“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
We just saw the launch this week of the sixth blockchain ETF to be listed in the U.S., the Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy China ETF (BCNA), which invests specifically in blockchain-focused companies domiciled in China.
BCNA joins five other blockchain ETFs:
- Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK): $191 million in assets under management
- Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF (BLCN): $130 million
- First Trust Indxx Innovative Transaction & Process ETF (LEGR): $47 million
- Innovation Shares NextGen Protocol ETF (KOIN): $14 million
- REX BKCM ETF (BKC): $6 million
All of these ETFs launched this year, and as a group, already command an impressive $400 million in combined assets. What’s also impressive is how some of these funds have attracted assets quickly, despite the SEC building a marketing hurdle for the ETF issuers.
Blockchain ETF Performance
Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com
Prior to the launch of the first 2 ETFs at the end of January, BLOK and BLCN, the SEC said the word “blockchain” could not be used in the name of the ETFs. Issuers had to change ETF names to remove “blockchain.”
Because of that, we have blockchain ETFs on the market with nebulous proper names. These funds use descriptions like “Transformational Data Sharing,” “Next Gen Economy,” “Innovative Transaction & Process,” all of which are euphemisms for “blockchain,” a term we’re all learning more about every day. We’re also told this is the Next Big Thing for the global economy.
Hiding The Thesis Behind Words
Fortunately, at ETF.com, we liberally use the term “blockchain ETFs” in headlines and in descriptions of what these funds are targeting. The SEC may ban words from the names of funds, but that just creates confusion. There is no such ban in Canada, where blockchain ETFs carry the word "Blockchain" in their proper names.
Ironically, while no bitcoin ETFs—physical or futures based—have been approved, from what I can tell, the SEC didn’t have an issue with the use of the word “bitcoin.” Some 10 bitcoin ETFs that have entered the regulatory pipeline and subsequently withdrawn due to other SEC concerns clearly used bitcoin in their names.
What’s interesting is that the SEC also apparently has an issue with the word “marijuana” in an ETF name. That’s why the only U.S.-listed marijuana ETF, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ), doesn’t mention marijuana anywhere in its name. Again, “alternative harvest” is code for “marijuana.” Granted, marijuana is still a federally controlled substance, but if you can use the word “marijuana” in the prospectus, and that’s the primary exposure being targeted, call the rose a rose.
What’s The Big Deal?
A few weeks ago, the Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits ETF (WSKY) closed after failing to attract investors. Whiskey aficionados didn’t suddenly glom onto this fund with targeted coverage to the whiskey and spirits industry. Clearly stating in its name that WSKY was all about whiskey companies may not have helped draw interest to this fund, but clarity is clarity—it gives investors a clear understanding of what they’re getting into.
Using “blockchain” and “marijuana” in the names of ETFs would offer immediate transparency and a clear understanding of what the ETF is trying to access.
The SEC’s aversion to these words, frankly, is silly—as if using those words would trigger investors to throw piles of cash at something they don’t understand.
If anything, this is either political or regulatory sensitivity that doesn’t seem warranted, especially if we’re truly about education and transparency. Instead of sensitivity, I’d prefer to see the SEC focus on brevity when it comes to names.
Consider this mouthful: ETRACS 2xLeveraged Long Wells Fargo Business Development Company ETN Series B (LBDC). It’s an eyeful of a name. Maybe a character limit for ETF names would be more helpful than word suppression or censorship.
Drew Voros is Editor-in-Chief of ETF.com and can be reached at [email protected]