Bitcoin ETF: Unraveling The Bitcoin Spot Market’s Opportunities And Risks

Bitcoin and wooden cubes with ETF standing on them


Companies like Fidelity, BlackRock
and Valkyrie have all filed requests to offer bitcoin spot exchange-traded funds, which are financial tools that offer investors the opportunity to capitalize on bitcoin’s price fluctuations without the need for direct ownership. If approved, these ETFs will mark a significant milestone for institutional acceptance of bitcoin. However, as with any financial innovation, bitcoin ETFs present a unique mix of opportunities and risks.

Understanding Bitcoin
ETFs And Bitcoin Spot ETFs

A bitcoin ETF is a financial instrument that tracks the performance of bitcoin. Investors essentially buy shares of a fund that bases its value on bitcoin. However, these ETFs are typically futures-based, meaning they hold contracts that bet on the future price of bitcoin, rather than holding bitcoin itself.

In contrast, a bitcoin spot ETF tracks the real-time price of bitcoin and is directly backed by bitcoin. The fund holds bitcoin as its underlying asset. Unlike futures-based bitcoin ETFs, spot ETFs aim to provide more accurate price tracking and potentially lower fees because they are directly linked to the current market price of bitcoin. This offers investors a more direct exposure to bitcoin’s price movements.

Emergence Of Spot Bitcoin ETFs

A key development in this landscape is the upcoming launch of Europe’s first spot bitcoin ETF. Managed by London-based Jacobi Asset Management, this ETF was initially set to debut on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange in July 2022. With approval from the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, the ETF is set to launch later this year.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has made a significant move by acknowledging the spot Bitcoin ETF applications from Bitwise, BlackRock, VanEck, Invesco
/Galaxy Digital, Fidelity, ARK Invest, and WisdomTree Funds. This move isn’t just a procedural formality, but a pivotal step in the path towards a fully regulated Bitcoin ETF in the United States.

While these applications haven’t been granted approval yet, the acknowledgement from the SEC suggests that they meet the necessary standards for continued deliberation. Crucially, these developments signifies an increased acceptance of digital assets by regulatory authorities, which could facilitate a broader integration of cryptocurrencies into conventional financial systems.

The Dawn Of Bitcoin ETFs: Opportunities Abound

Bitcoin ETFs are a game-changer in the cryptocurrency landscape. They provide a regulated and accessible investment avenue, potentially drawing in a diverse array of investors – from Wall Street hedge funds to Silicon Valley tech firms, and even everyday retail investors. This could act as a powerful catalyst, thrusting Bitcoin into the “late majority” phase of the technology adoption lifecycle, as outlined in Vijay Boyapati’s article.

Bitcoin mainstream adoption curve

The Bullish Case for Bitcoin – Vijay Boyapati

Additionally, bitcoin ETFs could play a pivotal role in bolstering liquidity within the bitcoin market. The demand for ETF shares, which is a reflection of investor sentiment, could trigger an uptick in trading activity. This increased activity could foster a more stable and mature market environment for the cryptocurrency. This viewpoint is reinforced by a report from J.P. Morgan, which suggests that the approval of bitcoin ETFs could significantly amplify bitcoin’s liquidity, marking a noteworthy development in the cryptocurrency market.

The top eight financial institutions with an interest in cryptocurrencies manage a staggering $27 trillion in combined assets. These institutions, which include BlackRock and Fidelity, are actively working to provide clients with exposure to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Considering bitcoin’s current market cap is around USD$600 billion,

even a small fraction of the money managed by these institutions flowing into bitcoin could significantly increase its demand and potentially drive up the price. This underscores the potential impact of bitcoin ETFs on the cryptocurrency market.

The Risks Behind Bitcoin ETFs

Bitcoin spot ETFs, while providing direct exposure to bitcoin’s price, carry risks. Investors must trust the ETF provider to buy and safely store bitcoin, posing fraud and mismanagement risks. ETF customers must trust the provider to securely store bitcoin as they don’t own the actual bitcoin but shares in a fund who controls the keys to the bitcoin, introducing storage and operational risks.

