Wall Street Buzz: Merrill Lynch Bans Bitcoin For Its Clients
In a move that sounds similar to that taken by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Wall Street bank Merrill Lynch has banned its financial advisors from buying Bitcoin-related investments for their clients.
The decision comes as the major bank has concerns “pertaining to suitability and eligibility standards of this product,” according to an Internal memo reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
Going against the grain
The decision taken by Merrill Lynch prevents roughly 17,000 advisors pitching anything to do with Bitcoin or even executing clients’ request to trade Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC).
The GBTC is one of the major avenues in which Bitcoin can be traded on Wall Street. It is traded over the counter, rather than through a formal venue like the New York Stock Exchange. The Bitcoin trust is the top holding of two of Ark Invest's exchange-traded funds, which unsurprisingly were among the top performing ETFs last year.
The recent opening of futures on CME and CBOE have also given rise to new ways in which institutionalized investors can get involved in this new asset without the fear of venturing into unregulated waters.
However, Merrill Lynch has already acted upon these avenues as it previously banned access to these futures.
Merrill Lynch clearly sits on the one half of the divide over Bitcoin that is denying its possibilities and thus denying its clients a shot at the growing asset. However, that side of the battle seems to be softening.
A look at the way in which JPMorgan has distanced itself from their CEO’s comments shows how it is becoming harder and harder to keep avoiding Bitcoin.
Bitcoin’s success on Wall Street is yet to be seen as its price rally towards $20,000 was catalyzed by the impending futures announcement, but since they have launched there has been a decline in Bitcoin's performance.
According to John D’Agostino, a former Nymex executive and current exchange board member, many are trying to get into the game, but wondering if they can do it within regulations.
“Every research department of every regulated exchange is saying, ‘Can we do this?’ The majority of costs associated with that are marketing. If people want to trade this thing, why wouldn’t you? This is a gift from the heavens.”
Learn and understand
These bans, from the ICO ban in China to the banning being done by banks, is also being attributed to misunderstanding and lack of knowledge.
Many Bitcoin believers slammed Jamie Dimon for his lack of knowledge, and the same seems to hold true for Merrill Lynch.
Tech investment company Wamda Capital CEO, Fadi Ghandour said of Dimon:
"It is here to stay. Jamie Dimon needs to recognize that before he talks about it from a fraudulent point of view. Talk to them, understand them, find a way to regulate them. Let's not make big statements about something we don't understand. Be humble, calm down, come down to earth and learn.”