Over the past few years, crypto enthusiasts have been proclaiming that institutional investors’ appetite to add crypto assets to their portfolios was right around the corner. And while this growth is slowly taking place, the number of crypto research services targeting institutional investors remains limited.
Institutional Interest in Cryptos
According to a study by Goldman Sachs of over 150 family offices, only 15% of respondents are currently invested in cryptocurrency. Despite this fact, another 45% would be interested in diving into the space as a hedge for “higher inflation, prolonged low rates, and other macroeconomic developments following a year of unprecedented global monetary and fiscal stimulus.”
Another recent study conducted by Coalition Greenwich on behalf of Fidelity Digital Assets said that more than half of the 1,100 institutional investors surveyed reported that they currently had digital asset investments. This study also found that 70% of institutional investors expect to invest in digital assets in the future.
Around 90% of those interested in investing in cryptos in the future said they expected their company’s or their clients’ portfolios to include digital asset investments within the next five years. This included direct cryptocurrency investments or exposure through stocks of cryptocurrency companies or other investment products. The Coalition Greenwich study also found that price volatility as one of the main barriers to investing by institutional investors.
This move by institutional investors into crypto is highlighted by an article published in Coin Telegraph during October 2021 about Cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin. “OKCoin said it had seen a 450% increase in the number of institutional customers on its platform between September 2020 and September 2021, as well as a 124% increase in institutional trading volume over the same period. According to the report, 53% of the purchases institutional investors made in September were for altcoins. In addition, the customers showed ‘a greater appetite for non-Bitcoin crypto assets’ compared to previous years.”
The growing interest shown by institutional investors in crypto assets makes sense. Industry analysts argue that cryptocurrencies provide three key benefits to institutional portfolios: high potential returns, low correlation to other assets, and liquidity. Unfortunately, many institutional clients don’t understand the crypto market well, prompting educational challenges that hinder widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies into portfolios.
Investment Research on Digital Assets
Despite the growing institutional appetite for digital asset investments, and the difficulty many investors have in understanding the highly technical space, the number of firms that are currently dedicated or who have dedicated teams providing investment research on the digital asset ecosystem remains extremely limited.
However, this does not mean that sell-side and independent research firms aren’t covering publicly traded companies that operate in the crypto space. For example, 22 analysts currently cover the crypto exchange Coinbase, including analysts from BofA Merrill, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, MoffettNathanson, Autonomous Research, and Redburn.
A few of the firms that currently provide specialized research about the crypto space include:
Independent Research Firms
Delphi Digital Founded in mid-2018, Delphi Digital is an independent research boutique providing institutional-grade analysis on the digital asset market. The firm’s founders have experience in traditional securities markets, and they saw a gap in the crypto landscape for institutional-grade crypto asset research. The firm currently provides regular insights through weekly, monthly and one-off reports on trends, developments and opportunities.
The Block The Block is the leading global information services brand in the digital asset space. Founded in 2018 and based in NYC, the Block Research provides a subscription service offering daily research and analysis on the digital asset space, a daily newsletter, a research library of over 1,000 pieces of original crypto related research, live chat with the Block research team, and monthly Q&A calls. The Block’s research clients include institutional investors, traders, financial service professionals, digital asset and blockchain infrastructure service providers, regulators, policy makers and crypto enthusiasts. A few months ago Goldman Sachs began redistributing a limited amount of The Block’s crypto research to their institutional clients.
Bank of America In October 2021, the Bank of America published its first research report focused on cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies and other digital assets due to “growing institutional interest” and the massive appetite among retail clients. BofA’s cryptocurrency research coverage is being headed up by former tech analyst Alkesh Shah.
Morgan Stanley: In September, 2021 Morgan Stanley also launched a research team to cover cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. This team is headed up by London-based Sheena Shah, the firm’s lead cryptocurrency analyst. Sheena was previously a global G10 FX analyst for the bank for the past 8 years. Morgan Stanley’s crypto research team will research cryptocurrencies’ impact on both equities and fixed income globally.
Other Investment Banks: Many investment banks including Jefferies and Credit Suisse are currently looking for analysts to cover crypto related stocks and the associated blockchain technologies.
Asset Managers / Others
Galaxy Digital Founded in 2018 by Michael Novogratz, Galaxy Digital (TSX: GLXY) is a technology-driven financial services and investment management firm that provides institutions and retail clients with a full suite of financial solutions spanning the digital assets ecosystem. Galaxy Digital operates five synergistic business lines: Trading, Asset Management, Principal Investments, Investment Banking, and Mining. The firm also produces research about various topics across the digital asset landscape.
Crypto specific media outlets: Firms or websites like CoinDesk, The Block, Cryptonews.com, and CoinTelegraph.com provide free of charge news, analysis and commentary on developments in the digital asset space.
While institutional interest in the digital asset space is definitely growing, the number of firms that currently provide dedicate research coverage on cryptocurrencies, digital assets, and related blockchain technologies is extremely limited.
The gap between investor interest and research provision could be a result of the fact that it has taken some time for institutions to finally start committing significant investment dollars to this space. However, another reason for the limited number of crypto research firms today is the fact that valuing digital assets is an extremely different exercise than valuing other assets like equities, bonds, real estate or currencies. In addition, analyzing crypto projects is generally the domain of technologically sophisticated analysts.
Despite these hurdles, we suspect that the number of firms providing crypto research will pick up throughout 2022 – particularly once the regulatory uncertainty regarding crypto investing clears up enabling even more institutional investors to feel comfortable jumping into the space.