Cathie Wood's Ether ETF Pullback Is Likely Due to Fee War

The asset manager’s name was removed from a recent document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for the launch and later confirmed that it dropped out of the race.

AccessTimeIconJun 6, 2024 at 3:35 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 6, 2024 at 5:49 p.m. UTC

Cathie Wood's Ark has been a vocal proponent of cryptocurrencies for years and is among firms that already offer a spot bitcoin ETF.

It joined with other firms applying to offer ether ETFs in the U.S. But then, within the past week, it bowed out without explaining why.

Chalk it up to the intense battle to lure customers with low fees for crypto ETFs, according to experts.

During a fireside chat at CoinDesk's Consensus conference in Austin, Texas, last week, Wood said ARK's spot bitcoin ETF, launched earlier this year, wasn’t making the firm any money because it charges investors such a low fee: 0.21%. While that's comparable to what other bitcoin ETF issuers charge, it's significantly lower than what non-crypto ETFs typically charge.

“Perhaps this is a simple business decision,” said Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store. “If Ark 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB) can eclipse $3.5 billion in less than five months and Ark can’t make any money, that’s obviously an issue.”

ETF issuers charge investors a fee to compensate for managing the fund. Many investors seek to minimize that fee since it cuts into returns.

In the race to launch a spot bitcoin ETF, Grayscale set its fee significantly higher than its competitors, at 1.5%, which appears to be one of the main reasons why investors have pulled billions of dollars out of the fund and the fund lost its early lead, in terms of assets, to BlackRock.

“I don’t think anyone truly expected the fee war to get that aggressive before we even saw launches,” said James Seyffart, ETF analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

Seyffart also believes that Ark made the decision based on the low fees. “It’s possible that the partnership made a ton of sense, particularly with the demand for bitcoin ETFs,” he said. “But after the fees got so low right off the bat, there might simply not have been enough money from fees to go around for both firms, particularly on an Ethereum ETF if they are expecting less demand versus bitcoin ETFs.”

Only one wannabe issuer, Franklin Templeton, has revealed the fee for its fund so far, which it set at 0.19% according to a filing, the same amount it charges for the Franklin Bitcoin ETF.

Despite the low fee structure of the ETFs, Ark’s departure from the race came as a shock, given the asset manager’s strong footing in the industry and its offering of multiple other ether-related funds.

“This is a surprising move from my perspective,” said Geraci. “From a longer-term branding perspective, I’m surprised Ark wouldn’t find value in being involved in the spot ether ETF category. Ark has been much more forward-thinking around crypto than many of their competitors, so it’s odd to see them sit this one out.”

A representative for Ark Invest could not be reached for comment.

CORRECTION (June 6, 2024, 15:48 UTC): Corrects to remove reference to Ark being the first to apply for an ether ETF.

Edited by Aoyon Ashraf and Nick Baker.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

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.