Blockchain hopefuls tread SEC approval path

Scott Longley

a person standing on a rock in a river

As night follows day it was almost inevitable that after the apparent failure of a handful of enterprising ETF providers in the US to get any Bitcoin ETFs off the ground we are now seeing funds being proposed that would track the technology that lays behind the cryptocurrency boom.

Two blockchain ETFs have been proposed in the US in recent days, the first from an Illinois-based portfolio and wealth management outfit called Amplify Investments and the second from the San Diego-based Reality Shares. (Link to:

In its press release, Amplify founder and chief executive Christian Magoon said his company believed that blockchain was a "foundational technology" that is still in its early-stages of development.

"The Blockchain Leaders ETF seeks to provide investors with convenient exposure to companies and applications actively involved in the growing blockchain ecosystem."

Amplify has some form when it comes to niche technology-based ETF products including an online retail ETF.

The Reality Shares Nasdaq Blockchain Economy ETF is more specific in its SEC filing about exactly what it hopes its hopes to operate. It says it will include equity securities of both operating and non-operating companies that focus on or have exposure to a wide variety of industries and countries, including emerging markets.

"The index universe of blockchain companies is identified based on research and analysis conducted by the index providers," the filing added. "The index universe is then narrowed to include only those blockchain companies with market capitalizations greater than $200m."

The remaining blockchain companies are then ranked by a proprietary system according to the degree to which they are likely benefit from the innovation, adoption, deployment and commercialization of blockchain technology. Between 50 and 100 of these companies will then also be selected as index constituents.

The possibility of Bitcoin ETFs has been exciting much comment in recent months, particularly among cryptocurrency enthusiasts but to date the SEC has refused to allow any of the proposed funds to go ahead.

Earlier in the year, the SEC rejected plans from the Winkelvoss twins to launch a Bitcoin ETF and more recently a proposal put forward by Van Eck was withdrawn.

Hope springs eternal for the boosters, however, and just last week they were encouraged by the move on the part of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the largest derivatives house in the world by volume, announced it would launch Bitcoin futures contracts before the end of the year.

The move was seen as being a potential precursor to SEC approval of a fund as it would open up the potential for a Bitcoin ETF to trade in, until now, unregulated Bitcoin derivatives.

The blockchain ETFs would sidestep such issues however a potentially more pressing issue for their combined plans is the evident lack of any truly blockchain-based entities at present in the public space.

In a forthcoming big interview with ETF Stream to be published next week, Howie Li, the chief executive of the Canvas project at ETF Securities, talks about the company's efforts with technology based, ideas-driven ETFs including its robotics and cybercrime funds.

However, when asked whether the company would consider a blockchain fund he said it might be too early in the technology's development.

"It's a technology but a lot of the direct investing is happening in the private space," he told us. "Companies solely dedicated to blockchain technology are often not accessible in the public markets."

One possible proxy would be, obviously, digital currencies and as with the Reality plans, looking at companies that are set to benefit from the adoption of the technology might also be included.

"Where we can get a very close proxy or direct access to blockchain itself, that would become very interesting," he concludes. "I'm sure something via a proxy will come to market soon."

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