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Portfolio > ETFs

Bitwise Files for First ETF Based on a Cryptocurrency Index

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San Francisco-based Bitwise Asset Management has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to trade the first public cryptocurrency index ETF. Unlike other crypto ETF filings with the agency, the Bitwise ETF Trust is not based on a single cryptocurrency but on a market-cap weighted index of the 10 largest cryptocurrencies, known as the Bitwise HOLD 10.

The Bitwise HOLD 10 is currently available to accredited investors — with a net worth above $1 million or an annual income over $200,000 — in the form of a private placement fund that they can also access as part of a self-directed IRA.

(Related: Cryptocurrency Index Fund Offers Shares to IRAs)

The firm’s ETF “would be publicly available open to all, and trade on a major exchange,” says Matt Hougan, global head of research at Bitwise.

The Bitwise ETF filing follows several others before the SEC: a Bitcoin ETF from VanEck Associates in collaboration with SolidX following an agency rejection of Bitcoin ETFs filed by the two firms; long and short Bitcoin futures ETFs from GraniteShares and from ProShares, and a series of five bull and bear leveraged Bitcoin futures ETFs from Direxion.

“All of these funds plan to offer exposure to a single coin such as Bitcoin or Ether,” said John Hyland, global head of exchange-traded products at Bitwise, in a statement. “Our proposed offering is obviously different.”

(Related: Another ETF Veteran Goes Crypto)

Hougan likened the different cryptocurrency ETF filings to the commodity ETFs of 10 to 15 years ago. “At that time, we saw the launch of single-commodity ETFs tracking gold, silver, crude oil and other commodities as well as ETFs tracking diversified commodity index baskets. We see a lot of similarities here.”

The firm’s SEC filing notes that the ETF is a commodity pool, aka managed futures fund, and the sponsor, Bitwise Investment Advisers, intends to be a commodity pool operator subject to regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association.

The filing names multiple potential risks for investors including large losses as well as gains; substantial charges for management, advisory and brokerage fees; counterparty risk, credit risk, liquidity risk, operational risk and more.

“I don’t know when and if the SEC will greenlight any cryptocurrency ETF, including ours. But we wouldn’t go to the expense and trouble of filing if we didn’t think we have the potential.”

To date, the SEC hasn’t approved any cryptocurrency ETF. Last year, it rejected a proposal for a Bitcoin ETF proposed by the Winklevoss twins, but speculation that it could approve a cryptocurrency ETF sometime this summer reportedly contributed to the recent rally in Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency rallied to a two-month high above $8,000. It had reached a record high just below $20,000 in mid-December 2017.


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