Grayscale Takes Another Step in its Goal of Becoming a Bitcoin ETF Giant

Grayscale Investments has appointed New York-based custodian BNY Mellon to provide accounting and administrative services starting in October for Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), the world’s biggest publicly-traded Bitcoin fund. The move is intended to be a major step toward GBTC’s eventual conversion into an exchange-traded fund.

The move represents a coming together of two giants from their respective industries to provide services to crypto investors. GBTC, which trades in OTC markets, manages more than $20 billion worth of assets and has been cited by analysts as a key factor affecting Bitcoin's price. BNY Mellon is the world’s biggest custodian bank and has more than $2 trillion worth of assets under management. 

“Engaging BNY Mellon is an important milestone as part of our commitment to converting Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF,” stated Michael Sonnenshein, CEO of Grayscale Investments, LLC, the fund’s parent company, in a press release. “BNY Mellon has a long-standing reputation as a trusted provider and has established one of the first teams dedicated to servicing the growing digital currency asset class.” 

Key Takeaways

  • Grayscale has appointed BNY Mellon to provide account administration and servicing for its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), the world's biggest bitcoin fund.
  • Grayscale's CEO says the move is another step towards converting GBTC into a bitcoin ETF.
  • Given the SEC's concerns about Bitcoin ETFs, the chances of GBTC being approved for conversion to an ETF appear dim in the short term.

The announcement also marks BNY Mellon's expanded presence in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. The custodian already provides its services to prominent ETFs. Earlier this year, it announced an investment into a crypto startup and set up a team to design cryptocurrency management services for clients.  According to the press release, the arrangement will provide Grayscale with access to BNY Mellon’s proprietary ETF center which has developed technology to support digital asset ETFs.   

A Skeptical Regulator 


Grayscale’s ambitions to become a bitcoin ETF will have to contend with the reality of a skeptical regulator, however. Over the years, several startups and companies have filed applications for a Bitcoin ETF with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and failed in their bid. It outlined its main concerns in a January 2018 letter. 


At that time, fresh on the heels of a bubble in crypto, the agency cited potential for manipulation of cryptocurrency markets, wild price swings for individual cryptocurrencies, and minimal investor protection at cryptocurrency exchanges among other reasons to disallow a Bitcoin ETF. 


Recent events have demonstrated that the situation has not changed much. For example, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, Binance, faces a class action lawsuit from investors who suffered losses due to outages on its futures platform. Grayscale’s flagship fund exemplifies the instability and wild price swings in cryptocurrency markets: its shares trade at significant premiums and discounts to the price of Bitcoin. 


Despite a growing stack of ETF applications, the SEC is postponing final decisions on them. “Investors should be aware - I’m saying this is in my own voice - that in the underlying Bitcoin cash markets there’s not the robust oversight that you have in the stock market or the derivatives markets,” SEC chief Gary Gensler told CNBC last month.

Given the skeptical view of Gensler, who is an appointee of President Biden, Grayscale may have to wait for years to make its vision of a Bitcoin ETF a reality.

Article Sources

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  1. Grayscale.com. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust. Accessed July 13, 2021.

  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mellon merger OK'd, HQ On Way Out to NYC. Accessed July 12, 2021.

  3. PRNewswire. Grayscale Investments Forges Agreement with BNY Mellon for Asset Servicing. Accessed July 12, 2021.

  4. American Banker. Digital Assets Are Here to Stay: BNY Mellon Embraces Crypto. Accessed July 12, 2021.

  5. SEC. "Staff Letter: Engaging on Fund Innovation and Cryptocurrency-related Holdings." Accessed July 12, 2021.

  6. Yahoo Finance. Binance Faces Class Action Lawsuits Amid Crucial Outages During Bitcoin Crash. Accessed July 12, 2021.

  7. YCharts. GBTC Shares: Premium or Discount to NAV. Accessed July 12, 2021.

  8. CNBC. CNBC Transcript: SEC Chairman Gary Gensler Speaks with CNBC's 'The Exchange' Today. Accessed July 12, 2021.

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