On Wednesday, the U.S. securities regulator approved the first U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds to track bitcoin in a watershed for the world’s largest cryptocurrency and the broader crypto industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it approved 11 applications, including from BlackRock, Ark Investments/21Shares, Fidelity, Invesco, and VanEck, despite warnings from some officials and investor advocates that the products carried risks. Most products are expected to begin trading Thursday, kicking off a fierce competition for market share.
Cryptocurrency proponents say the ETFs, which will track spot prices rather than futures contracts, will be a safer way for investors to gain market exposure and help propel the technology further into the financial mainstream. However, critics say the new products may not have enough safeguards to protect against manipulation and could encourage more people to invest in volatile cryptocurrencies, driving up their prices.
- RELATED NEWS: Hewlett Packard Enterprise Bets Big on AI with Potential $13 Billion Acquisition of Juniper
Until now, those wanting to invest in Bitcoin have had to purchase it directly on a marketplace such as Coinbase or Kraken. But the creation of the ETFs – which can be bought and sold like stocks on a public stock exchange – will allow large fund managers such as BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, and Invesco to offer them to their clients.
The decision is a significant milestone for the bitcoin industry after years of skepticism from regulators, including SEC Chairman Gary Gensler, who has pushed for more oversight of cryptocurrencies and warned of investor losses. Hopes for a regulatory green light surged last year after a federal appeals court overturned the agency’s rejection of an ETF from Grayscale Investments to convert its existing GBTC fund.
While approving the new ETFs is a big win for Wall Street and trillion-dollar fund managers like BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Invesco, and VanEck, who will manage them, the SEC remained cautious in its wording. The approvals “do not constitute an endorsement or validation of Bitcoin or other digital assets.” It was attributed to ETFs that hold only one specific type of cryptocurrency, spot bitcoin.