Big Bitcoin ETF Decision Coming Today, Or Maybe Not

March 10, 2017

About COIN

COIN, led by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Facebook fame, was first put in registration more than three years ago.

Designed as a grantor trust, COIN would do in-kind creations and redemptions much like a physical commodity ETF such as the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), and the fund would use the Winklevoss’ own bitcoin exchange Gemini to set the price.

That comparison to gold has been often touted. In an interview two years ago, the Winklevoss brothers told an audience of advisors that bitcoins are “better than gold” as a store of value, inflation hedging and access to a still-growing global ecosystem that’s the future of the payments industry.

That’s because the Winklevoss brothers see bitcoin as a commodity more than as a currency. “An investment in the bitcoin ETF is an investment in the future performance of bitcoin and the underlying bitcoin protocol, not an investment in a bitcoin company,” they said in an interview in 2014.

Mike Venuto, head of Toroso Investments, argues that, to investors, the bigger picture is that bitcoin is all about global commerce.

In a recent blog, he offered this perspective:

In a recent white paper, Deloitte & Touche described bitcoin as an “Internet of value exchange.” The real value of bitcoin is about the utilization of the infrastructure on which it is based. The more bitcoins are mined, or “hashed,” the more a free encrypted version of the internet is expanded. This self-reinforcing infrastructure that becomes more dependable as more people participate, is called the “blockchain.” It can be used in a way to transfer securities, to create artificial intelligence, secure real estate or art transactions and, potentially, for all kinds of other transactions. Look at bitcoin this way: 20 years ago, the internet democratized access to information, and now the bitcoin blockchain is democratizing access to commerce.

For now, access to bitcoin in an ETF can be found in the ARK Web x.0 ETF (ARKW), which has a small allocation to bitcoins obtained through publicly traded shares of Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust (OTCQX: GBTC). That allocation currently sits around 5% of that portfolio.

But the launch of a strategy such as COIN would be “consequential,” Venuto says.

“In an age where asset allocation is its own asset class, a bitcoin ETF could have a place in many portfolios,” he said. “You can purchase bitcoins today. So, putting bitcoins into an ETF structure is not about making them accessible in a basic sense. It's about making bitcoins more accessible—that is, investable for any investor within a brokerage account.”

Contact Cinthia Murphy at [email protected]


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