Big Move: Wisconsin Pours $164 Million Into Bitcoin ETFs

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • The State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) reported to the SEC an investment of approximately $164 million in Bitcoin through ETFs, specifically managing over 2.4 million shares in BlackRock iShares Bitcoin Trust and over one million shares in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.
  • SWIB’s substantial investments in cryptocurrency are part of a broader asset management strategy overseeing $156 billion, with 48% allocated to public equity, and includes stakes in tech and crypto-related firms like Coinbase and MicroStrategy.
  • Recent regulatory approvals by the SEC for spot Bitcoin ETFs and the anticipation of further developments for an Ether ETF by VanEck mark significant progress in cryptocurrency acceptance among U.S. regulatory bodies and financial institutions.

In a recent disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), tasked with overseeing the state’s pension system assets, revealed its significant stake in cryptocurrency.

The report detailed investments amounting to approximately $164 million in spot Bitcoin ETFs managed by prominent financial institutions, Grayscale and BlackRock.

According to the May 14 filing, SWIB holds over 2.4 million shares in the BlackRock iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT) and over one million shares in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), valued around $100 million and $64 million, respectively.

This move illustrates the Wisconsin Retirement System’s potential exposure to digital currencies through these asset management giants.

The investment strategy of SWIB, as of December 2023, showed management of over $156 billion in assets, with a significant 48% allocated to public equity.

Besides the cryptocurrency trusts, the board’s portfolio includes investments in notable tech and crypto-related firms such as Coinbase, MicroStrategy, and Cleanspark.

Bloomberg ETF analyst Eric Balchunas commented on the unusual speed and scale of these investments in a recent social media post, noting, “Normally you don’t get these big fish institutions in the 13Fs for a year or so (when the ETF gets more liquidity) but as we’ve seen these are no ordinary launches.”

The SEC’s recent regulatory developments have also been highlighted, with approvals for spot Bitcoin ETF listings and trading on U.S. exchanges as of January.

This regulatory progress has sparked a broader expectation among industry experts that a decision on a similar Ether ETF by asset manager VanEck may soon follow, with a final verdict anticipated by May 23.

In contrast, major banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have reported minimal investments in spot BTC ETFs, totaling less than $1 million.

Meanwhile, Susquehanna International Group disclosed a substantial $1 billion investment in various spot crypto ETFs, including GBTC, IBIT, Fidelity Wise Origin Bitcoin Fund (FBTC),

ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), and Bitwise Bitcoin ETF, highlighting a growing institutional interest in cryptocurrency investments.

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