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Does the bitcoin market need a spot ETF for mass adoption?

By Daniela Ešnerová

02:26, 1 April 2022

Concept picture of a crypto ETF
Market players says a spot BTC ETF is needed – Photo: Shutterstock

A spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) has long been seen as a getaway for mass adoption. When the first US-listed BTC futures ETF, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), started trading last October, it was widely seen as confirmation of Wall Street’s acceptance of cryptocurrencies and sent BTC to a record high then.

Many market watchers have long been impatiently looking out for regulators giving green light to the BTC spot ETF. While the wait continues, bitcoin’s mass and institutional adoption boomed over the last two years. Does the cryptocurrency market still need a BTC spot ETF?

“Obviously, I think we still need them”, Ophelia Snyder, co-founder and president of Switzerland-based fintech company 21Shares told the panel at CryptoCompare Digital Asset Summit.  

Reaching mom-and-pop investors

Exterior of the US Securities and Exchange CommissionThe SEC regulates ETFs in the US – Photo: Shutterstock

On 14 October, 21Shares in partnership with Cathie Wood registered a proposed BTC futures ETF with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Wood, an outspoken crypto bull, is a fund manager and chief investment officer at Ark Invest. She also sits on 21Shares’ board. The SEC expects to make a decision on the ETF next week.

“The reason why we still need [a spot BTC ETF] actually goes back to my mom,” Snyder said.

“My mom is never going to open a Robinhood account, right? She uses really old school infrastructure. We’re talking Schwab and JP Morgan and big banks that she’s had decades of relationships with, that she is comfortable with. And she’s happy with that.

“That is how she is investing for retirement, that is how she operates her financial life,” she added.

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New crypto investment routes needed

While it has become easier in recent years for investors of all ages to access financial markets as trading platforms proliferate, Snyder believes that certain demographics will not be reached this way. 

“We won’t see mass adoption unless the infrastructure is modified. When that happens we are going to engage everyone in a way we would want,” Snyder says. 

BTC ETFs are still making waves in the cryptocurrency market. Inflows in BITO hit an all-time high of BTC28,000, according to Arcane Research.

Meanwhile, asset manager Grayscale has gone beyond actively lobbying the SEC to have its $30bn Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) converted into a physically backed ETF, with the firm recently threatening to sue the US securities regulator in a recent interview with Bloomberg.


60,129.60 Price
+2.410% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 106.00


370.95 Price
-1.690% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 2.50


3,199.58 Price
+0.980% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 6.00


0.54 Price
-1.670% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.01168

Futures ETFs ‘have a reason to exist’

“Futures products absolutely have a reason to exist,” Snyder says. 

“In a similar way, GBTC has a reason to exist, but the thesis that you are buying that product on is actually fundamentally different than just pure bitcoin exposure. There is something else in there that is part of why you are buying the product.” 

Snyder points to basis trades. In simple terms, this is when an investor looks to profit from perceived mispricing in the price of an asset, typically the spot versus futures price. 

In the context of the crypto market, this currently means taking a position in the spot bitcoin market and opposing one using BTC derivatives, which is not a simple process for the average retail investor. 

“The price of bitcoin is there, but it is not the only thing”, Snyder said.  

ETFs simplify investment

ETF and graph written by hand on blackboardETFs have been a huge success – Photo: Shutterstock

ETFs have revolutionised financial markets since their launch in the early 1990s and StateStreets SPDR ETF, whose leading product, which tracks the US benchmark S&P 500, is the market leader with over $400bn in assets under management. 

SPDR’s success has been predicated on offering simple low-cost access to retail investors and 21Shares president also said that a spot bitcoin ETF would offer a similar process for investors looking to access bitcoin. 

“There’s still space for something that really just gives you that pure play. I want exposure to BTC using my existing infrastructure. How do you do that? That’s going to be a spot ETF,” Snyder says.

SEC not convinced by spot BTC ETFs

Recent noises from the SEC itself, however, suggest that US authorities are not relenting in their opposition to spot crypto ETFs. In March, the securities regulator rebuffed attempts by NYDIG to launch one of these products and also rejected a similar proposal by GlobalX.

A month earlier, SEC Chair Gary Gensler wrote to US Congressman Tom Emmer on the topic and said that the regulators are still concerned about the potential of “fraud and manipulative practices” in spot Bitcoin ETFs. 

Emmer’s tweet said that “this issue remains a priority”, but the signs are that Snyder and her mom will have to wait for some time before spot bitcoin ETFs become a reality in the US.

Markets in this article

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60129.60 USD
1414.15 +2.410%

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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