Today sees the debut of two ETFs focused on blockchain technology, the first funds of their kind. The actively managed Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK) lists on the NYSE Arca and comes with an expense ratio of 0.70%, while the index-based Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF (BLCN) lists on the Nasdaq and comes with an expense ratio of 0.68%.
Blockchain technology is currently in the spotlight due to public interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology is really what makes the cryptocurrency world go round, and it has much wider application than just supporting digital money. It’s basically what’s referred to as a “distributed ledger” that provides a secure and unalterable record of transactions that have taken place and other key pieces of information, storing them in linked blocks of data.
Amplify’s Take On The Space
BLOK was actually the first blockchain ETF to go into registration. The fund can invest in domestic and non-U.S. securities, including depositary receipts, according to the prospectus. It will focus primarily on firms that are developing or using blockchain or similar technologies.
According to Christian Magoon, founder and CEO of Amplify ETFs, developments among the companies in his firm’s Amplify Online Retail ETF (IBUY) alerted him to the fact that cryptocurrency was an emerging trend.
“That started to get us interested in the blockchain equities side of things given the potential of blockchain technology to disrupt; it certainly seems to have potential that is almost similar to the internet’s,” Magoon said.
The range of companies allowed in the portfolio covers those engaged in research and development, and the implementation of blockchain and similar technologies; those profiting directly and indirectly from demand for such technologies; those partnering with companies engaged in blockchain research, development and implementation; and those that belong to consortiums or groups formed to explore the potential of such technologies. Companies must also meet minimum size, price and liquidity thresholds.
Further, the portfolio managers consider the depth of the involvement of companies when selecting them for inclusion in the portfolio, classifying those that are selected as either “core” or “secondary” companies based on their activities, the prospectus said.
Magoon describes the fund’s strategy as “skating where the puck will be.”
“We think companies that are leaders today in researching, investing in or receiving revenue from blockchain are going to be well-positioned for tomorrow—similar to companies that engaged in internet technology early on,” he said.
Magoon’s firm offers actively managed and index-based ETFs, but he believes active management is particularly important for a fund such as BLOK.
“Our key differentiator is that we believe you have to be active when you engage in this space. In order to capture the upside and manage downside risk, you have to be, on a daily basis, looking at this and adjusting your portfolio,” he said, noting that a manager can slowly build or unwind positions, whereas index funds tend to make very binary decisions regarding including or selling a company. Further, while an index fund must wait until its scheduled rebalancing to reflect changes in the market, an active fund’s manager can react immediately.
Interestingly, the fund is managed by two subadvisers. Toroso Investments oversees the fund’s investment strategy, including its selection of holdings, while Exponential ETFs executes the necessary trades and actually constructs the portfolio.