Bitcoin ETF Explained Simply – What Does This Mean For Bitcoin

By Carl / August 28, 2018

There has been a lot of talk about Bitcoin ETFs recently - So let’s explore the basics of what a Bitcoin ETF really is, and the implications of it. 

What Is An ETF?

Put as simply as possible, an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) is traded on the stock market just like a stock, but instead of being a share in a public company such as Amazon, it tracks the price of an asset instead. 

There are many types of ETF's that track different things, but for simplicity lets use Gold as an example:

If you think gold is going to rise in price, you could go to a stock exchange and buy shares of a Gold ETF, which can be shares in a Trust which stockpiles physical gold. If gold goes up, the ETF shares will go up similarly. This way, you don’t have to go to a futures market or hold any gold yourself. 

What Is a Bitcoin ETF?

A bitcoin ETF would be similar to the above example: an easily tradable asset that ultimately tracks the Bitcoin price. Traders and investors could go Long (buying in anticipation of increasing price) or Short (selling in anticipation of decline).

Bitcoin ETF - ​​Why Does It Matter For Bitcoin?

It may not matter much at all. We got this far without an ETF after all. However the clearest benefit to a Bitcoin ETF is in opening the market to many more participants and significantly more capital. 

In much the same way as you don’t want barrels of crude oil in your living room, many individuals and institutions don’t fancy getting their hands dirty on the unregulated, uninsured, hackable, dodgy overseas crypto exchanges such as Bitfinex.

Wait, Wasn’t The Bitcoin ETF Recently Rejected?

Many ETFs have been proposed to the SEC (US Securities Exchange Commision). However, all but one of these were all recently denied by the SEC, killing most of the dreams and leaving one last man standing: The VanEck SolidX ETF.

This is the ETF you have probably heard most about, brought to the SEC by a partnership of Investment firm VanEck and financial services company SolidX. This proposal is also endorsed by the CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange), known for launching their Bitcoin futures in December), and if approved it would trade on the CBOE exchange.  

Buying this proposed ETF would basically represent shares in a Trust, and the Trust’s assets would be securely-stored Bitcoin (insured against loss or theft). Therefore as bitcoin rises in price, the assets of this Trust appreciate and make money.

Why So Many Bitcoin ETF's?

You can’t just simply start an ETF and get it traded on a stock exchange. 

Before launching in the USA, any potential ETF has to get special permission from the SEC. This is because original securities laws never allowed for ETFs, so each new ETF has to be specially exempted and allowed to trade by the regulators. 

Therefore, any party wanting to start an ETF must apply for their own individual exemptive order. The SEC deals with them on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply allowing or denying all Bitcoin ETFs.

Getting An ETF Approved - The Process

ETF Hopefuls file a “Proposed Rule Change” to the SEC. When received, the SEC posts a “Notice of Filing” and then has 45 days to approve or deny (or delay decision on) the proposed ETF. 

Here is the Notice of Filing for the most hyped up ETF of the year, the VanEck/SolidX ETF (mentioned above):

Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change to List and Trade Shares of SolidX Bitcoin Shares Issued by the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust”

VanEck/SolidX ETF Approval - When Will We Know?

The SEC delayed the decision on the VanEck/SolidX ETF to September. They are able to delay further 2 more times, and very likely to do so. This gives the deadlines of:

  1. September 30

  2. December 29

  3. And finally, February 27 

Bitcoin ETF's & The SEC - What Does It All Mean?

The SEC is not friendly to these proposals, and their reasons are clear.

The Bitcoin market is unregulated, easy to manipulate, and not liquid enough (not enough trading volume occurs). The SEC are concerned that Bitcoin trading almost exclusively 

occurs on unregulated venues overseas that are relatively new and that generally appear to trade only digital assets.

Given these problems, the VanEck/SolidX ETF is also in trouble, as currently it does not appear to solve any of them. There is a low likelihood that it will be accepted, at least before the Crypto markets have matured a whole lot.

While an ETF would be great for adoption and more widespread trading of Bitcoin, it is certainly not a necessity, and many other projects are in the works, such as those listed in our article:

Bitcoin’s Arrival In The Institutional Market – What It Means In The Long Run
Ever since Bitcoin was created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, it has largely been pushed aside by the traditional financial[...]

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Carl


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