Allow me to share a story with you. You’re an affluent investor who understands the concept that taking on more risk may bring higher rewards. You also understand the importance of asset allocation and not putting all of your eggs in one basket. One day, you’re playing golf with a friend who keeps checking his smartphone during your round and his constant smiling is beginning to annoy you (especially after you missed that short putt on the last hole). Finally, you ask him what they’re looking at on their phone.
“I’m watching this investment I have go up 25% just today. In fact, it’s gone up about 50% just this month. Pretty good, huh?”
“What’s the investment?” is your immediate reaction. After your friend tells you what it is, you’re surprised that he was even able to invest in it. You soon learn that it’s not an investment that that any of his financial advisers told him about. He also reveals that he only has a small amount of his overall portfolio in this holding, because, well, it’s risky, but clearly with that risk comes sizeable reward.
This is not fiction. This occurred to a friend just recently. The investment is the Bitcoin Investment Trust GBTC. Yes, any investor can currently buy it in any of their investment accounts and no, your financial adviser is probably not going to tell you about it unless you ask.
Since its transition from an investment only for accredited investors to the OTCQ exchange (June of this year), where it can be bought and sold by the general public, the trust has ranged from $28.55 to a recent price of $51 in less than six months. The trust is simply intended to mirror the price of bitcoin, which has been on a tear as of late.
I wrote about this investment in various columns on this site in the past and earned many sneers (a nice way of putting it) from those who thought that I had lost my mind. Many of those who criticized bitcoins were those who felt that gold was a better way to gain exposure to an alternative investment. A recent column on this site discusses how bitcoin has actually been a better current investment than gold.
Full disclosure: My involvement with this investment began when I invested a recent SEP contribution into the trust, when it was only available to accredited investors and bitcoin was trading well over $600. With bitcoin on the rise and trading even at the $450 level, I still have a loss on my original investment.
However, I did this investment as an alternative investment for asset allocation purposes and committed only a small portion of my portfolio to it (less than 5%). Those investors who have financial advisers have probably had discussions with their advisers over the last few years about the merits of including alternative investments in their portfolio as a means of asset allocation. Typically, those alternative investments have been hedge funds or private-equity funds that provide little transparency about what they contain or have strategies that even your adviser will admit that he or she doesn’t understand.
So, with the performance of GBTC at this point, the question I have is whether or not your financial adviser may begin bringing up the option of investing in bitcoins for your portfolio. I believe that over the next year, you’ll begin to hear them doing just that, whether it’s discussing GBTC or how various companies, such as established banks, are integrating bitcoin and blockchain technology into their businesses and the potential impact that will have on their bottom line and stock performance.
The question you may also ask is if they’re not discussing this topic and these options with you, are they the right financial adviser for you? These are not investments for everyone, but certainly you’ll be reading more and more about them over the next year and your financial adviser should be prepared to discuss and advise accordingly on them, as they are available to all investors.
Regarding my friends who were playing golf. Once it was revealed how much was made over the course of the day in GBTC, it was decided that the next hole was the 19th hole, and that my smiling friend would be buying the refreshments. I know for a fact that he used cash and not bitcoins to pay for that.
Disclosure: Tatar owns shares of GBTC.