VanEck filed to launch a Bitcoin ETF a day after a senior exec at the $25 billion fund called it ‘a fad’

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A nearly 70-year-old financial giant appears to be warming up to the cryptocurrency space as the price of Bitcoin continues to hit new records.

VanEck, the New York-based money manager with $US24.7 billion in assets, is seeking to launch a Bitcoin ETF, according to an August 11 preliminary filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If approved, the exchange-traded fund would trade on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The price of the red-hot cryptocurrency has nearly doubled over the course of the last month. At $US4,277 per coin, it’s up 350% since the beginning of the year.

The proposed exchange-traded fund, according to the filing, would not passively track the performance of Bitcoin. Instead, it would be an actively managed ETF with investments in “Bitcoin-linked” derivatives.

The SEC has rejected similar ETF requests in the past. For instance, the SEC shot down Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ request for a bitcoin ETF listing on Bats, the stock exchange recently purchased by exchange giant CBOE Holdings, in March.

In May, the regulator rejected a bitcoin ETF listing on NYSE Arca by SolidX, a blockchain technology company.

Both decisions, however, were made prior to LedgerX, a bitcoin options exchange, getting the first licence to clear and settle derivative contracts for digital currencies in July. On August 2, CBOE Holdings’ announced a partnership with Gemini Trust, the virtual currency exchange owned by the Winklevoss twins, to power Bitcoin derivatives and indices.

In its rejection of the Winklevoss’ March ETF request, the SEC noted that such a platform was necessary for approval of a cryptocurrency ETF. Here’s the SEC:

First, the exchange must have surveillance-sharing agreements with significant markets for trading the underlying commodity or derivatives on that commodity. And second, those markets must be regulated.

The move by VanEck, which manages more than 70 funds, represents a departure from the sentiments of at least one of the firm’s long-term employees. Last week Joe Foster, a portfolio manager at the firm, penned a blog post on VanEck’s site calling cryptocurrencies “a fad.”

“Bitcoin and other digital currencies are a fad that has attracted the attention of programmers, speculators, and early adaptors,” Foster said.”It is my opinion that governments will not allow digital currencies to reach the critical mass needed to challenge the utility of fiat currencies.”

To be sure, Foster is not the only Wall Streeter sceptical of bitcoin’s ability to scale. Morgan Stanley echoed his thesis in mid-June. Analysts at the bank said Bitcoin (and its counterparts like Ethereum) are more like investment vehicles than fiat currency that you could spend on goods and services.

Here’s Morgan Stanley:

Most regulators and investors view cryptocurrencies more as assets than actual currencies. Their values are too volatile and too hard to actually use for payment for most to consider them currencies. Our conversations with some merchants indicate that, while cryptocurrencies might actually be attractive for them to operate their businesses, they find that the cryptocurrencies are far too volatile to be used.

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Still, the meteoric rise of Bitcoin is forcing some folks on Wall Street to pay closer attention. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, is now telling clients that the cryptocurrency space is “worth watching”

Analyst Robert D. Boroujerdi and his team say in a note sent to portfolio managers on Tuesday: “With the total value nearly $US120 billion, it’s getting harder for institutional investors to ignore cryptocurrencies.”

“Whether or not you believe in the merit of investing in cryptocurrencies (you know who you are) real dollars are at work here and warrant watching especially in light of the growing world of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and fundraising that now exceeds Internet Angel and Seed investing.”

Fidelity is one legacy firm leading the pack when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Last week, the $US2.3 trillion investor announced a partnership between its Fidelity Labs, the firm’s innovation center, and Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange serving nearly 9 million customers.

As part of the partnership, Coinbase users will be able to view their Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin holdings alongside their other accounts in their Fidelity Portfolio.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.