Ben Franklin's Laser Eyes Suggest a Tough – and Quirky – Battle for Bitcoin ETFs

Franklin Templeton, the $1.5 trillion asset manager, gave its famous logo a glowing, crypto-y tweak after the SEC approved bitcoin ETFs, possibly girding for a tough battle with BlackRock and other Wall Street giants.

AccessTimeIconJan 11, 2024 at 11:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Jan 11, 2024 at 11:22 a.m. UTC

The laser eyes on Ben Franklin suggest quite the battle is ahead as issuers of the newly approved bitcoin ETFs try to scoop up investors' money.

Hours after U.S. regulators approved the groundbreaking products on Wednesday, Franklin Templeton, a 76-year-old asset manager with $1.5 trillion assets under management and its own bitcoin ETF to sell to customers, tweaked its X avatar. It put laser eyes on its logo that features Ben Franklin, the famous 18th century American.

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  • That's a nod to crypto culture, where red, glowing eyes are commonly featured in bio pics.

    This is not the only sign that, with about a dozen bitcoin ETFs poised to hit the market – including ones from Wall Street titans like BlackRock, Fidelity, Invesco and Franklin Templeton – companies will need to distinguish themselves from each other.

    For full coverage of bitcoin ETFs, click here.

    Fees are being slashed, with buyers of some of the products initially being charged nothing. But, as Franklin Templeton shows, cozying up to crypto-natives is another, less-traditional strategy for these financial institutions.

    Franklin Templeton CEO Jenny Johnson has embraced parts of crypto and made it clear she wants to deploy blockchain technology in the conventional financial world. And she's been trying to shake the company's old-fashioned image. Laser eyes and introducing one of the most hotly anticipated products in recent Wall Street memory, bitcoin ETFs, might do the trick.

    Fellow Wall Street asset manager VanEck, Franklin Templeton's competitor in the bitcoin ETF race, is doing more than just crypto-ing its avatar: It pledged last week to give 5% of the profits from its fund to help develop the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitwise, an asset manager whose roots are in crypto rather than traditional finance, said Wednesday it would do the same but give more: 10% of profits.

    BlackRock is the world's largest asset manager, presumably giving it an edge over smaller competitors in this popularity contest. So, carving out a niche with laser eyes or support for the core development of Bitcoin is a clear way to differentiate.

    "I would like to personally thank the crypto community for its warmth and creativity," VanEck CEO Jan van Eck wrote on X. "From the whales to the youngest coders to anonymous posters, most have been genuine and sincere – and willing to educate me. Yes, there are scammers, too, but they are far outnumbered."

    Edited by Nick Baker.

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    Helene Braun

    Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.