June 27, 2023

Intro to Crypto Market Making

The concept of market making is not a new one. In traditional financial markets, market makers have been around for decades, providing liquidity and facilitating trade. However, the world of crypto has introduced a new twist to the role of market makers.

Diagram showing the relationship between market makers and stakeholders

The crypto market is known for its volatility, but what is less well-known is the crucial role played by market makers. Without market makers, the crypto market would struggle to function effectively.

What is market making?

Formal definition by Investopedia

Market making is a crucial component of the financial ecosystem. At its core, the role of a market maker is to provide liquidity in the market by continually buying and selling digital assets. This ensures traders can always buy or sell these tokens at a fair price, which in turns allows projects to grow, attract new members, and enables billions to be traded every day. Centralized exchanges (CEXs) often require projects to engage professional market makers to ensure good liquidity at all times.

In essence, market makers provide the necessary liquidity that allows for smooth trading. They do this by constantly offering to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, which ensures there are always enough orders in the market for traders to match with. In turn, this reduces volatility and promotes a more stable trading environment.

Market makers also help to narrow the bid-ask spread (the difference between the highest price that a buyer is willing to pay for an asset and the lowest price that a seller is willing to accept). A narrower spread is beneficial for traders as it reduces the cost of trading.

Importance of crypto market making

Why does crypto market making matter? Here are three key reasons:

  1. Liquidity provision: crypto market makers provide liquidity, making it possible for traders to buy or sell a particular cryptocurrency at any given time. Without market makers, traders might find it difficult to execute trades, especially for less popular cryptocurrencies.
  2. Price stability: by constantly providing buy and sell orders, market makers help to maintain price stability in the market. This is crucial in the crypto world, which can be highly volatile.
  3. Market efficiency: market makers help to ensure that the price of a cryptocurrency on an exchange accurately reflects its market value. This is done by reducing the bid-ask spread, which is the difference between the highest price that a buyer is willing to pay for an asset and the lowest price that a seller is willing to accept.
Charts showing the effects of Flowdesk's market making

Common market-making strategies

Market makers use a range of strategies to manage their risk and maintain liquidity, including:

  • Algorithmic trading: Many market makers use algorithmic trading strategies, which involve using computer programs to place trades based on predefined rules. These algorithms can analyze market conditions and execute trades much more quickly and efficiently than a human could.
  • Arbitrage: This involves trying to reduce price differences between different markets. For example, a market maker might buy a cryptocurrency on one exchange where it's cheaper and then sell it on another exchange where it's more expensive to harmonize prices.
  • Hedging: This involves taking an opposing position in a related market to offset any potential losses. For instance, if a market maker is holding a large amount of a particular cryptocurrency, they might short-sell futures contracts for that cryptocurrency to hedge against potential price drops.

Crypto-specific market-making issues

Crypto market making is evolving rapidly. As more institutional investors enter the crypto market, there is a growing demand for more sophisticated market making services.

At the same time, the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) and automated market makers (AMMs) is changing the landscape. Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs), like Uniswap, use smart contracts to automatically match buy and sell orders, removing the need for traditional market makers.

However, while AMMs offer some advantages, they also have limitations, such as the potential for impermanent loss and susceptibility to price manipulation. Many DEXs are also moving towards using orderbooks to match the usability and power of CEXs. As a result, there is still a need for professional market makers who can navigate the complexities of the crypto market and maintain liquidity in both types of exchanges.

The crypto market also remains largely unregulated, and this often allows large market makers and exchanges to set their terms freely. This can sometimes lead to situations where market makers trade against the projects' interests for their own benefit, especially in volatile market conditions​.

Companies like Flowdesk are introducing a different, more transparent approach to market making in the crypto space. They are offering an infrastructure that allows crypto projects to set their own terms for market making, prioritizing the project's interests over their own.


The role of market makers in the cryptocurrency ecosystem remains essential for maintaining liquidity and ensuring efficient trading. By understanding the role of market makers and how they operate, crypto projects can make more informed decisions about how to manage liquidity and trading for their tokens. It's a dynamic and evolving industry, and innovation in this space will continue to shape the future of cryptocurrency trading.