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Navigating the Future of Crypto Investments: BTC spot ETFs

  • October 25, 2023

Navigating the Future of Crypto Investments: BTC spot ETFs

In recent months, the landscape of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has undergone significant advancements. 

25 October 2023

In recent months, the landscape of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has undergone significant advancements. 

One such focus is the emergence of cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and their potential impact on institutional investments.

The excitement surrounding this development was sparked in June when BlackRock, a renowned financial giant, made waves in the cryptocurrency space by submitting a filing for a Bitcoin Spot ETF. This filing captivated both the crypto community and traditional financial markets, intensifying anticipation for the first crypto spot ETF. The reputation of BlackRock as a powerhouse in the financial industry, coupled with its pivotal role in the U.S. financial system, magnified the significance of this submission.

But BlackRock wasn't the only player in this game. It was soon followed by other major players in the financial industry, including Franklin Templeton, Fidelity, and VanEck, who also submitted their applications for spot Bitcoin ETFs, showing their understanding of the significance of a spot Bitcoin ETF and their eagerness to secure a position in this emerging market.

Despite the initial excitement, the decisions on these spot Bitcoin ETFs, including BlackRock's and the others, have faced delays, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) serving as the gatekeeper. As the industry anticipates the SEC's decision scheduled for October 2023, the industry is at a crucial juncture, poised for potential changes in the space of institutional digital assets investments. 


Beyond Bitcoin Futures ETF: Seeking True Crypto Adoption

It's important to distinguish between spot Bitcoin ETFs and the majority of Bitcoin futures ETFs. Most Bitcoin futures ETFs do not provide ownership of actual Bitcoin. Instead, they involve investing in Bitcoin futures contracts. These futures contracts are derivative financial instruments that derive their value from the future price of Bitcoin. Examples include VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF and Invesco Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF.

While Bitcoin futures ETFs offer certain advantages, such as lower fees compared to most cryptocurrency exchanges and the ability to hedge against Bitcoin's price fluctuations, they do not provide direct exposure to Bitcoin's spot price. In contrast, a spot Bitcoin ETF offers a more direct and straightforward way to track Bitcoin’s prices. This distinction highlights the significance of spot Bitcoin ETFs and why they have generated so much excitement in the cryptocurrency community and beyond.

Therefore, the arrival of Bitcoin spot ETFs has the potential to reshape the cryptocurrency investment landscape and make it more accessible to a wider range of investors. These ETFs could bridge the gap between traditional finance and the world of cryptocurrencies, offering a regulated, secure, and convenient way for investors to participate in the crypto market.


Impact on institutions: Transforming institutional crypto investments

The decision of the SEC on cryptocurrency ETFs has the potential to usher in a significant transformation in the landscape of institutional crypto investments. Here's how the approval of cryptocurrency ETFs could affect institutional investors, including asset managers, hedge funds, and treasury managers:


1. Increased accessibility

Approval of cryptocurrency ETFs by the SEC can vastly enhance the accessibility of the crypto market for institutional investors. Traditional asset managers, hedge funds, and treasury managers have been somewhat reluctant to delve into the world of cryptocurrencies, mainly due to regulatory uncertainties and operational complexities. The introduction of cryptocurrency ETFs provides these institutional players with a well-regulated and familiar entry point into the market. ETFs are traded on traditional stock exchanges, offering a level of comfort and oversight that institutional investors are accustomed to.


2. Reduced custodial and security burden

One of the significant barriers for institutions entering the crypto space has been the requirement to manage the custody and security of digital assets. Investing in cryptocurrency ETFs alleviates this burden. When institutions invest in ETFs, they are not responsible for the secure storage of digital assets; this responsibility falls on the ETF issuer or custodian. This shift simplifies operations, reduces cybersecurity risks, and eases the overall burden of managing the security of crypto assets. In the case of BlackRock, the financial institution will be partnering with Coinbase Prime who will serve as the custodian of BlackRock’s digital assets.


3. Risk mitigation

The cryptocurrency market is known for its inherent risks, including extreme price volatility, evolving regulatory landscapes, and security threats. Institutional investors typically seek ways to mitigate these risks. Cryptocurrency ETFs often come equipped with sophisticated risk management strategies, which can be challenging for individual investors to implement effectively. These strategies can be advantageous for institutional investors looking to protect their portfolios against the unique risks associated with cryptocurrencies.


4. Liquidity and trading efficiency

ETFs are renowned for their high liquidity and flexibility. They can be traded on traditional stock exchanges during market hours, offering institutional investors the opportunity to enter or exit positions swiftly. This contrasts with the 24/7 cryptocurrency markets that demand constant monitoring. The liquidity and trading efficiency of ETFs provide institutions with a level of control and maneuverability that can be crucial in managing large investment portfolios.