Bitcoin investment from large traditional financial institutions, such as BlackRock, could pose significant risks to centralisation of power. For example, in the event of a blockchain fork an institution could potentially dictate which version of bitcoin is the “real” one, regardless of the consensus among other, smaller investors or bitcoin users. This could lead to drastic market implications, including the potential devaluation of the unselected bitcoin variant

The bitcoin whitepaper emphasizes the trust required in third parties for transaction verification. This trust is eliminated in bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network, where transactions are publicly announced, and nodes work collectively to reach a consensus, reducing the need for trust. However, with bitcoin ETFs, this trust in third parties is reintroduced, contradicting bitcoin’s original design.

Balancing the Opportunities and Risks: The Future of Bitcoin ETFs

Bitcoin spot ETFs present significant opportunities for the crypto market, including mainstream adoption, increased liquidity, and new revenue opportunities for advisors. However, they come with risks, particularly third-party risk. Despite these concerns, for entities like investment funds, pension funds, or financial advisors, bitcoin ETFs likely provide a more straightforward route for incorporating bitcoin into their portfolios.

Bitcoin Banking: European Banks Are Beating U.S. Banks In The Crypto Custody Race

A Wall St. sign next to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

Getty Images

European banks are currently leading the global race in providing bitcoin custody services, in sharp contrast to the regulatory challenges faced by U.S. banks.

As the world of cryptocurrency continues to evolve, these institutions are making significant strides in embracing digital assets, despite the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s guidelines that treat customers’ crypto assets as liabilities.

The SEC’s guidance on treating customers’ crypto assets as liabilities has proven to be a significant hurdle for U.S. banks. Meanwhile, European banks have been proactive, with several major institutions announcing plans to offer digital asset custody services.

Major Players In Europe Embrace Crypto Custody

In the face of these regulatory hurdles, several key European players have announced plans to offer digital asset custody services.

Deutsche Bank, a major player in European banking, announced its plans to offer these services in early 2021 and has recently applied for a digital asset license in Germany. Meanwhile, Credit Agricole’s CACEIS has already secured crypto custody registration in France, further solidifying Europe’s leading position in the bitcoin custody race.

French banking giant BNP Paribas is also entering the cryptocurrency custody space through a strategic partnership with crypto custody firm Fireblocks. Additionally, DZ BANK AG, one of Germany’s largest banking groups, has announced a strategic cooperation with Metaco, a provider of security-critical infrastructure for digital assets.

U.S. Banks Grapple with Regulatory Challenges

While European banks are making significant strides in offering bitcoin custody services, U.S. banks are grappling with regulatory challenges. The SEC’s proposal requiring investment advisers to keep customers’ crypto assets with “qualified custodians” has faced criticism from various quarters, including financial giants JPMorgan and the Small Business Administration.

Critics argue that the SEC’s approach is overly broad and could disrupt well-functioning operations in the financial markets. A prime example is Custodia’s ongoing legal battle with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City over access to Fed banking services. This case underscores the complex relationship between traditional banking institutions and the emerging field of cryptocurrency, highlighting the need for regulatory clarity as the demand for crypto custody services grows.

Increasing Demand for Crypto Custody Services

The demand for these services is underscored by the increasing involvement of the U.S. households in crypto-assets. According to a report by JPMorgan Chase
, the involvement of U.S. households in crypto-assets rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost 15 percent of individuals conducting transfers into crypto accounts as of mid-2022.

The Ark Invest’s bitcoin Monthly report for June 2023 provides further insight into this trend. It highlights that approximately 70% of the circulating bitcoin supply has remained unmoved for at least one year, indicating strong support from long-term holders. This is a testament to the growing confidence in bitcoin as a long-term investment.

Bitcoin unmoved for one year or more approached 70% of total supply

ARK Investment Management

Moreover, the FINRA Foundation’s report on Gen Z and Investing reveals a significant generational shift in investment preferences. It states that 17% of Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, are already investing in cryptocurrencies, compared to just 9% of Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996. This growing interest among younger generations is likely to fuel the demand for crypto custody services, adding pressure on U.S. banks to overcome regulatory challenges and meet the evolving needs of their customers.

