ETF providers hope to have cracked regulators’ code for creating the first exchange-traded product backed by Bitcoin – but it’s going to cost you.
Van Eck Associates Corp. and SolidX Partners Inc. filed a request to list a Bitcoin-linked ETP to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. The fund will be physically backed, which means it will hold actual Bitcoin, and will be insured against loss or theft of the cryptocurrency, according to the firms.
The SEC asked companies to pull about a dozen applications for cryptocurrency-linked products in January, and last year rejected the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF. SolidX and VanEck were among the companies who had filed to list funds. They hope to have addressed regulators’ concerns with changes they made in the new, joint request by increasing the share price and basing prices off regulated trading firms, according to SolidX Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Gallancy.
“Based on various comments, it seems that regulators are concerned right now about having an ETF that is available to retail investors,” Gallancy said in a telephone interview. “We think that will change over time, but right now a good place to start is with a product geared purely toward institutional investors.”
Hopes for a Bitcoin ETF were running high last year after the CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. listed Bitcoin futures, as investors speculated the SEC might approve funds linked to financial instruments trading on major exchanges. But those expectations soured as regulators said they were concerned about the high volatility and lack of depth in the market, and about pricing and trading that would be based on lightly regulated platforms.
“While I’m still skeptical a Bitcoin ETP gets approved in any form this year, you gotta be in it to win it, and this extra hustle from VanEck could pay off down the road,” said Eric Balchunas, a Bloomberg Intelligence ETF analyst.
SolidX and VanEck want to address these concerns by basing prices for the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust on an index that tracks over-the-counter trading by U.S.-based institutions, which are regulated by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. MVIS, a subsidiary of New York-based VanEck, will compile the index and publish price updates throughout the day.
VanEck oversees more than $45-billion in assets and manages more than 70 exchange-traded products. SolidX is a New York-based financial technology company, developing cryptography software and capital markets products.
If approved, the product will be priced at 25 Bitcoins per share, which equals about $188,000 at Wednesday’s prices, to target institutional investors, Gallancy said. This compares with a double-digit share price for most ETFs. This would be a change from the focus in the ETF industry, which has traditionally been on individual investors.
The firms haven’t determined fees for the fund yet, but Gallancy said it will probably be on the more expensive side compared with other ETFs, as they’ll be handling the additional risk and hassle of trading cryptocurrency.
SolidX would handle custody of Bitcoin using a so-called cold storage solution, which means so-called private keys that serve as ownership codes are kept offline. Funds will be insured one-to-one by a syndicate of insurers, which the firms didn’t disclose.
VanEck had previously filed a Bitcoin future-based ETF. A physically-backed Bitcoin ETF will be attractive as it tracks Bitcoin spot prices more closely, said the firm’s head, Jan van Eck. Both van Eck and SolidX’s Gallancy say they own Bitcoin.