‘Is Ether just Bitcoin Lite?’ Broker’s client questions signal grim ETF adoption

‘Is Ether just Bitcoin Lite?’ Broker’s client questions signal grim ETF adoption
Investors are confused by the Ethereum ETFs. Credit: Shutterstock / Shutterstock.AI
  • Ethereum is difficult to explain to investment professionals whose day job isn’t crypto.
  • Large-scale asset allocators like pension funds hold trillions in potential value for ETFs.

Investors have embraced Bitcoin, thanks to the wild success of spot exchange-traded funds in the US.

Still, Ethereum ETFs, are going to be a harder sell for large-scale institutional investors like pension funds.

That’s according to Duncan Trenholme, co-head of digital assets at TP Icap, the world’s largest broker dealer.

Bitcoin has a clear narrative that makes it easy for sales teams to explain.

Ethereum is harder to grasp for investment professionals used to traditional asset classes, Trenholme told DL News.

“Bitcoin has been discussed broadly in the mainstream media, as well as in crypto media,” Trenholme said.

While divisive opinions remain regarding Bitcoin’s utility as a store of value, “broad brush, people are largely familiar with the asset and its role,” he said.

When it comes to Ethereum, Trenholme fields questions from institutional clients like, “Is Ether just Bitcoin Lite?” “How is it different from Bitcoin?” or “Why should it have a place in an investment portfolio?”

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Trenholme laughs as he imagines a hypothetical response.

“I could say, ‘It’s a smart contracts-focused network that’s a base protocol for a host of different dApps.’

“And they’re going to say … ‘What?’”

Real inflows

This lack of a solid narrative could make Ethereum ETFs a slower-burning success than their Bitcoin counterparts.

ETF issuers want to attract large-scale asset allocators like pension funds, sources of real inflows.

US public pension funds — the retirement savings of state employees like teachers and firefighters — commanded $6.1 trillion in assets at the end of March, according to Federal Reserve data.

It’s still early days for these funds to consider including Bitcoin, let alone Ethereum, in their portfolios.

Defined benefit and other pension funds “are only starting to talk to their investment committees” about including crypto in their portfolios, Manuel Nordeste, vice president at Fidelity Digital Assets, said recently.

Nordeste, and Fidelity rival BlackRock say they expect to see gradual acceptance thanks to the safer options of ETFs.

Wild success

Spot Bitcoin ETFs from issuers including BlackRock, Ark Invest, and Fidelity have seen almost $58 billion pour into them since their launch in January.

Analysts are divided about whether Ethereum ETFs will see the same kind of take-up if they’re approved.

Industry boosters like Ethereum co-founder and Consensys CEO Joe Lubin say there’s huge pent-up demand.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to approve the spot Ethereum products in July.

Analysts are worried that these approvals may be contingent on the removal of staking from issuers’ applications.

Still, others say the staking issue is unlikely to affect demand from large institutional investors.

Crypto market movers

  • Bitcoin is down 2.8% to $63,769 over the past 24 hours.
  • Ethereum is down 2.6% to $3,479.

What we’re reading

Jo Wright writes about markets for DL News. Email her at joanna@dlnews.com.

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