Bitcoin ETFs: The Bull Case

One train of thought says that SEC approval of spot bitcoin ETF will send the market flying. Here’s how that could play out. In a separate post, we review the bear case, where the market may not react with such optimism.

AccessTimeIconJan 8, 2024 at 5:54 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJan 8, 2024 at 5:54 p.m. UTCUpdated Mar 8, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJan 8, 2024 at 5:54 p.m. UTCUpdated Mar 8, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. UTC

Word on the street is that a bitcoin ETF will be approved this week, which would mark a milestone for the world’s first cryptocurrency, if only because there has been tremendous media interest in these investable products. Bitcoin already has mainstream attention and interest from Wall Street. What a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) would provide, apart from potentially positive momentum for bitcoin’s price, would be a signal of the asset’s maturity.

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In other words, the bull case around an ETF boils down to legitimization. Even before Gary Gensler, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), took charge, the U.S. government was hesitant to approve crypto ETFs because of the possibility of market manipulation and fraud. ETFs, which are like mutual funds except typically more tax efficient and lower cost, are a relatively new and quick growing segment of traditional finance.

Mere attempts by firm’s like financial players including Fidelity, VanEck and BlackRock in launching BTC ETFs is already a major endorsement, so how much more significant would actual investors be? Larry Fink, the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, said the firm is interested because it sees legitimate demand from its clients in a spot bitcoin ETF.

For full coverage of bitcoin ETFs, click here.

Although many types of crypto-based ETFs are already live, the much-anticipated spot bitcoin ETF would allow institutions to more easily gain exposure to crypto as well as everyday investors to indirectly add bitcoin to their Roth retirement accounts and 401(k)s. This opens bitcoin to a new set of buyers and sellers, including financial advisers who for years have been looking for off-the-shelf solutions for crypto investing.

Perhaps more important are the financial products that could be built around bitcoin ETFs, like the “model portfolios” that BlackRock creates for anyone from mom-and-pop to the ultra high-net worth investors. Bitcoin’s historic volatility makes it an easy way to change up ready-made investment products for any level of risk tolerance (though some speculate bitcoin will become less volatile as more capital flows in).

If this plug-and-play model comes to pass, where any financial institution can add bitcoin to any number of financial products, it could mean millions of people could one day have exposure to bitcoin. This could be politically favorable for the crypto industry, as it might make legislators less inclined to make decisions that materially affect their constituents.

Of course there are many open questions regarding a bitcoin ETF, including if any particular firm will dominate the field. What would it mean if BlackRock became the world’s largest bitcoin holder for Bitcoin’s development and governance, for instance? Market surveillance is an SEC requirement, which is bad news for privacy — but is it also a backdoor to censoring transactions?

Today’s bitcoin holders will have to wait and see, but first an ETF has to launch.

Edited by Benjamin Schiller.

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Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn is a deputy managing editor for Consensus Magazine. He owns minor amounts of BTC and ETH.