(Bloomberg) -- Retail investors in Canada were quick to put money into cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds after regulators allowed a proliferation of products that track Bitcoin, Ether and other digital assets. They’ve lost most of it in a year.
Canadian-traded crypto ETFs had just C$1.64 billion ($1.22 billion) in assets under management as of Nov. 18, according to calculations from National Bank of Canada analyst Daniel Straus. That’s down more than three-quarters from the C$7.3 billion value in those funds on Nov. 30 last year.
The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX, on the heels of other bankruptcies in the sector, has dealt a debilitating blow to confidence in digital assets. Other large crypto firms have been shaken as contagion spreads: Genesis Global, a US cryptocurrency broker, is seeking emergency funding to stay afloat, while BlockFi Inc. is also said to be in dire financial straits.
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“The effect of FTX has likely led to a lengthening of what would be considered a crypto winter, a period of people’s lack of focus on the space or lack of trust in the space,” Som Seif, chief executive officer of Purpose Investments Inc., said in an interview.
In a measure of how swiftly the market has changed for risk assets, a single money-market ETF managed by CI Financial Corp. now has more in assets than all the crypto ETFs listed in Canada combined. The CI fund applies the simplest investment strategy imaginable: it puts the cash into interest-paying savings accounts at commercial banks.
The vast majority of the decline in ETFs assets has come from the falling price of Bitcoin and other holdings, not from outflows, which have been small. Crypto ETFs saw C$51 million of outflows year-to-date as of Nov. 18, according to data from Straus -- though C$20 million of that came in those first 18 days of this month.
Canada has pushed further than the US in allowing regulated crypto-related products. Cryptocurrencies are classified as commodities for tax purposes, and many coins and tokens are classified as securities. The regulator stepped up its efforts after QuadrigaCX, the country’s largest crypto exchange at the time, collapsed in 2019 and was later ruled to be a fraud and a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by its founder.
“Firms like FTX are one of the reasons regulators in Canada accepted our exchange-traded products,” 3iQ Corp. Chief Executive Officer Fred Pye said in an interview.
Still, Canadian crypto-trading platforms and exchange-traded funds tend to hold their assets with custodians in the US, such as Gemini and Coinbase. “Hopefully, this is the impetus for Canada to look at these type of situations and think, ‘Hey, maybe we should onshore these assets now,’” said Dustin Plett, an executive at Paradiso Ventures Inc., a Canadian digital-asset custodian that does business under the name Balance.
Seif’s Purpose Investments, which launched the first directly backed Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in North America last year, expects demand to rebound over the next several months. “Long-term fundamentally, I continue to believe that more and more individuals and institutions will want to access crypto and the return streams of them,” he said.
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