Major Banks in France, Canada, Switzerland Report Exposure to Bitcoin ETFs

3d rendering gold bitcoin in bank vault
  • Banks are increasingly investing in Bitcoin through US-listed Spot ETFs.
  • Recent SEC filings reveal investments by major banks including BNP Paribas and UBS, indicating growing institutional interest.
  • Despite scepticism about crypto’s stability, banks hold significant positions in Bitcoin ETFs like iBIT and Grayscale.

Banks are increasingly moving to adopt Bitcoin, and many do so via the Spot exchange-traded funds (ETF) listed in the United States in January.

Recent 13F filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that Europe’s second-largest bank, BNP Paribas, Canadian “Big Five” Bank of Montreal and Swiss banking giant UBS Group are among the more recent filings.

Related: Franklin Templeton CEO Highlights Cost Benefits of Tokenisation, Says All ETFs Will Be on Blockchain

Canadian Bank Holds Multiple BTC ETFs

Filings of the Bank of Montreal, Canada’s fourth largest bank, reveal several holdings in Bitcoin ETFs:

  • Fidelity Wise Origin Bitcoin (FBTC): 9,778 shares worth US$540,332 (AU$818,445).
  • Franklin Templeton’s EZBC fund: 8,795 shares worth US$322,336 (AU$488,328).
  • Grayscale’s fund: 10,053 shares worth US$636,154 (AU$963,891).
  • BlackRock’s iBIT: 133,609 shares, totalling US$4,809,924 (AU$7,287,649).
Bank of Montreal, F13 filing, source:

Ironically, back in 2018 the bank did make it rather difficult for some of its customers to invest in Bitcoin.

UBS’s Crypto Holding Despite Lack of Confidence in Asset Class

UBS’s filing revealed that the group is holding 3,600 shares of iBIT. UBS holds US$129,600 (AU$196,149) worth of Bitcoin via iBIT which itself holds a total of US$15.5bn (AU$23.5bn) in net assets.

The investment is especially interesting given UBS’s bearish stance on cryptocurrencies. Following the ETF approval on 10 January, UBS’s Chief Investment Office wrote in a note on 25 January 2024 that “the fundamental investment case for crypto assets broadly remains weak”.

UBS said initial flows had been disappointing, further stifled by stringent rules from asset managers, which have limited access, they added. 

They also doubt the disruptive use case for crypto, labelling the asset class as a “speculative trade”. UBS advises investors to focus on other areas of technological innovation due to high volatility.

BNP Paribas Starts Gaining Crypto Exposure

With US$600bn (AU$908bn) in assets under management (AUM), multinational financial heavyweight BNP Paribas is Europe’s second-largest bank – founded through a merger in 2000 of French financial institutions Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and Paribas.

According to its 13F filing, the bank has purchased 1,030 shares in iBIT with a total value of US$41,684 (AU$63,122). The holding is significantly less than that of UBS, nevertheless marking a first exposure to the sector.

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Institutional investment managers with assets over US$100 million must submit quarterly 13F reports to the SEC within 45 days after each quarter’s end. This includes foreign banks like BNP Paribas, UBS and Bank of Montreal that transact in the US, such as buying American ETFs.

Aaron Feuerstein

Aaron Feuerstein

Aaron Feuerstein is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. His focus is on decentralised finance and the regulatory space surrounding blockchain. He holds a Master's in Accounting. When he is not studying the latest legal case, he enjoys his time as a modest but eager hobby cook.

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