$75 Billion Aussie Super Fund Hostplus: ‘Crypto is Too Big to Ignore’

November 23, 2021, 9:45 AM AEST - 5 days ago

One of Australia’s largest institutional investors believes that cryptocurrency as an investment is the economic elephant in the room, with the likelihood of super funds holding digital assets inevitable in time.

Hostplus has over A$2.2 billion committed to the venture capital sector, of which A$1.5 billion has already been invested. The industry super fund’s chief investment officer, Sam Sicilia, says it is no longer possible to dismiss the booming crypto market simply because of regulatory headwinds.

Sam Sicilia, chief investment officer, Hostplus. Source: ioandc.com

“Hostplus does not have crypto investments, but I do see the day where it becomes mainstream for institutional super funds,” Sicilia told The Australian newspaper. “It’s not just about a return for us. We need a governance structure, we need safekeeping of the assets, and there are regulatory requirements.”

Much Work Still to Do for Super Funds

Super funds needed to do a lot more groundwork before they were “crypto-ready”, Sicilia adds, and regulatory challenges had to be met ahead of any such move.

Last month, the Bank of America released a research paper on crypto with a similar outlook as institutional investors around the globe consider crypto’s prospects.

“With a US$2 trillion-plus market value and more than 200 million users, the digital asset universe is too large to ignore,” according to Bank of America analysts Alkesh Shah and Andrew Moss.

Both Shah and Moss predict that crypto-based digital assets could form an entirely new asset class.

It’s difficult to overstate how transformative blockchain technology, digital assets and the thousands of decentralised apps that have yet to be created could potentially be.

Alkesh Shah and Andrew Moss, crypto and digital assets strategy analysts, Bank of America

Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank of Australia red-flagged the “fervour” and “speculative demand” for crypto, warning of the potential for a severe price decline.

That said, Hostplus’s Sicilia foresees that bitcoin’s volatility would open up buying opportunities well below its current US$57,500 price (at the time of writing).

“I think we can get 10 per cent or more out of equity markets each year until people have a choice to put their money somewhere else. And that could be a long time from now,” says Sicilia, who oversees A$75 billion in assets under management at Hostplus.

‘Where Else Will People Be Putting Their Money?’

“People will keep putting their money into equity markets to get dividends. That’s the driving force powering markets. And there will be volatility, of course, but so be it. Where else are they going to put their money?”

Two months ago, Australian superannuation funds were being urged to consider exposure to crypto assets or risk being left behind. In July, New Zealand-based pension fund Kiwi Saver revealed it had invested in bitcoin in October last year. While its chief investment officer said at the time that most super funds in Australia would follow suit within five years, the reality is that Aussie super funds remain too slow out of the blocks.

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