Hedge Funds Are Finally Finding Love for Bitcoin and Crypto

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The company announced a suite of products today aiming to give customers access to tools and APIs that make it easier for customers to buy and store crypto tokens, cash out, trade NFTs and handle compliance workflows like Know Your Customer (KYC). Stripe’s support page notes that the company’s products will enable support for users to buy more than 135+ cryptocurrencies with fiat currencies in 180 countries.

Stripe co-founder John Collison took to Twitter Thursday to announce the new features.

Stripe has had a complicated relationship with crypto over the years, ending Bitcoin support in 2018, calling the cryptocurrency “less useful” as a payments means after initially supporting the cryptocurrency in 2014. In October, the company began posting job listings for building out a crypto team and added crypto VC Matt Huang to its board weeks later. The company’s re-entry to the space is a major threat to existing crypto payments processors that lack the company’s expansive reach.

Alongside the news, crypto exchange FTX announced that it is partnering with Stripe to improve its identity compliance features and fiat onboarding workflows for users.

Crypto scams are growing, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu told a conference of … [+] financial regulators this week.getty

Crypto scams are growing, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu said in a speech to the Financial Literacy and Education Commission this week.

There is an urgent need for improved crypto literacy and education with the rise, Hsu told the consortium of federal financial regulators.

Crypto is not going away, the OCC leader said at the gathering.

He pointed out crypto theft hit $3.2 billion in 2021, a 516 percent increase over 2020 with the biggest threat coming from so-called rug pulls, where legitimate-looking crypto projects were used to attract then steal $2.8 billion.

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“Scammers pose the greatest risk, defrauding people using romance ploys, blackmail scams, and high-profile hacking schemes,” Hsu explained.

One of the problems for consumers with crypto, said the OCC chief, it is hard to find neutral, trusted sources of information on the asset class.

“Consumers are left with an information landscape dominated by a lot of hype, jargon, attractive yields, and only boilerplate disclaimers about the risks they could face,” he asserted.

With one in five adults now having exposure to crypto – as many as have exposure to fixed income investments, Hsu said there is a need to move quickly to improve the crypto literacy of consumers.

According to the Acting Comptroller, the crypto-owning population is younger, more financially vulnerable, and more diverse than the general population with70 percent born after 1980 and 56 percent earning under $50,000.

The greater diversity for crypto owners compared to a large portion of the general public is also shown that Asian, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than White adults to say they have ever invested in, traded, or used a cryptocurrency.

Additionally, nearly four times as many underbanked consumers own cryptocurrency compared to the fully banked who have it (37 percent versus 10 percent).

“(Crypto owners) seem driven by the hope of capturing more of the upside; fear of missing out on the next rally; the belief in the promise of democratizing finance; and embrace of a new technology and community. These powerful drivers have strong emotional appeal,” Hsu contended.

Some of the largest hedge funds are reportedly increasing their holdings in cryptocurrencies.

The list includes names like Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP and Tudor Investment Corp, according to the Wall Street Journal.’More Crypto Than Gold’

Tudor Investment declined to comment, while Brevan Howard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Institutional investors as a whole traded $1.14 trillion of cryptocurrencies in 2021, according to Coinbase, up from $120 billion the year before, and more than twice the $535 billion for individual investors.

“There is opportunity for outsized returns for asset managers who want to be early investors in digital assets that are successful,” said Michael J. Torosian, a partner with Baker Botts L.L.P. “Investors see cryptocurrencies as non-correlative to traditional asset classes and a good diversification tool and a hedge against certain risks such as inflation.”

Torosian said the improvements in the regulatory landscape as well as the establishment of exchanges and more ways to store and protect digital assets “has given managers a better opportunity to evaluate adding crypto to their portfolios.”

Brevan Howard launched a cryptocurrency hedge fund in January that will begin accepting outside investors. 

The fund is making bets on the direction of bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrency prices, while also searching for arbitrage between currencies and investing in blockchain technology.

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