5. Compliance and reporting simplification

Regulatory compliance is a paramount concern for institutional investors. Cryptocurrency ETFs often come with well-defined compliance processes and reporting requirements. These standardized procedures can significantly simplify the compliance obligations of institutions, streamlining the reporting process and ensuring that they meet their regulatory requirements effectively and efficiently.


6. Institutional validation

The approval of cryptocurrency ETFs by the SEC carries a significant implication of institutional validation for the crypto market. For many traditional and risk-averse institutional investors, this validation acts as a reassuring signal. It can pave the way for these investors to enter the crypto market with more confidence, as they see regulatory authorities acknowledging and regulating these investment vehicles.

7. Easier benchmarking and evaluation

Institutional investors often rely on benchmarks and performance metrics to evaluate their investments. Cryptocurrency ETFs provide familiar benchmarks and reporting metrics, making it easier for institutions to assess the performance of their crypto investments. This simplification enables institutional investors to compare their crypto holdings with traditional assets in a way that aligns with their established evaluation methods.


Crypto ETFs vs. Crypto holdings: Institutional considerations

Institutional investors face crucial decisions when it comes to their engagement with cryptocurrencies, particularly whether to invest through cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or to maintain direct ownership of digital assets. Each approach presents its unique advantages and considerations:

First, purchasing cryptocurrencies directly affords institutions complete ownership and control over their digital assets. This level of control can be indispensable for institutions with specific governance, security, or control requirements. It allows them to have a say in the custody, security, and access protocols, aligning with their organizational needs.

Next, it is important to consider the level of customization needed. Direct ownership empowers institutions with greater flexibility in constructing and managing their cryptocurrency portfolios. They can tailor their investments to align with their organization's unique investment goals and strategies. This customization enables a more personalized approach to cryptocurrency holdings, which can be advantageous for institutions with specific mandates.

For institutions that view cryptocurrencies as long-term investments or stores of value, direct ownership can reduce management costs associated with ongoing ETF fees. When institutions plan to hold their crypto assets for extended periods, these fees can accumulate, making direct ownership a cost-effective option over time.

Direct ownership also provides institutions with comprehensive exposure to the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem. This encompasses participation in blockchain networks, DeFi protocols, or staking for certain assets. Institutions looking to engage with various aspects of the crypto world beyond mere price appreciation often find direct ownership essential.

Institutions may have specific security or privacy requirements necessitating direct control over their cryptocurrency holdings. This is particularly pertinent when operating in regions with stringent data protection and compliance regulations. Direct ownership allows institutions to implement tailored security measures and maintain control over sensitive data, addressing their unique compliance concerns.

The frequency of trading and rebalancing is also a critical factor to consider. Depending on the institution's trading strategy, transaction costs can vary significantly. Direct ownership may have lower transaction costs, particularly for institutions that engage in infrequent trading. ETFs may come with their own trading expenses, which could become burdensome for institutions with active trading strategies.

In conclusion, the choice between cryptocurrency ETFs and direct ownership hinges on the unique circumstances and goals of institutional investors. While cryptocurrency ETFs offer regulatory oversight, simplicity, and diversified exposure, direct ownership provides greater control, customization, and potential cost savings, especially for institutions with long-term investment horizons and specific compliance or privacy requirements. As institutions navigate the crypto landscape, it's crucial to weigh the advantages and considerations of each approach to align with their investment objectives and operational needs effectively.


Levain is your trusted partner for institutional cryptocurrency asset management 

As institutional interest in cryptocurrencies continues to gain momentum, the importance of making informed decisions in this ever-evolving landscape cannot be overstated. The choices institutions make regarding their crypto investments, whether through cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or direct ownership, have profound implications for their financial objectives, risk management, and regulatory compliance. With the crypto market poised to play an increasingly integral role in the broader financial ecosystem, the road ahead is marked by both promise and challenge. It is a journey that requires prudence, adaptability, and a clear understanding of the unique considerations that come with digital assets. 

To navigate this path with confidence and success, the first step is to connect with Levain's sales team, who can help you fortify your cryptocurrency investment strategy, whether through institutional self-custody wallets, tailored solutions, or comprehensive guidance. Ensure that your institution is well-prepared to harness the potential of cryptocurrencies while safeguarding your assets and adhering to your specific investment goals. In an era where digital assets are redefining the financial landscape, seizing this opportunity and staying ahead of the curve is imperative. Choose Levain to be your partner on this journey, and speak with us today



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