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Spot Bitcoin ETFs: Why multi-custodial models are critical for asset managers

Spot Bitcoin ETFs

As the crypto economy becomes increasingly intertwined with mainstream financial institutions, innovative solutions that combine the old with the new continue to proliferate. Spot bitcoin ETFs are a prime example of this unlikely marriage, combining the familiar framework of traditional brokerage channels with the exciting realm of digital assets. This duality makes their recent approval by the SEC impactful for both the cryptocurrency ecosystem as well as broader financial markets. In July of 2023, the SEC decided to review proposals from six more firms, including Blackrock and Fidelity;1 following a delay, the final decision was handed down in January of 2024.2  The long-growing media frenzy surrounding the asset type has reached a tipping point, with many providers hailing the approval as a key triumph for the crypto industry. 

Acceptance of the July proposals signifies regulatory endorsement for integrating digital assets like bitcoin into well-established financial infrastructure. This acknowledgment underscored a growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies as viable investment options. At the same time, the decision serves to enforce the line often drawn between bitcoin and other tokens, as the original cryptocurrency continues to lead the way in terms of adoption. 

Spot bitcoin ETFs are designed to provide investors with exposure to the volatile yet captivating realm of crypto by directly tracking the market price of the underlying asset. This is distinguished from their futures-based counterparts, which hinge upon contracts stipulating future bitcoin prices. By facilitating seamless access to the nascent yet increasingly mainstream asset class through conventional channels, Spot bitcoin ETFs act as a bridge between traditional finance and the digital economy, potentially fostering a broader and more diversified investor base.4 

The benefits of a multi-custodial model

As the digital asset community embraces this new development, safe and secure custodial choices should stay front of mind. In particular, the practice of vendor redundancy is key for responsibly managing these unique assets. Single-custodial models put all the eggs in one basket, so to speak, and ultimately heighten risk. If a single custodian is responsible for holding all the bitcoin backing an ETF, any issues with that custodian (such as a hack or an operational failure) could have a significant impact on the ETF’s value. By using multiple custodians, the asset is less likely to be dependent on the operations of any single entity.  

There are multiple models of vendor redundancy, each with their own unique benefits. Some are geographic, others are asset-class or manager-based. No matter the type, these custodial solutions help to mitigate risk for investors—but that’s not the only upside. By divvying out assets amongst various custodians, a higher level of market connectivity is achieved. Investors can benefit from the enhanced expertise that a global market provides.

Experience with multiple vendors also facilitates benchmarking, wherein prices and features can be pitched against each other to ensure optimal resource allocation. Data privacy is another concern that can be mitigated under a multi-custodial model; no single entity will have access to all of an investor’s information, preventing total oversight on a given portfolio. 

There are plenty of cautionary tales that exhibit the dangers of too much consolidation. Luckily, multi-custodial models provide a way of avoiding such unfortunate situations. While discussing the significance of vendor redundancy for spot bitcoin ETFs, it’s crucial to delve into the equally vital aspect of selecting a qualified custodian as part of your multi-custodial model, to ensure the security and integrity of underlying assets.  

Because qualified custodians must meet certain regulatory criteria and security standards, they present an optimal choice when selecting providers to safeguard your assets with. When selecting a custodian for digital assets, there are several criteria to keep in mind. Qualified custodians have robust security measures in place to protect against potential dangers such as hacking or theft.

Many of them also provide insurance, creating another layer of protection against unforeseen events. Strict compliance with regulatory requirements, transparent reporting, and well-defined operational procedures are additional qualities to look for when selecting a custody provider. The ideal qualified custodian brings a level of professionalism to the management of digital assets, all while mitigating the risks associated with self-custody. Spot bitcoin ETFs are highly attractive to investors wanting to dip their toes in the realm of cryptocurrency, and they merit a custody solution that is as secure as possible.   

As the journey towards integrating cryptocurrencies with traditional finance accelerates, the adoption of multi-custodial models and the selection of qualified custodians play indispensable roles in ensuring the security, integrity, and future growth of these innovative investment instruments. 

Interested in learning more about Bakkt Custody? Download the product sheet.



This does not constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell, or otherwise transact in any investment, including any of the product(s) mentioned herein, or an invitation, offer or solicitation to engage in any investment activity. This information is provided solely on the basis that you will make your own investment decisions, and Bakkt does not take account of any investor's investment objectives, particular needs, or financial situation. It is strongly recommended that you seek professional investment advice before making any investment decision.


1 Reuters. “US SEC accepts six spot bitcoin ETF proposals for review.” Published July 2023.   

2 Reuters. "US SEC approves bitcoin ETFs in watershed for crypto market." Published January 2024.

3 CNBC. “First bitcoin ETF could be coming soon as court rules in favor of Grayscale over SEC.” Published August 2023.  

4 The Washington Post. “Why Crypto and Wall Street are Longing for Spot Bitcoin ETFs”. Published August 2023.