading without the constraints of fixed expiration dates.

BitMEX and the Introduction of Perpetual Swaps

BitMEX, a cryptocurrency exchange founded in 2014, played a pivotal role in popularizing perpetual futures through the introduction of perpetual swaps. Perpetual swaps, a form of perpetual futures, allow traders to speculate on the price movements of assets without the need for physical delivery. BitMEX’s introduction of perpetual swaps marked a transformative moment in the cryptocurrency derivatives landscape, providing traders with a novel instrument that offered continuous trading opportunities.

Key Features of Perpetual Futures

Perpetual futures share common features across various platforms, contributing to their popularity among traders. One key feature is the absence of an expiration date, allowing traders to hold positions for an indefinite period. Additionally, perpetual futures incorporate a funding mechanism to ensure the contract’s price aligns closely with the underlying asset’s spot price. This mechanism helps prevent significant deviations between the futures price and the market price.

Leverage and Margin Trading

The introduction of perpetual futures brought with it the ability to engage in leveraged trading. Traders can amplify their exposure to price movements by using leverage, allowing them to control larger positions with a relatively small amount of capital. While leverage can enhance potential profits, it also introduces higher risks, emphasizing the importance of risk management strategies for traders participating in perpetual futures markets.

Market Liquidity and Trading Volumes

Perpetual futures have contributed to the liquidity and trading volumes in the cryptocurrency markets. The continuous nature of these contracts fosters active trading, attracting a diverse range of market participants. Increased liquidity benefits traders by reducing the impact of slippage and ensuring that buy and sell orders can be executed efficiently, even in periods of high market activity.

Risk Factors and Considerations

Despite their popularity, perpetual futures come with inherent risks and considerations. The absence of an expiration date means that traders must actively manage their positions and monitor market conditions continuously. Additionally, the funding mechanism in perpetual futures introduces a cost associated with holding positions for extended periods, impacting the overall profitability of trades.

Regulatory Challenges and Compliance

The introduction of perpetual futures has prompted regulatory scrutiny in various jurisdictions. Regulatory authorities are grappling with the complexities of these innovative instruments and seeking to establish frameworks to ensure investor protection and market integrity. Traders and exchanges dealing in perpetual futures must navigate evolving regulatory landscapes and comply with relevant guidelines to maintain a secure and transparent trading environment.

Impact on Traditional Futures Markets

The success and popularity of perpetual futures in the cryptocurrency space have sparked discussions about their potential impact on traditional futures markets. While traditional futures contracts remain integral to established financial markets, the flexibility and continuous trading offered by perpetual futures have garnered attention. Market participants and regulators alike are closely monitoring developments in both arenas to assess potential synergies or challenges.

Innovation and Competition Among Exchanges

The emergence of perpetual futures has stimulated innovation and competition among cryptocurrency exchanges. As more platforms enter the market, each strives to differentiate itself by introducing unique features, trading pairs, and services related to perpetual futures. This competitive landscape benefits traders by fostering innovation, driving improvements in user experience, and encouraging the development of sophisticated trading tools.

Technological Advancements and Infrastructure

The adoption of perpetual futures has also spurred technological advancements and infrastructure improvements in the cryptocurrency space. Exchanges offering these instruments invest in robust trading platforms, enhanced security measures, and reliable data feeds to accommodate the demands of active traders. This focus on technological excellence contributes to the overall development and maturity of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Educational Initiatives and Awareness

The introduction of perpetual futures has underscored the importance of educational initiatives and awareness campaigns within the cryptocurrency community. Traders must be well-informed about the unique features, risks, and opportunities associated with perpetual futures. Educational efforts contribute to a more knowledgeable and responsible trading community, fostering a sustainable and ethical market environment.

Looking Ahead: Perpetual Futures in a Dynamic Landscape

As perpetual futures continue to gain traction and evolve, the landscape of cryptocurrency derivatives markets is likely to witness further innovations. The integration of perpetual futures into traditional financial markets, the development of new derivatives products, and ongoing regulatory developments will shape the future of this dynamic and rapidly expanding sector. Traders and investors navigating these markets must stay informed, adapt to changes, and embrace the opportunities presented by perpetual futures.


In conclusion, the invention of perpetual futures represents a transformative development in the world of financial derivatives, particularly within the cryptocurrency space. From their origins in response to the limitations of traditional futures contracts to their role in shaping the dynamics of cryptocurrency markets, perpetual futures have become a key instrument for traders seeking continuous and flexible exposure to price movements. As these innovative instruments continue to evolve, market participants must remain vigilant, adapt to regulatory changes, and leverage educational resources to navigate the complexities of perpetual futures trading.

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