Hedge funds pumped more than $200 million into a family of crypto funds last quarter even though performance tanked

Business Insider Finance 1 month ago
  • Grayscale Investments, which runs ten crypto-linked investment trusts, had more than a quarter of a billion dollars-worth of inflows in the third quarter, with an overwhelming majority coming from hedge funds. 
  • Crypto and crypto-linked products were hit hard over the same period, with bitcoin's price falling by 25% in the quarter.
  • Grayscale launched a marketing campaign in May to urge investors to swap gold for crypto in their portfolios.
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Bitcoin got crushed. Hedge funds didn't care.

That's the story of the third quarter, according to Grayscale Investments. The $2.2 billion asset manager runs 10 different crypto-linked products.

According to the firm's recently released flow numbers, last quarter was the most money the firm has seen flowing into its products ever — with $254.9 million in total.

And the overwhelming majority of those assets — 84% — came from hedge funds. That's a marked increase from the first quarter of this year, when hedge funds represented just 56% of the flows. 

"There is an across-the-board sentiment that digital currencies is an asset class that is not going away," said Michael Sonnenshein, managing director of Grayscale.

What's notable is that hedge funds were pumping in money while the most popular currency, bitcoin, was hit hard. Bitcoin fell by 25% in the three months ending Sept. 30 but has still outperformed nearly every asset class this year, with the price more than doubling since the beginning of 2019 despite the third-quarter woes.

Grayscale products likewise slumped in the quarter, with each one losing at least 30% of its value, but Sonnenshein believes hedge funds have noticed the bigger picture. For instance, the firm's biggest offering — a bitcoin-linked trust — has notched returns of more than 5,500% since it was launched in 2013. 

"They're looking for alternatives for new sources of alpha," he said, while attributing the volume of flows partially to the firm's marketing campaign it launched in May that implored investors to drop gold in favor of crypto in their portfolios.

Hedge funds, despite post their best start to the year since 2013 with an average return of 4.9%, have still struggled to outperform the general market, pushing investors to demand greater transparency and more lenient fee structures. Crypto, Sonnenshein said, has been seen as a way for them to boost returns.

"They're having a hard time finding an investment opportunity with a better risk-return profile right now than bitcoin."

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