WisdomTree Investments Inc. is looking to start a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, but it faces an uphill battle for approval.
The New York-based asset manager plans to launch a fund that could invest as much as 5 per cent of its net assets in Bitcoin futures traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Cryptocurrency supporters have long argued that a Bitcoin ETF would give the nascent industry cachet, but the SEC has quashed many prior proposals. The industry has been plagued by an array of troubles -- including scandals of hacking and theft -- and the regulator has urged issuers to address those alongside problems with liquidity and custody.
“The SEC has highlighted numerous concerns about Bitcoin ETFs directly, and is unlikely to approve something that explicitly tracks Bitcoin,” said Todd Rosenbluth, CFRA Research’s head of ETF and mutual fund research.
In February, the SEC nixed a proposal that aimed to mix Bitcoin and short-term Treasuries as a way to cushion against crypto volatility. Since then, Bitcoin’s been on a roller-coaster ride, losing 25 per cent during its March crash when it sold off along with many other riskier assets amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s gained about 45 per cent since then and is up 30 per cent for the year.
The proposed ETF, called the WisdomTree Enhanced Commodity Strategy Fund, would additionally provide broad-based exposure to the four commodity sectors through futures contracts: Energy, agriculture, industrial metals and precious metals, according to the filing.
Another potential issue with WisdomTree’s proposal is its use of futures, a practice that has come under increased scrutiny after a plunge in oil contracts roiled the United States Oil Fund in April.
WisdomTree declined to comment beyond the filing.
“My experience has told me that in a world in which we have physically-based products versus futures-based products, what most investors want and expect is spot price, they want access to the physical,” said Steven Dunn, head of ETFs at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “I always just get concerned -- do investors understand what they’re getting?”