Spot Bitcoin ETFs: Watered Down Crypto or the Future of Adoption?
There has been growing excitement and hype surrounding the potential approval of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the United States. However, Andy Bromberg, founder of CoinList and CEO of payments-focused wallet app Beam, has a different perspective. He believes that spot Bitcoin ETFs are just “watered down crypto” and a sign that the industry is heading in the wrong direction.
Bromberg argues that if a Bitcoin ETF is considered crypto, it signals a failure for the industry. While he acknowledges that a Bitcoin ETF would likely increase adoption of crypto, he believes that the success of the space lies in helping people self-custody assets and decouple from the traditional finance system.
He states, “If crypto adoption happens mostly through ETFs and similar centralized financial instruments, then the core promises of the technology won’t be realized – decentralization and true ownership.”
Bromberg’s perspective contrasts with the prevailing sentiment that spot ETFs could bring in institutional money and potentially double Bitcoin’s market capitalization. James Butterfill, head of research at CoinShares, believes that setting up a wallet for safe self-custody is still a daunting task for many non-tech-savvy institutional and retail investors. He argues that an ETF would improve market access and “help further democratize Bitcoin.”
Markus Thielen, research head at Matrixport and author of Crypto Titans, agrees with Butterfill’s assessment. He believes that self-custody is still problematic for most users and has clumsy interfaces, leading to a significant amount of crypto remaining on exchanges.
While Bromberg acknowledges that self-custody has historically been a challenge, he points to technology such as account abstraction as proof that mainstream-usable self-custody is possible. He argues that the real solution for institutional investors lies in regulatory agencies providing legal clarity and the industry offering education on technology and products for comfortable self-custody.
Despite concerns about the influence of massive asset managers like BlackRock, Butterfill believes that they would operate within a regulated structure and represent a large and diverse set of clients. He argues that this is different from an individual or government exerting control over Bitcoin as a large holder.
In conclusion, the debate over spot Bitcoin ETFs continues. While some see them as a way to bring in institutional money and improve market access, others like Bromberg believe that they undermine the core promises of decentralization and true ownership. The industry will have to navigate these differing perspectives and find a balance that promotes adoption while preserving the essence of crypto.