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‘It’s absurd’: From Morgan Stanley to the state of Wisconsin, here’s who just poured billions into Bitcoin ETFs



The 13Fs are out: Institutional investment managers have filed their quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission that disclose first-quarter equity holdings. For the 10 spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds that began trading in January, it’s the first official look at who’s added significant exposure to the original cryptocurrency.

Some 944 firms at least $100 million in size reported buying into the ETFs, analysis of the filings by Bitwise shows. By comparison, that’s 10 times the number investing in gold ETFs. The issuer attracting the most interest was BlackRock’s IBIT, which added 414 institutional investors.

Collectively, professional investors hold exposure to more than $10.7 billion. In total, the 10 funds had around $54 billion of assets under management as of May 20, according to CoinGlass data.

“There were more people than I expected,” Eric Balchunas, a senior ETF analyst for Bloomberg, told Fortune. “It’s absurd. It’s crazy. A good first 13F season would maybe be 10. That’s how hard it is. And so, to have 414 is just bonkers.”

Hedge funds dominated the list. Of those, the largest to acquire equity was Millennium Management, a New-York based fund that’s invested $2 billion in several of the ETFs, as of March 31. Boston-based hedge fund Bracebridge Capital is also among the funds, which owns $262 million of shares in the ARK 21Shares ETF, and $81 million in IBIT. Bracebridge’s clients include institutional investors such as the endowments of Yale University and Princeton University.

“I’ve been saying for a while that of the top 100 hedge funds in the world, we’ve seen about a third of them are active in the [Bitcoin ETF] space, but seeing is believing,” Brett Tejpaul, head of institutional trading at Coinbase, said last week at Fortune‘s Future of Finance conference. “Being able to see those filings, and see super-recognizable names owning very material amounts of ETFs is an awesome moment. It’s been quite a journey.”

The number of hedge funds with holdings also exceeded Balchunas’ expectations. He estimates some of the interest may reflect trading intentions that include arbitrage: “There’s a lot of ‘arb-ing’ you can do—but that’s a good thing, it helps everybody get a better deal.”

‘Surprised to see a pension already’

A filing from the state of Wisconsin’s investment board, which manages $156 billion in state pensions, disclosed purchases of IBIT worth more than $99 million and a further $63 million in Grayscale‘s Bitcoin Trust (GBTC).

“I was surprised to see a pension already,” Balchunas said. “I didn’t think we’d see pensions or endowments at least until the second quarter, or even for a year. They are the slowest-moving of all the institutions.”

Major banks also tipped their toes in the water.

Several so called “Global Systemically Important Banks,” or G-SIBs, disclosed investments in the products, including the Royal Bank of Canada, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, and UBS. This list also includes Morgan Stanley, which revealed a $269.9 million investment in GBTC, making it one of the largest holders in the fund, following a $1 billion investment from Susquehanna International Group, a quantitative trading firm, according to Fintel data.

The overall group of investors—pensions, hedge funds, and registered investment advisors—wading into the space, said Nathan Geraci, president of The ETF Store, “is highly notable given that these investors tend to move much more methodically when it comes to new products, due to highly rigorous due diligence processes.”

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