Wall Street firms block client access to new spot Bitcoin ETFs

'A BlackRock competitor, told one customer who spoke to FOX Business that the new ETFs do not fit in with the asset manager’s investment philosophy'

A handful of large Wall Street firms are blocking retail investors from accessing the new "spot" Bitcoin ETFs, FOX Business has learned. 

Vanguard, the world’s second largest asset manager behind BlackRock, along with financial advisors Merrill Lynch, Edward Jones and Northwestern Mutual are not planning to offer their clients exposure to the eleven exchange traded funds that the Securities and Exchange Commission blessed to begin trading on national exchanges. 

The move by the Commission was seen as a turning point for the $1.8 trillion crypto market that, a way to introduce masses of retail investors to a product that until now, has been villified by regulators and largely ignored by Wall Street.

SPOT BITCOIN ETFS: HOW TO INVEST AND WHAT IT MEANS

Including Bitcoin in a highly regulated investment vehicle like a spot ETF means that retail investors can, for the first time, gain exposure to the world’s largest digital asset through their broker-dealers, instead of having to rely on unregulated crypto exchanges. It also means investors don’t have to qualify as accredited investors, which is the criteria for buying into the Bitcoin futures ETF that launched in 2021. 

The move to limit access to a new way of investing in cryptocurrency has some clients choosing to move to other financial institutions that do offer the investment opportunity. 

"I have 8 years’ worth of 401K savings at Vanguard from my time as an employee at Google and I will be rolling over these funds to Fidelity," Yuga Cohler, a senior engineering manager at Coinbase told FOX Business. "Vanguard’s paternalistic blocking of Bitcoin ETFs does not fit in with my investment philosophy."

Vanguard, a BlackRock competitor, told one customer who spoke to FOX Business that the new ETFs do not fit in with the asset manager’s investment philosophy. A Vanguard spokesman didn’t return a call for comment. But a press representative told The Block, a crypto-focused publication, that crypto is considered highly speculative and unregulated. Offering these assets to its customers "runscounter" to "its goal of helping investors generate positive real returns over the long term."

SPOT BITCOIN ETFS APPROVED BY SEC

Internal communications between Merrill Lynch and its clients that were viewed by FOX Business said that current company policy does not allow investment in the Bitcoin spot ETFs, though it it leaving the door open to change the policy at some future date.

A spokesperson for Merrill Lynch did not return calls for comment.  

Meanwhile, Missouri-based financial services firm Edward Jones has also told clients that it too is joining the BTC ETF ban, as did the firm Northwestern Mutual.

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Reps for Edward Jones and Northwestern Mutual did not return requests for comment.  

"It’s normal for firms to do their due diligence on individual ETFs before offering them to clients, but Vanguard’s attitude shows it may have more to do with the asset itself, rather than the performance of the ETF," said Dave Weisberger, CEO of CoinRoutes.

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