Exploring the Pros and Cons of Bitcoin ETFs

Explore the ins and outs of Bitcoin ETFs in this comprehensive guide. Gain insights into the advantages and drawbacks of these financial instruments, which have captured the interest of investors across various sectors.

Exploring the Pros and Cons of Bitcoin ETFs
June 3, 2024

Bitcoin ETFs have caught the eye of many retail and institutional investors because they provide an easier and safer way to invest in Bitcoin. They're especially appealing to folks who aren't comfortable buying and handling Bitcoin directly, maybe because they worry about security, regulation, or how tricky it can be.

The debate rages on: are Bitcoin ETFs a game-changer or a ticking time bomb?  This new financial instrument has ordinary folks, seasoned investors, and even retirees scratching their heads. Let’s break it down.

Let’s start with understanding ETFs, ready??? – Let’s dive in …

In this article, we will discuss:

- What is an ETF?

- Understanding Bitcoin ETF 

- Type of Bitcoin ETFs

- Mainstream Adoption

- Pros and Cons of Bitcoin ETFs

What is an ETF?

According to Bitcoin Magazine, an ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) is designed to track the performance of a particular index, commodity or asset class. ETFs can hold a variety of assets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, or even a specific investment strategy. This allows investors to gain exposure to a particular market sector or investment strategy without needing to buy individual assets, combining the flexibility of stocks and the portfolio-diversifying strengths of mutual funds, ETFs give you an affordable way to access a wide variety of asset classes.

A buzzword in the Bitcoin space which some investors find appealing while others don’t. it’s screaming regulation all over.

The question is why? – To understand this we would have to understand what is Bitcoin? I know, so many questions here, walk with me. 

Digital currency pioneer Bitcoin emerged in 2009. Unlike government-controlled currencies, Bitcoin operates independently, free from central banks. This innovative system relies on a digital record called a blockchain to guarantee both transparency and security in transactions.

The original definition of Bitcoin comes directly from the Bitcoin white paper, titled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" authored by Satoshi Nakamoto. Here's the relevant excerpt:

"A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution." (A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System)

This brings us back to our initial question; why are some investors skeptical about regulation, even though some see it as a form of control?

Understanding Bitcoin ETF 

What is a Bitcoin ETF ? – According to an ETF Site, Bitcoin ETFs are designed to track the price of Bitcoin, allowing investors to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency market through traditional brokerage accounts. 

There are two types of Bitcoin ETFs: Bitcoin futures ETFs and spot bitcoin ETFs. 

Bitcoin futures ETFs invest primarily in Bitcoin futures contracts rather than holding physical Bitcoin. Futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell Bitcoin at a predetermined price at a future date. These ETFs enable investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin price movement without directly holding the cryptocurrency itself. 

A spot bitcoin ETF allows investors to buy shares of the ETF, with the fund holding the equivalent value of Bitcoin in its reserves. Spot bitcoin ETFs provide investors with direct exposure to the underlying asset, similar to owning Bitcoin itself, but with the added benefits of regulatory oversight, ease of trading, and potentially lower barriers to entry.

Mainstream Adoption

After rejecting several applications from Bitcoin asset managers, the SEC approved the first 11 Bitcoin spot ETFs in January 2024. While several countries have embraced both types of ETFs, U.S. regulators were initially hesitant due to issues of market manipulation and custodial risk. Greenlighting the first Bitcoin futures ETFs in 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission finally gave the thumbs-up to spot-based Bitcoin ETFs in January 2024. The regulator announced approval for Grayscale’s application, as well as other applications by major industry players such as Bitwise, BlackRock iShares, WisdomTree, ARK 21Shares, and Invesco Galaxy, among others. 

Data from BitMEX Research shows a strong start for spot Bitcoin ETFs in Q1 2024. Eleven SEC-approved offerings attracted a combined total of roughly $12.1 billion in investments. This heavy increase in demand for BTC saw its price go as high as $73,000 for the first time since its Inception.

Bitwise Chief Investment Officer, Matt Hogan is convinced Bitcoin ETF inflows will continue for years which shows an increase in demand. “I’m convinced because there is a massive dispersion in the pace of adoption of bitcoin ETFs,” Hogan said on X (formerly Twitter).

Pros and Cons of Bitcoin ETFs

The potential benefits and drawbacks of Bitcoin ETFs listed below are based on current market understanding and may change with time.


  • Increased Accessibility: Bitcoin ETFs allow traditional investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without the complexities of digital currency exchanges or wallets. This could also lead to more demand for Bitcoin which could drive the price higher in the future.
  • Compliance: The fact that Bitcoin investment vehicles function within controlled financial systems enhances safeguarding investor interests. Moreover, it creates a transparent investment landscape by ensuring compliance with financial regulations.
  • Improved Liquidity:  An ETF could create a more efficient way to buy and sell Bitcoin, increasing its liquidity and benefiting both investors and miners.
  • Potential Price Stabilization:  Increased institutional investment through ETFs could lead to greater price stability for Bitcoin.
  • Streamlined Entry: A directly-held Bitcoin ETF allows everyday investors to participate in the Bitcoin market, bypassing the complexities of managing their wallets and securing private keys. It provides a more intuitive and familiar investment option.
  • Tax efficiency: Investing in Bitcoin ETFs may be more tax-efficient than direct Bitcoin investments. For example, in some jurisdictions, ETFs have favourable tax rules that prevent the realization of capital gains until the investment is sold. In contrast, taxable events related to direct Bitcoin investments may arise from transactions such as selling or exchanging Bitcoin.


  • Manipulation: Large investors with significant ETF holdings could artificially inflate prices, creating a buying frenzy among small investors. Once the frenzy peaks, they cash out, leaving a trail of small investors holding the bag when the price inevitably crashes. ETFs offer limited transparency into the underlying activity, making it difficult for small investors to spot these schemes.
  • Security Risks:  A successful hack on a Bitcoin ETF could result in stolen shares, even if the underlying Bitcoin remains secure. This creates a double whammy: not only do you lose your investment in the ETF, but confidence in the entire market plummets, potentially leading to further losses.  Moreover, Some ETF structures might not offer the same level of insurance as traditional securities, leaving you with limited recourse in case of theft.
  • Fee structures: Compared to conventional ETFs, the fees of Bitcoin ETFs may be higher. The costs associated with securing and managing the underlying assets are what justify these fees. Bitcoin ETFs may have higher management fees compared to stock or bond ETFs due to the costs of securing and storing the underlying Bitcoin. 
  • Ownership: Investors in Bitcoin ETFs don’t directly own Bitcoin. Instead, they own shares in a fund that holds Bitcoin. This means they cannot directly use Bitcoin for transactions or hold it outside the fund. The only way to hold Bitcoin without any counterparty risk is to secure it via a signing device (also known as hardware wallet). Learn more about types of wallets on the Blink article: “Choosing The Right Bitcoin Wallet: Payments vs. Savings.”

The arrival of Bitcoin ETFs marks a turning point, potentially bridging the gap between traditional finance and the dynamic world of Bitcoin. While the potential benefits for investors are undeniable, from increased accessibility to regulatory oversight, ETFs do not replace the importance of learning about and practicing self custody. 

The decision to invest in Bitcoin ETFs hinges on individual risk tolerance and investment goals.  For those comfortable with a high-risk, high-reward asset class, Bitcoin ETFs offer a regulated and convenient way to gain exposure. 

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