Since bitcoin first entered mainstream consciousness in 2013, regulators have been wary of authorizing the creation of bitcoin-linked financial products that would create a patina of legitimacy for a product that was all-too-recently associated with dark-web bazaars like the Silk Road. So far, the only bitcoin-linked financial product is the Nasdaq Stockholm-traded ETN that JP Morgan Securities famously purchased – purportedly for its clients’ accounts - after Jamie Dimon called the digital currency a “fraud” and said he would fire any JPM traders caught trading it.
Back in March, the SEC rejected not one, but two proposed bitcoin ETFs. Recently, CME Group announced it would launch bitcoin-linked derivatives by the end of the year. Their prices will be set using a daily reference rate designed by the exchange that some critics have pointed out could strengthen the case for the SEC to approve a bitcoin-linked ETF in the US.
Well, one French asset manager just created a newfound sense of urgency for its rivals in the US by introducing the first bitcoin-linked mutual fund.
Announced today, Tobam's alternative investment fund perhaps represents the latest bid to attract institutional investors to cryptocurrencies (though, as in the case with similar financial instruments, investors wouldn't be holding bitcoin directly).
…the mutual fund's launch follows approval from the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, one of the country's top financial regulators. Per the report, PwC will perform auditing services while Caceis, the asset servicing banking group of France-based Crédit Agricole, will hold custody of the bitcoins tied to the fund.
"This first move in the world of cryptocurrencies showcases our dedication to remaining ahead of the curve and to provide our clients with innovative products in the context of efficient (i.e. unpredictable) markets," Yves Choueifaty, Tobam's president, said in a statement.
Choueifaty said he expects the fund to swell to an AUM of $400 million over the next several years.
Investors are already expressed interest, he said.
"We found some investors to launch the fund and we have had a lot of interest from an intellectual point of view," he told the publication.
As CoinDesk pointed out, the idea that institutional investors want to gain access to bitcoin is unsurprising, given recent reports from the traditional hedge fund world. Whether products like Tobam's will further stoke interest remains to be seen.
The announcement coincides with another all-time high for the digital currency, which has climbed more than 700% this year despite a crackdown in China, a hard fork, the collapse of several high-profile ICOs, declarations by Dimon and others that bitcoin is a bubble, a hoax or is outright dangerous (“It’s going to get somebody killed”)…the list goes on.
However, bitcoin has benefited in part from the fact that there’s no easy way for retail traders to bet against it. That will soon change, now that a Swiss company has introduced futures contracts that will make it easier for retail investors to short bitcoin.
Of course, that would mean the investors buying into this mutual fund would be getting in right at the market top…