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The cryptocurrency world is poised on the cusp of a potentially historic development, with the imminent approval of spot Bitcoin ETF (exchange-traded fund) filings.

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While the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week delayed this approval, the consensus remains that at least some of the 12 filings could be approved in the coming months; Bloomberg ETF analysts James Seyffart and Eric Balchunas predict a 90% chance of an approval sometime before 10 January next year.

Potential price surge

The approval of these ETFs could catalyse a significant surge in Bitcoin’s price. This expectation stems from the influx of institutional legitimacy and accessibility these ETFs bring.

For institutional investors who have been on the fence, these ETFs serve as a gateway, reducing the perceived risk and complexity associated with investing in Bitcoin. Additionally, for retail investors, ETFs provide a familiar investment vehicle, potentially widening Bitcoin’s investor base.

Greater adoption of Bitcoin should lead to further investment and innovation in digital guide rails and financial infrastructure. From payment mechanisms and risk pricing to insurance tools, all of which will help to build a new digital economy.

The approval of Bitcoin spot ETFs would therefore be a monumental endorsement of Bitcoin’s legitimacy in the financial world. It’s a sign that Bitcoin is not just a speculative asset, but a fundamental component of the modern investment portfolio.

This transition is exemplified by the evolving stance of financial heavyweights like Larry Fink of Blackrock. Initially sceptical, Fink’s warming up to Bitcoin isn’t a mere change of opinion but a response to market dynamics.

His clients are increasingly demanding exposure to Bitcoin. This shift indicates a broader change in perception, recognising Bitcoin as a quality, ‘risk-off’ investment, countering its previous image as an inherently volatile asset.

A new era

As the community awaits these pivotal decisions, it may be the case that overall transaction volumes remain low, even if Bitcoin and wider crypto valuations are up as the year comes to an end.

The significance of Bitcoin, however, transcends its investment appeal. It represents the backbone of a new digital era for money.

Bitcoin’s underlying technology, blockchain, offers a permissionless, immutable, secure, and transparent method for transactions, challenging the cumbersome legacy financial infrastructures.

As we move deeper into the digital age, Bitcoin and its underlying technology are poised to redefine the concept of money, offering a decentralised alternative to state-backed currencies.

An often-overlooked aspect of Bitcoin’s rise is its potential to address the financial inclusion of the unbanked billions.

By building layers on top of Bitcoin, we can create a financial ecosystem that provides digital property rights and financial services to those previously excluded from the traditional banking system.

This is not just about investment; it’s about using technology to democratise access to financial services, offering a lifeline to those in economically marginalised communities.

However, the effects will ripple beyond just Bitcoin.

Approval of these ETFs could enhance the credibility of the entire cryptocurrency sector, leading to increased investment and innovation across various digital assets. This could be the spark that ignites a new era of growth and diversification within the crypto space.

“The opportunity is potentially much greater than just enabling new capital to access the crypto market,” as ETFs “will ease the restrictions for large money managers and institutions to buy and hold bitcoin, which will improve liquidity and price discovery for all market participants,” wrote David Duong, head of institutional research at Coinbase.

Additionally, having an investment vehicle that meets “key regulatory and compliance requirements may also open the door to new products,” which could multiply the existing crypto offerings for accredited investors and expand adoption, the note said.

From fringes to mainstream

As we await the SEC’s decision, the stakes are high.

Recent months have also seen a string of SEC-led enforcement actions undertaken in the wake of the FTX collapse and ahead of founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s sentencing in March 2024.

In this regard, Gary Gensler’s SEC is adamant that it wishes to clean-house before firmly bringing Bitcoin into the fold.

The approval of these ETFs would be more than a regulatory green light; it would be a signal of a shifting financial paradigm.

Bitcoin’s transformation from a fringe asset to a mainstream investment choice reflects a broader evolution in our understanding and use of money.

In this regard, I enjoy working daily with a host of companies bringing both Bitcoin and blockchain technology into this mainstream at Yolo Investments.

The potential approval of Bitcoin spot ETFs represents a seminal moment in the digital financial era. It’s a testament to Bitcoin’s resilience and growing acceptance.

More importantly, it’s a step towards realising the broader potential of cryptocurrencies, not just as investment vehicles, but as tools for economic empowerment and innovation.

As we stand at this crossroads, the future of finance is not just being rewritten; it’s being reimagined.

Tim Heath draws upon two decades of experience within the iGaming and emerging technologies sectors as GP of Yolo Investments. An early adopter of Bitcoin in 2013, he was founder and CEO of the Yolo Group (formerly the Coingaming Group) until 2020. The group operates leading crypto gaming brands Bitcasino and Sportsbet.io, with the latter securing high-profile sponsorships with Premier League clubs Arsenal and Southampton.