SEC Authorizes Bitcoin ETF Without Endorsing Bitcoin

bitcoin trading

American regulators have approved bitcoin exchange-traded funds in a victory for the cryptocurrency sector.

The Wednesday (Jan. 10) announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came after years of opposition to the idea of an ETF that invests in bitcoin.

The approval was heralded by figures throughout the cryptocurrency sector, including Sui Chung, CEO of Kraken-owned CF Benchmarks.

“A spot ETF has always been important because it stands to open bitcoin up to a much broader swathe of investors,” Chung said in a statement provided to PYMNTS. “We look forward to working with asset-allocators as they incorporate this new asset-class into their portfolios and models, significantly increasing the number of investors who could have BTC exposure.”

Coinbase, meanwhile, called the approval a “watershed moment for the cryptoeconomy,” on its company blog.

“Spot ETFs will help catalyze further growth and innovation and expand the size and breadth of crypto markets,” Coinbase wrote.

“ETF markets don’t operate in isolation. Every time a spot ETF is bought or sold, market makers need to transact in the underlying asset, meaning spot bitcoin ETFs will increase trading and liquidity in bitcoin itself. With increased liquidity comes increased attractiveness to investors, which can generate even more liquidity. It’s a virtuous circle.”

A statement by SEC Chairman Gary Gensler made it clear his feelings on bitcoin haven’t changed, calling it a “speculative, volatile asset” that is used in a variety of illegal activities. He stressed the SEC’s approval applies only to bitcoin and should not be seen as an indication that the regulator is ready to approve other listed securities.

“While we approved the listing and trading of certain spot bitcoin ETP shares today, we did not approve or endorse bitcoin,” Gensler said. “Investors should remain cautious about the myriad risks associated with bitcoin and products whose value is tied to crypto.”

As to whether this change will usher in a wave of mainstream crypto adoption as proponents claim it will, PYMNTS Intelligence research shows that just 6% of consumers have shown a willingness to use cryptocurrency to buy things.

“The promised tsunami has not emerged — and one wonders when, or if, it ever will,” PYMNTS wrote earlier this month.

In England, meanwhile, mainstream integration of cryptocurrency is slowing, Andrew Bailey, Bank of England governor, testified before Parliament this week.

“My own sense is that it’s not taking off as what I might call a core financial service,” Bailey said. “For instance, using bitcoin as a payment method is pretty inefficient.”