BlackRock Bitcoin ETF seeks SEC approval. Are Bitcoin ETFs the way to mass adoption? Or is traditional finance trying to profit from this new asset?

Bitcoin fans got excited when the news that BlackRock is applying for a Bitcoin-based fund got out. They think it could mean a big change in how the government regulates these things. They also believe it could make Bitcoin more accessible to everyone.

While there might be some truth to these ideas, we should take a step back and see the bigger picture. It’s not good that the simple chance of a Bitcoin-based fund being approved in the US can send the market crazy. The fact that BlackRock could have such a big effect on the price of Bitcoin should make us all think, not celebrate.

A Bitcoin-based fund would be an easy way for US retirement funds to benefit from Bitcoin’s potential growth. It’s also likely that if such a fund is approved in the US, it could lead to a big increase in Bitcoin’s price in the following years. But what about Bitcoin’s main goal – to become an alternative to the traditional financial system?

A Bitcoin-based fund wouldn’t do much to help with these things.

The BlackRock Bitcoin ETF

Recently, there’s been a lot of focus on applications for Bitcoin-based funds. Following BlackRock, a company that manages $10 trillion worth of assets, other firms like Fidelity, Invesco, Wisdom Tree, and Valkyrie have also applied for approval from the SEC.

If the SEC ends up approving the applications from big players like JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon, and Bank of America who want to offer similar services, the digital currency market could open up to firms managing a total of $27 trillion in assets. As we wait for a decision on Grayscale’s application, GBTC, its Bitcoin trust, has seen its price increase by over 134% in 2023, reaching $19.47. 

However, the United States may see a delay in the introduction of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) as the SEC has labeled recent applications by investment managers as insufficient. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the SEC found the filings by the Nasdaq and Chicago Board Options Exchange unclear and incomplete. The SEC expected them to specify a “surveillance-sharing agreement” with a Bitcoin exchange or provide enough details about these arrangements.

BlackRock’s Bitcoin ETF application included a “surveillance sharing agreement” to avoid market manipulation, leading others like ARK Invest and 21Shares to modify their applications similarly. 

Other companies like Invesco, WisdomTree, Valkyrie, and Fidelity have also refiled or amended their applications. Notably, ARK Invest is considered a front-runner in this process.

Bitcoin ETFs have been continuously rejected by the SEC since 2017. However, such financial products are already available in Canada, with funds like Purpose Bitcoin, 3iQ CoinShares, and CI Galaxy Bitcoin directly investing in Bitcoin.

BlackRock ETF’s application re-submitted 

Nasdaq has resubmitted its application to list BlackRock’s proposed Bitcoin ETF, and has named Coinbase as the exchange to be monitored under a surveillance-sharing agreement. 

This move follows feedback from U.S. regulators and aims to prevent market manipulation. 

Other applications, including one from Fidelity, have also been updated to name Coinbase as the surveillance partner.

The Nasdaq reached an agreement with Coinbase on June 8, according to the new filing. The filing also indicates that Coinbase accounted for about 56% of the dollar-to-Bitcoin trading on U.S.-based platforms so far this year.

The SEC has historically rejected attempts to launch a Bitcoin spot ETF, but money managers are still trying. The news has positively affected Coinbase shares.

Traditional finance wants to take its share of crypto trading

The application from BlackRock and all the talk around it have really highlighted the mistrust that some people in the crypto world have toward traditional finance.

The timing of BlackRock’s move into Bitcoin funds is pretty interesting and has set off a bunch of conspiracy theories. Since the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken legal action against Binance and Coinbase, some think the government is trying to push aside crypto-focused companies to make way for traditional firms like BlackRock to lead in the crypto industry.

Whatever the reason is, the risk right now is that Bitcoin will turn into another type of investment. 

Looking more closely at BlackRock’s application, more warning signs start to appear. The application includes a clause stating that in case of a major change or ‘hard fork’ in Bitcoin, BlackRock can decide which version of Bitcoin the fund should use. This could be a big deal because it means BlackRock could have a say in Bitcoin’s future or at least guide where big businesses and the general public put their money.

Having such a strong influence over what’s supposed to be a decentralized money system is obviously a problem. But, there’s another issue with these funds. Investors don’t actually get to own the Bitcoin their investment is based on. And owning Bitcoin is where the real benefits are.

Conflicting interests in Bitcoin-based funds

Bitcoin was created as a direct reaction to the financial aid and money-printing that happened after the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike regular money, there’s only a limited amount of Bitcoin. It’s truly rare and managed in a decentralized way.

Fifteen years after the crisis, central banks all over the world are still printing money as if it’s a free pass. 

But it’s anything but free. Regular, hardworking people all over the world pay the price as the value of their money goes down, a problem that’s getting worse due to high, lasting inflation.

While central banks take risky gambles with public money, Bitcoin’s aim is to give power to individuals by providing a type of money that can’t be censored and works everywhere. As an open-source money network, Bitcoin has the potential to change the way we use money. It could even make centralized institutions much less important or not needed at all – something traditional finance likely knows all too well.

Bitcoin-based funds seem to go against this empowering philosophy. 

El Salvador, with its revolutionary approach to adopting Bitcoin, arguably aligns more with Bitcoin’s main goals than any fund ever could. 

While El Salvador is working to give power to people without banks by actively promoting Bitcoin ownership, investors in Bitcoin-based funds won’t get any of the benefits of Bitcoin

Instead, they’ll fill the pockets of – and strengthen the position of – traditional finance institutions.

Potential risks of Bitcoin-based funds

Bitcoin-based funds are likely to become more common in the crypto world and appeal to a certain type of investor in the coming years. But their role shouldn’t distract us from Bitcoin’s long-term future. 

If we only focus on letting people benefit from price changes without actually owning any Bitcoin, then we’ve completely missed the point of what could be a groundbreaking money system. 

And no, if a rule is ever suggested that forces regular people to invest only through funds and not by owning Bitcoin directly, that’s not “protecting consumers.” It’s taking power away from them.

We in the crypto industry should be cautious, recognizing that the growing involvement of funds and traditional finance in the crypto world could threaten Bitcoin’s core purpose. 

Being aware of these threats means not getting carried away by all the excitement but staying true to Bitcoin’s original goal – to change the world’s financial systems, not just to be an asset for gambling on price changes.