There is a suspicion that the recently approved Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will be risky to the broader financial system.
This move has become the topic of discussion amongst experts who are concerned about the future of the financial sector.
The U.S. SEC reportedly approved 11 spot Bitcoin ETFs from key issuers, which include BlackRock and Invesco/Galaxy Digital. This marks a departure from the SEC’s previous rejections, citing concerns about investor protection.
Warning on Bitcoin ETF Risks
Before now, the SEC had rejected such products due to concerns about investor protection. However, a court challenge by Grayscale Investments prompted the regulator to reconsider its stance.
Despite excitement from crypto enthusiasts about these ETFs providing easier and safer access to bitcoin, SEC Chair Gary Gensler has cautioned investors about the continued volatility of bitcoin as an asset.
The combined assets of these ETFs currently stand at around $21 billion, with some analysts predicting potential inflows of up to $100 billion this year from both retail and institutional investors.
Meanwhile, since their launch, Bitcoin has recorded a decline of over 6%.
While supporters argue that these products offer increased exposure to bitcoin, skeptics, including Better Markets CEO Dennis Kelleher, express concerns about heightened interconnectedness between the traditional financial system and the crypto ecosystem.
Also, experts highlight potential risks, such as worsening bitcoin price volatility during market stress or creating dislocations between ETF prices and actual bitcoin values.
They point to the experiences of previous financial disturbances, like the U.S. banking crisis in the past year, as evidence that risks can be transmitted between financial and crypto markets.
For instance, the collapse of a crypto exchange triggered withdrawals from a crypto lender, leading to a cumulative effect that affected traditional banks.
Further, an economist at the European Systemic Risk Board, Antonio Sánchez Serrano, warns that bitcoin ETFs could intensify market volatility, especially during stressful periods. He noted the complexity of these products compared to traditional stock ETFs, emphasizing potential risks like decoupling from underlying assets.
The debate extends to the potential systemic risks posed by complex, less liquid, and highly leveraged exchange-traded products. Notably, the ETF industry generally denies claims of systemic risks.
However, issuers of bitcoin ETFs acknowledge various market, policy, and operational risks, citing the immaturity of bitcoin as a factor that may introduce unforeseeable hazards.
Bitcoin ETF Impact on Crypto Assets
The advent of Bitcoin ETFs is poised to have weighty impacts on the acceptance of cryptocurrencies by institutional investors and traditional financial entities. These funds serve as a regulated and well-known avenue for mainstream investors to participate in the cryptocurrency market.
They reduce entry barriers, particularly for institutional investors wary of direct involvement due to regulatory uncertainties, security issues, and custody concerns.
The familiarity of ETF structures, coupled with regulatory oversight, instills confidence and trust among these investors. Spot Bitcoin ETFs represent a crucial stride toward widespread cryptocurrency adoption.
They provide a convenient means for asset managers to establish positions in Bitcoin, lending credibility to the asset class.
So, these ETFs are anticipated to find favor among institutions due to their resemblance to traditional investment vehicles, potentially driving greater institutional adoption and fostering the maturity of the crypto industry.
Moreover, Bitcoin ETFs, subject to SEC regulations and rigorous reporting protocols, bring essential transparency and oversight to the crypto landscape.
This addresses apprehensions about market manipulation and investor protection, key obstacles to institutional adoption. The introduction of these ETFs also signals the emergence of new institutional custody solutions, mitigating the risk of Bitcoin theft or loss.