Navigating the Crypto Custody Race

As the crypto custody race intensifies, the landscape is becoming increasingly defined by the proactive strides of European banks and the regulatory hurdles faced by U.S. banks. The increasing involvement of U.S. households in crypto-assets, coupled with the growing interest among younger generations, is fueling the demand for these services. This underscores the urgency for U.S. banks to navigate their regulatory challenges and meet the evolving needs of their customers.

However, the race is far from over. The future will be shaped not only by the ability to offer these services but also by the capacity to adapt to an evolving regulatory landscape and meet the demands of an increasingly crypto-savvy customer base. As such, the success in this race will be determined by adaptability, resilience, and a clear understanding of the complexities of the crypto world. The race is not just about speed, but also about strategy and the ability to navigate the regulatory complexities of this new frontier.

Everything You Need To Know About Bitcoin And The Environment

Bitcoin in green flowerbed, plants and one pansy flower.


, the world’s first decentralized digital currency, has been embroiled in a persistent debate regarding its environmental footprint. However, it is crucial to clarify that energy usage does not inherently lead to environmental harm. According to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, bitcoin’s annual energy consumption amounts to a substantial 129.45 TWh, comparable to that of entire countries. Yet, this comparison often leads to misunderstandings about the true nature of bitcoin’s environmental impact.

In fact, the CCAF has determined that the bitcoin industry uses a significant amount of renewable energy, sometimes more than half, depending on the jurisdiction. This is a testament to the industry’s commitment to sustainability and its potential role in the green revolution.

Furthermore, it’s a common trend for technologies to start off with a high level of inefficiency, including a larger emissions footprint. Over time, these technologies evolve and become more efficient, reducing their environmental impact. This pattern is evident in various technologies, such as solar power or EV batteries, which initially had a higher emissions output that has been progressively reduced.

The primary driver of environmental damage is emissions, not energy use. And there are a variety of ways for bitcoin miners to reduce emissions while remaining effective.

Demystifying Bitcoin Mining And Energy Usage

To evaluate bitcoin’s environmental footprint, it’s essential first to understand the intricacies of bitcoin mining. Bitcoin mining is a complex operation which is vital to the bitcoin network’s functioning. It plays two key roles:

  • It facilitates permanent transaction recording on the blockchain, thereby removing the need for a central authority.
  • It enables the fair distribution of bitcoin’s total supply of 21 million coins, rewarding miners with new coins for using real-world resources, especially electricity, to secure the network.

In the bitcoin network, an intense competition occurs among miners who use specialized computers, known as Application Specific Integrated Circuits, to compute cryptographic hash functions. These computations are like buying lottery tickets; the more a miner can compute (i.e., the more tickets they possess), the better their chances of winning.

However, winning isn’t random. The goal is to calculate a hash that’s lower than a certain value, known as the network ‘difficulty’. This difficulty adjusts approximately every two weeks, based on the total computing power of the network, to ensure that a new block is added to the blockchain roughly every 10 minutes.

As the popularity of bitcoin grows, so has the number of miners. This has significantly driven up the mining difficulty. In fact, over the past two years, the difficulty has increased by 3.6 times, meaning miners have to work 3.6 times harder to win the block reward. As the difficulty rises, the profitability for miners subsequently diminishes.

The bitcoin difficulty chart: a historical overview


The miner who achieves the ‘winning’ hash earns the right to add a new block of transactions to the blockchain and gets rewarded with new bitcoins. Currently, the block reward is 6.25 bitcoins, but this number undergoes a ‘halving’ approximately every four years.

The next halving event, due in mid-2024, will reduce the block reward to 3.125 bitcoins. This event implicitly requires miners to double their energy efficiency every four years to maintain profitability. This built-in feature not only encourages miners to consistently boost their efficiency, thereby fostering technological advancements in mining, but it may also enhance the overall sustainability of the bitcoin network. The ever-rising mining difficulty further amplifies this efficiency demand, pushing bitcoin miners to keep pace with the increasing challenge.

