Morgan Stanley, BlockFi Execs Disagree on Spot Bitcoin ETFs

Such products, not yet approved in the US, come with risks but are a good access point for institutions, they say

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Amy Oldenburg, head of emerging markets equity at Morgan Stanley | Photo by Lauren Sopourn

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key takeaways

  • Head of emerging markets equity at Morgan Stanley Investment Management encourages self-custody of digital assets
  • BlockFi’s institutional relationship management head notes crypto custody challenges for hedge funds, asset managers and pensions

The head of emerging markets equity at Morgan Stanley Investment Management is not bullish on spot bitcoin ETFs, noting the importance of self-custodying digital assets. 

Amy Oldenburg noted during a panel at Blockworks’ Permissionless event in Palm Beach Thursday that ETFs investing directly in bitcoin are not necessarily a “solution” for greater adoption in the space. 

“If you lived in Russia earlier this year, and you held a spot Bitcoin ETF, how valuable was that to you? It had no value,” she said. “So we need to be able to find solutions that we can give people access to those underlying assets and let them be able to hold those and travel and transfer with those without having a centralized custodian.

Fellow panelist Jessica Raybeck, head of institutional relationship management at BlockFi, said that though Oldenburg’s concern was valid, many institutions don’t have another access point. 

“Custody is really hard for a hedge fund, asset manager or pension,” Raybeck explained. “But you know what’s pretty easy for them? An ETF or any other listed asset.”

While spot crypto exchange-traded products have become available in places such as Canada, Europe, and most recently Australia, the SEC has not yet allowed a spot bitcoin ETF in the US

Raybeck said that institutions are still figuring out key shards, for example, or the way to handle the 24/7 nature of crypto markets, noting that navigating the crypto space can be difficult. 

“Do I think we’re gonna evolve past that? I think yes,” she said of spot bitcoin ETFs. “But we have to really embrace the fact that that has been a huge [way] where people can get access to crypto.”


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