Will a Bitcoin ETF Help Bitcoin Go Mainstream?

Bitcoin is an extremely volatile digital currency, and we can see that from the price history of the digital currency. Things are still unsure whether bitcoins will eventually become an accepted currency and gain international acclaim, remain limited or fade into oblivion.

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Will a Bitcoin ETF Help Bitcoin Go Mainstream?

A Closer Look at Bitcoin’s Volatility Levels

Bitcoin is an extremely volatile digital currency, and we can see that from the price history of the digital currency. Things are still unsure whether bitcoins (which are basically strings of numbers that work as payment mode for several online transactions) will eventually become an accepted currency and gain international acclaim, remain limited or fade into oblivion. If hackers were able to rob the Mt. Gox exchange wouldn’t they be able to do it again and pull off similar heists in the future? Wedbush Securities analyst, Gil Luria talks about some of the main risks of Bitcoin:

"The main risk of investing in bitcoin is that it's a financial instrument unlike any other that we've ever had […] "It's more difficult to value, more difficult to understand, and at this point in time, more difficult to buy and sell than any other financial instrument."

This is why the Securities & Exchange Commission is now devoting more time to analyze an application for what could be a Bitcoin exchange traded fund – the first one of its kind. An ETF may take up to one year to get approval by SEC. That being said, they’re still examining an application for a Bitcoin fund, which was filed 14 months ago. The fund – to be named Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust and hold the COIN symbol – belongs to the Winklevoss twin brothers, Cameron and Tyler.

- Winklevoss twin brothers

BIT – Bitcoin’s New ETF

The Bitcoin Investment Trust managed to get by SEC scrutiny because it was launched as an exclusive trust, which was only available to accredited investors. Under the pseudonym BIT, chairman of SecondMarket Holdings says the trust had gathered assets worth US $70 million as of late July.

The assets were accumulated by BIT in spite of several rather high administrative fees of 2%. One of the Winklevoss brothers said his company has not settled on a specific fee for the COIN. What we do know is that the trust is only open to investors who make over US $200,000/year or are in charge of assets that are valued at $1 million.

SecondMarket’s goal is to convert BIT into a publicly-trade Bitcoin fund by the 4th quarter of 2014. When and if it will eventually be released, BIT will be unique – it will feature an over-the-counter OTCQX market listing, which is owned by OTC Markets Group Inc., and not by an SEC-regulated exchange. However, it will function like an ETF. Mr. Winklevoss talked about Bitcoin’s volatility, adding that:

"Traders love volatility and volatility doesn't make an ETF product problematic; for a lot of people it makes it more relevant and more interesting."

An ordinary fund investor should see Bitcoin as a “highly speculative investment” with great potential rewards as well as significant risks. Mr. Luria adds:

“If Bitcoin can do the same thing for finance that the Internet did for communications and shopping, a single unit could be worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in 10 years.”

Is BIT 100% secure?

Barry E. Silbert, founder of SecondMarket – a liquid assets marketplace, left the company only to invest $2 million in BIT (Bitcoin Investment Trust).  He mentioned that the fund’s structure is modeled after SPDR Gold Trust, one of the world’s most thriving ETFs. However, there’s a big difference between a trust fund backed up by tons of precious metal and a fund backed up by strings of numbers. Chief Investment Officer for ETF.com, Dave Nadig, says:

"The core issue is custody," […] "If you put the money in the bank, you know it's going to be there. If you buy a bunch of stock at Schwab, there's a fair amount of certainty that those stocks will be accounted for and be in their custody. But there isn't that level of certainty with bitcoin, as illustrated by the disappearance of millions of dollars' worth of bitcoin from the Mt. Gox exchange.”

According to SEC, the Winklevoss fund will preserve the private keys in a vault (the keys are the string of numbers that Bitcoin holders will use to authorize transactions) and will allow them to be inspected by a competent security firm 2 times per year. Yet, there are risk factors and SEC warns investors that their private keys could be lost or get stolen by hackers. In today’s advanced tech world, it’s literally impossible to claim that a company can offer 100% security, because it can’t.

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