A report by JPMorgan highlights this stark reality: only bitcoin miners with access to cheap electricity and a high proportion of sustainable energy will likely survive in this progressively competitive space. As we hit an all-time high in mining difficulty, it’s clear that being a bitcoin miner is no easy task.

The Evolution of Bitcoin Mining: A Journey Towards Efficiency

Since its inception in 2009, bitcoin mining has witnessed a significant surge in efficiency. Initially, mining was conducted using Central Processing Units. As the network expanded, Graphics Processing Units took over, and since 2013, ASICs have been the preferred hardware due to their superior efficiency. The first CPU, the ARM Cortex A9, had a Joules per Terahash (J/TH) of 877,193 in 2009. In contrast, the Antminer S19xp has a J/TH of just 21.5, marking an efficiency increase of approximately 4,077,000%.

Rapid advancements in bitcoin mining efficiency: a 58x increase over 8 years.

Bitcoin Mining Council

Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption: A Fair Comparison

Bitcoin, often criticized for its energy consumption, actually uses less energy than many traditional industries. With an annual consumption of 129.45 TWh, it accounts for only 0.078% of global energy use. In comparison, the gold industry consumes around 240.61 TWh annually, factoring in emissions from various stages of production and refining. The traditional banking system, encompassing data centers, branches, ATMs, and card network data centers, uses even more energy, estimated at around 638.88 TWh annually.

Other sources, like the cybersecurity engineer and cryptographer Michel Khazzaka, told CoinTelegraph in an interview that the banking industry uses at least 56 times more energy than bitcoin. It’s important to note that these comparisons are based on available data, and exact energy consumption can be challenging to calculate due to non-disclosure in some industries.

Bitcoin’s Emission Intensity: A Comparative Analysis

When we delve into the emission intensity (g/kWh) of bitcoin and compare it with other industries, it becomes clear that bitcoin, with an emission intensity of 296 g/kWh and a sustainable energy mix of 52.6%, is more environmentally efficient than many other sectors.

The gold industry, which relies on a combination of non-electrical and electrical power sources, has an even higher emission intensity of 679g/kWh and a sustainable energy mix of a mere 12.8%, according to These figures underscore the critical role of the energy mix in determining the environmental impact, and they position bitcoin in a more favorable light when considering emission intensity.

Turning Energy Waste into Wealth

Bitcoin miners are exploring a novel solution to the problem of stranded energy, which refers to energy that is generated but remains unused due to its isolated location. For example, remote natural gas mining often allows some gas to escape.

By establishing bitcoin mining operations in such areas, bitcoiners are converting this otherwise wasted energy, escaped natural gas, into a valuable resource that fuels the mining machines. For yet another example, bitcoin miners are also harnessing stranded sources of wind and solar power, thereby improving the financial viability of these renewable energy projects. Furthermore, bitcoin miners such as EZBlockchain and Crusoe Energy are addressing the issue of natural gas flaring, a common byproduct of oil drilling, by utilizing this gas to produce electricity for mining operations.

This strategy does more than merely utilizing stranded energy; it’s also emerging as a cost-efficient method to decrease atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas. According to a report by ESG analyst Daniel Batten, this approach could significantly aid in the fight against climate change. Surprisingly, bitcoin miners could potentially play a beneficial role in environmental conservation. Batten’s study suggests that by 2045, bitcoin mining could reduce global warming by 0.15%. The report emphasizes that currently, bitcoin mining is the only technologically viable solution for mitigating methane emissions.

Bitcoin’s Journey Towards Sustainability

It’s crucial to remember that in the grand scheme of things, bitcoin’s environmental footprint is relatively small when compared to larger industries and adjacent sectors. These financial sectors require our immediate attention and concerted efforts to significantly reduce global carbon emissions.

In conclusion, the environmental narrative surrounding bitcoin is multifaceted and evolving. Its journey towards sustainability is fueled by relentless innovation and efficiency enhancements, making it a promising player in the green revolution. Bitcoin’s unique ability to harness stranded energy resources and mitigate potent greenhouse gas emissions positions it as a potential ally in our fight against climate change.