UK’s lonely crypto ETF battle amid global acceptance


  • The UK remains one of the few major global markets not approving retail access to cryptocurrency ETFs, despite widespread global acceptance.
  • The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned retail sales of crypto-related derivatives, including ETFs, citing risks from highly leveraged products.
  • Industry experts criticize the UK’s stance, noting the inconsistency of allowing direct crypto trading while banning regulated crypto investment products.

The United Kingdom’s financial landscape is increasingly looking like an old pub in a ghost town, especially when it comes to cryptocurrency exchange-traded products (ETPs). As countries around the globe, including the usual suspects like continental Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and recently the US, open their arms wide to crypto ETFs, the UK stands aloof, almost like it’s afraid to catch the crypto bug. The situation becomes even more ironic considering Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cheerleading for the UK as a crypto haven. Despite his advocacy for a regulatory framework that boosts the crypto sector in Britain, the UK staunchly refuses to let even the small investors dabble in crypto ETPs listed abroad.

This peculiar stance of the UK becomes glaringly obvious with the grand entrance of 10 spot bitcoin ETFs on Wall Street, managed by the who’s who of the financial world like BlackRock, Invesco, and Fidelity. This move not only highlights the UK’s deviation from global financial centers but also puts a spotlight on its reluctance to evolve with the times.

The FCA’s Tightrope Walk

The root of this crypto cold shoulder can be traced back to 2021, when the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) slammed the door on the sale of cryptocurrency-related derivatives, including exchange-traded products, to retail investors. Their concerns were primarily focused on leveraged products like contracts for difference, which offer a staggering 100 times leverage on bitcoin, a token already known for its roller-coaster nature. However, this ban inadvertently caught unleveraged products such as plain vanilla ETPs and futures in its net.

This decision has baffled some industry experts. Bradley Duke, the chief strategist of London-based ETC Group, points out the paradox where UK retail investors can directly trade digital tokens via crypto exchanges without any regulatory checks, yet are barred from investing in regulated products like their $1bn Physical Bitcoin exchange traded commodity. The contrast is stark when you look at continental Europe, boasting 120 crypto ETPs with €8.4bn in assets. Duke’s frustration is palpable – UK investors are being denied access to regulated, more secure investment avenues, while the riskier direct crypto purchases remain unregulated.

A Dichotomy of Progress and Protection

The UK’s current position is a complex dance of progress and protection. On one hand, it’s commendable that the FCA is cautious, especially considering the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies and their links to financial crime. But on the other hand, it feels like watching a parent who won’t let their teenager go to the prom for fear of them catching a cold. Andrew Prosser, head of investments at InvestEngine, echoes this sentiment, indicating that UK investors are left with less secure options like buying coins from digital exchanges, which come with their own set of problems like the need for digital wallets and the risk of theft.

Hector McNeil, co-founder of HANetf, strikes a chord with his balanced view. He doesn’t advocate for unrestricted access to crypto ETPs for the UK’s 9 million self-directed investors but calls for a more nuanced approach. McNeil aptly compares the situation with trading inverse or leveraged products where investors undergo a suitability test. The underlying message is clear – educate and regulate, rather than outright ban.

Despite these arguments, Jason Hollands from Bestinvest isn’t holding his breath for a change in the FCA’s stance. The regulator’s concerns about the integrity of the underlying crypto market and its volatility remain major roadblocks. This protective approach, while commendable in safeguarding investor interests, also nudges UK investors towards riskier, unregulated avenues.

The UK’s isolated battle in the realm of crypto ETFs paints a picture of a country caught between its ambition to be a crypto hub and its commitment to investor protection. It’s a delicate balance to strike, and while the FCA’s caution is understandable, it also raises questions about missed opportunities in a rapidly evolving global financial landscape. The UK may not be ready to fully embrace crypto ETFs yet, but as the world moves forward, it will be interesting to see how long this stance can be maintained without risking being left behind.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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