Spot Bitcoin ETFs Are ‘Orange FOMO Poker Chips,’ Jim Bianco Warns

Jim Bianco, founder of Bianco Research, has cast a critical eye on the recent popularity of spot Bitcoin ETFs, painting a picture of these instruments as potentially hindering, rather than helping, the growth of a decentralized financial system.

What Happened: Bianco’s primary observation from the Q1 13F filings was that a mere 3% of the outstanding market capitalization of Spot BTC ETFs is held by investment advisors.

“This significantly undermines the narrative that ‘the Boomers are coming,’” Bianco remarked, emphasizing that the anticipated influx of traditional, older investors into the Bitcoin market did not materialize in the first quarter of 2024.

Instead, approximately 10% of these ETFs are held by hedge funds, with the remaining 85% dominated by retail investors. Bianco noted that this heavy retail participation is a clear indication that institutional investors are still cautious.

“The substantial volume in the Spot ETF could cannibalize on-chain volume,” he warned, referencing Q1 earnings reports from Coinbase COIN that suggested this concern might already be a reality.

Bianco highlighted the discrepancy between the expected and actual behaviors of these ETFs.

Contrary to the belief that these instruments would drive widespread institutional adoption and stabilize the market, the data suggests otherwise.

“Pulling money off-chain into the TradFi world in the form of an orange FOMO poker chip will not get digital assets to the promised land of a new decentralized financial system,” Bianco asserted.

The analysis also pointed out that hedge funds hold a significant portion of these ETFs, which is concentrated in a few large funds.

This concentration raises questions about their trading strategies, whether they are arbitraging the funds or making directional bets, rather than investing based on long-term narratives.

Moreover, Bianco observed that the retail investors’ behavior is primarily driven by momentum rather than long-term investment strategies.

“The flows are chasing momentum, or maybe, in part, causing it,” he noted. The pattern of inflows and outflows suggests that these investors are more interested in short-term gains than in building a foundational presence in the market.

Bianco’s concerns extend to the broader implications of these trends.

The average purchase price of BitcoinThis behavior, according to Bianco, is indicative of “Degen behavior” rather than strategic investment.

One of the more troubling insights from Bianco’s research is the potential for these ETFs to hinder the adoption of a new decentralized financial system.

By channeling funds back into traditional financial institutions, these instruments may be counterproductive.

“If the goal is to develop a new financial system, an ETF dragging money back into the TradFi world is not getting to that promised land,” Bianco stated.

Bianco’s analysis aligns with broader industry concerns about the role of regulated products and traditional exchanges in the digital asset ecosystem.

“Getting everyone to Degen into regulated products, on regulated exchanges, and letting Gary Gensler and Larry Fink set the rules is not getting to that land. It gets in the way,” he concluded

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