Crypto ETFs captured the attention of the crypto investors late last year when the first Bitcoin ETF in the US, the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) was listed on the New York Stock exchange. It also made crypto investing accessible to the wider investment world, after years of attempts to launch one. The ETF was designed to appeal to investors comfortable with the traditional investment world of stocks and ETFs, but who perhaps didn’t fancy the learning curve of creating their own crypto account and wallet. Nevertheless, the launch was welcomed by many as a radical step forward allowing crypto and NFTs as an alternative investment, to diversify portfolios to withstand future economic changes, as well as widening public understanding of the value of crypto.
ETF, which stands for Exchange Traded Fund, traditionally a mutual fund that is traded on a stock exchange, is typically consists of three components: an index, a stock type, and a fund. In other words, an ETF is essentially a fund that tracks an index while also being bought and sold in the stock market. To put it simply, “An exchange traded fund (ETF) is a basket of securities that trade on an exchange just like a stock does,” according to Investopedia. As a result of their makeup, the key advantage of ETFs is their ability to diversify risks. For example, if there are 100 different stocks in an ETF then they all cannot drop in price together. As a result, the investment portfolio established by this ETF will not suffer a significant drop either.
As well as ProShare’s BITO, there are several similar products which all have one thing in common, they are in the main issued by traditional financial institutions. The practical implication for interested crypto investors is that their categories are however fairly limited to include BTC, ETH and a few ETH products. Despite these drawbacks the struggle to launch further ETFs has continued, despite a reluctant SEC. At the end of January Fidelity tried to get a Bitcoin ETF passed (the so-called “Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust”) only to see it rejected, only to follow up the next day with the Fidelity Crypto Industry and Digital Payments ETF and the Fidelity Metaverse ETF. A key difference that inspired the SEC ban was that the Fidelity Bitcoin ETF was designed to directly hold the cryptocurrency, unlike other BTC ETFs approved by the SEC which solely deal with Bitcoin futures. In other words, buying the BITO ETF doesn’t mean you own BTC, rather that ProShares invests in Bitcoin futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). As confirmed in a report in Fortune: “Rejecting Fidelity’s proposal is just the latest disappointment for investors that had hoped 2022 could be the year where an ETF directly tied to the price of Bitcoin would make it to market in the U.S.”
Outside the US comes more promising news of crypto-related ETFs with the launch this month in Brazil of the world’s first fund dedicated to DeFi, called the Hashdex DeFi Index (DEFI11). “We are confident that DeFi, through its innovative and disruptive technology, will exponentially grow and play a vital role in the financial sector of the future. By offering the first DeFi ETF in the world, we are providing our global investors with the ability to play a part in the next evolution of the crypto ecosystem,” said Marcelo Sampaio, CEO of Hashdex. According to a FT report the ETF will invest in eight DApps, including Uniswap; lender Aave; Polygon, a service designed to speed up transactions on blockchains which recently raised $450 million in a new venture financing round; and oracle innovator Chainlink. It’s also worth noting that as these DApps have smaller market capitalizations than BTC and ETH the tokens may be even more volatile. Cryptocurrency advisor Michele Zilocchi explained: “ETFs are not cryptocurrencies and so they do not give you the ownership, but they allow you to replicate trends. BITO and Hashdex represent a great innovation and a helping hand to institutional investors that were afraid of actual cryptocurrencies ownership. I think that these ETFs represent the doorway for institutional investors to the crypto-space.”
On the regulatory front the launch highlights a divide between global financial centers that have thus far permitted little innovation in the growing field of digital assets, and relatively more laissez-faire financial hubs. “While Canada, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Jersey and Liechtenstein all boast spot cryptocurrency ETPs (exchange-traded products), and Australia and India are poised to join them, US regulators have only approved futures-based versions, while those in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore have not even permitted these vehicles,” the FT report pointed out. Barrister Brian Sanya Mondoh and The Cakeadvisor, said that when rejecting ETFs, the SEC applies Section 6(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, which requires, in part, that the rules of a national securities exchange be “designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices [and] to protect investors and the public interest.” However, Mondoh agreed that the lack of uniformity in applying this legal test has resulted in impeding investor choice and stifles innovation. “With an increased appetite for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, investors often bypass the law to access crypto markets. Rather than expose investors to bad actors, ETFs should be allowed to ensure more robust protections for investors and more effective surveillance for market manipulation and other fraudulent activity.”
What hasn’t been reported widely is the comparative success of leveraged ETFs launched by cryptocurrency exchanges themselves including BigONE. What they lack in trading volume enjoyed by traditional financial institutions they more than make up for in the advantages offered to the savvy investor. For starters, users do not need to pay the collateral assets to achieve the effect of leveraged trading on the target asset. The product has no expiration date, no risk of liquidation, but it contains the risk that the net value might close to zero. In addition, the ETF products available on cryptocurrency exchanges cover a far wider range of cryptos categories within the ETFs than traditional financial institutions offer. And because their market cap is lower, compared to the likes of BTC and ETH, the impact of the smaller crypto ETF’s upward price movements results in bigger gains.
A leveraged ETF typically uses financial derivatives and debt to scale up the returns of an underlying index. While a traditional ETF typically tracks the securities in its underlying index on a one-to-one basis, a leveraged ETF may aim for a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, according to Investopedia. For example, for every 1% increase in BTC, BTC3L (three times long BTC) increases 3%, and BTC3S (three times short BTC) decreases 3%. In other words, compared with spot trading, the same asset leveraged ETF will generate three times the profit. On BigONE Exchange this means if you purchase one asset of BTC3L and achieve three times profitability in a unilateral rise, all of this is also managed by platform fund managers, which crucially means users can easily build their own leveraged investment portfolio without knowing the specific mechanism. Plus, he/she does not need to borrow money or pay for the secured assets to achieve their goal.
Thanks to the unique rebalancing mechanism of BigONE’s leveraged ETF product, when the ETF is profitable, it will automatically increase the position after the adjustment. While in the event of a loss, the position will be automatically reduced after the adjustment to avoid the risk of being liquidated. The mechanism is designed to automatically adjust the position of the contract behind each product, and the number of currency holdings will not change. Which in simple terms means while the ETF price remains stable, the level of profitability is also greater.
“What we are seeing is the maturation of the crypto ETF market with the launch of the Hashdex DeFi Index, the world’s first fund dedicated to DeFi. While the US is lagging with the SEC looking for further regulation before committing to a spot crypto ETF, I see the real innovation coming from crypto exchanges like BigONE,” said BigONE Chairman Anndy Lian. “But clearly following the BITO ETF and news of Australia’s corporate regulator giving the green light to a range of cryptocurrency-related ETFs, which could see Bitcoin and Ethereum-backed investment funds trading on the ASX in the coming months, the potential for the global crypto ETF market is huge,” he added.
Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.