Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, are investment funds that trade on a stock market with their value derived from an underlying basket of assets such as stocks, bonds, commodities and other financial instruments. They provide investors with easier exposure to a particular index of assets.
A Bitcoin ETF is similar, but the underlying asset is the Bitcoin (BTC) cryptocurrency rather than other traditional financial instruments. Bitcoin ETFs could provide institutional investors an easier way to buy into Bitcoin and crypto markets, thus making it more attractive to the broader investment community.
BTCetc, or Bitcoin Exchange Traded Crypto (BTCE), launched on Deutsche Börse Xetra in June 2020 as the first Bitcoin ETF available in the European market. ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) was the first Bitcoin-linked ETF approved by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It launched in October 2021. Canada approved the world’s first spot Bitcoin ETF, Purpose Bitcoin ETF (BTCC), in February 2021.
As of October 2023, U.S. regulators had not approved a spot Bitcoin ETF, with the SEC expressing concerns about market manipulation, fraud, custody and investor protection in their hesitancy to approve such applications.