Crypto-Curious? A Guide to Digital Asset Exposure

Gone are the days when Bitcoin was only for basement-dwelling tech geeks. Though the cryptocurrency frontier was pioneered by such computer science enthusiasts, the new wave of digital asset investors represent a much broader cohort. Massive institutions and working-class professionals alike are demonstrating unprecedented demand for digital assets. For many, the question is how, not if, to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Accordingly, new investment products are quickly emerging. From self-custodied wallets to actively-managed portfolios like those at Sarson Funds, we will explore the spectrum of products offering digital asset exposure to help you determine which are best for your investing needs.

Brokerage-Custodied Direct Exposure

Commission-free brokers like Robinhood and Etoro have surged in popularity in recent years due to their accessibility and ease of use. Popular amongst millennials, they offer a low barrier to entry for new crypto investors to gain direct exposure to select digital assets like Bitcoin. However, Robinhood doesn’t support crypto withdraws, while Etoro’s crypto wallets only support certain tokens. Customers purchasing crypto assets without withdrawal capabilities give up the ability to move their cryptocurrency freely. This is a major disadvantage long-term. Customers unable to withdraw their crypto give up yield earning, collateral staking, and value transferring opportunities while still relying on a third party to securely store their digital assets. For these reasons, more sophisticated crypto investors often employ methods such as self-custody, trusts, and actively managed crypto funds to gain digital asset exposure.

Self-custody: An ideal for some, a nightmare for others.

Customers can achieve a hands-on relationship with their crypto assets by getting started at centralized exchanges like Coinbase. Coinbase offers a user-friendly interface for buying and selling popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Chainlink. While users can employ Coinbase’s digital wallets and vaults, they are also free to send their crypto externally. By moving their crypto to institutions like BlockFi or Nexo, investors can make use of lending and borrowing services to make more from their crypto portfolios. Or, in alignment with the old-school crypto adage, “not your keys, not your coins”, users can send funds to an address they control themselves to eliminate custodial counterparty risk. However, self-management of cryptocurrency funds can be time-consuming, stressful, and vulnerable to human error.

If stories of early investors losing millions of dollars of Bitcoin have made you wary of self-custody, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, human error is the usual cause for these funds being lost. You must understand a few Bitcoin basics to appreciate this: Because the Bitcoin blockchain is a public digital ledger, the public addresses of all Bitcoin are visible to anyone. When Bitcoin is transacted, it simply moves from one public address to another. Think of this public address as a username. For every public address, there is a corresponding private key, much like a password. Ownership of Bitcoin, therefore, lies in having the private key which corresponds to your public address

Naturally, your private keys need to be stored securely to keep your Bitcoin safe. At the same time, your private keys must be accessible if you ever want to transact your Bitcoin. There are numerous methods to private key self-custody, but each carries a considerable risk of a total loss due to user error, computer viruses, theft, destruction, etc. Since many people find these details too technical to self-custody their own cryptocurrencies, companies like Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and investment funds like Sarson Funds have emerged. With operational security measures, diversified asset storage, and insurance protection, these institutions offer products that give crypto-asset exposure without many of the drawbacks of self-custody.

Bitcoin Trusts

If you’re looking to trade cryptocurrency exposure just like stocks, Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) could be for you. According to Barron’s, Grayscale’s own Managing Director Michael Sonnenshein explained, “We’re taking something that has a lot of frictions behind buying, holding, storing, and safekeeping, and making it familiar and transparent.” With over $27 billion in assets, Grayscale’s GBTC commands significant premiums for its accessible and trusted bitcoin-backed shares. In fact, demand is so great for this simplified method of exposure that investors have bought GBTC shares priced 40% over their underlying Bitcoin value. GBTC and other trusts may continue to trade at such premiums until cheaper alternatives, such as U.S. based Bitcoin ETFs, become available. However, investment vehicles like GBTC still lack a major feature seen in investment fund products: active management.

Investment Funds

Crypto funds combine strengths seen in other financial products to deliver what we believe is an ideal solution for many investors. At Sarson Funds, we leverage institutional-grade security to reduce risk while taking advantage of market movements via actively-traded funds. With this combined approach, our fund values are guarded while remaining liquid enough to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Because the technologies and use cases surrounding cryptocurrencies are growing rapidly, there is a robust market for quality research and risk-adjusted fund allocation. We exploit this opportunity-rich environment by monitoring the market, developing strategies, and executing trades on a routine basis. This dynamic approach enables investment funds like ours to outperform trusts which are more vulnerable to volatility. Our Crypto & Income Strategy became the top-performing crypto hedge fund in Q4 2020, testifying to active management’s ability to harness volatility to investors’ advantage.

No matter how you choose to invest in cryptocurrency, Sarson Funds is committed to providing transparent education as we report from the market forefront. We are thankful for you, our readers, and look forward to your continued engagement. If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and check out our newsroom. Or, send us a message! We’re always happy to talk crypto.

By Nathan Frankovitz

Understanding Decentralized Finance: DeFi 101

Decentralized Finance 101

Decentralized Finance 101

In 2020, the cryptocurrency market cap surpassed $1 Trillion. This year, you owe it to yourself to learn how you can get involved in digital asset investment opportunities.

We get it. We live in a digital age full of constant technological changes – keeping up with these changes can be overwhelming. This is especially true for digital assets like Bitcoin. With access to an abundance of information on the topic, sometimes it can be hard to make sense of new terminology and the cultural memes born from societal change. As this ecosystem surfaces, it can be hard to understand even the most basic terms that industry experts take for granted. 

Despite the seemingly overwhelming nature of the digital asset industry, it really isn’t so complicated once you learn the basics. In our view, once you understand the basics, you’ll see that adding digital assets to your portfolio is one of the most critical investment decisions you’ll ever make. That’s why we left Wall Street – to bridge the gap between crypto and traditional finance. You don’t want to be on the sidelines for this emergent industry. 

Start your cryptocurrency and blockchain education with some basic themes and terminology, here:

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Decentralized Finance, also known as “DeFi,” refers to a broader series of financial services that uses blockchain technology to reimagine traditional finance. Using publicly available and verifiable ledger systems, DeFi systems support financial transactions that remove many of the costs of counterparty risk. For example: instead of paying an organization to act as an escrow service, you’d use software known as a smart contract to verify financial transactions. 

One example of how DeFi is changing the world is how money is transferred through it. Global remittances total nearly $700 billion a year. Remittance services typically charge high fees and take time to transfer money from one country to another. With DeFi, those transactions can be done rapidly, for a fraction of the cost, and are done directly from peer to peer, offering a more private and secure transaction. 

According to the OCC, DeFi is on pace to overtake traditional financial services.

Smart Contracts 

But what exactly is a smart contract? And why does it matter whether there are 3rd parties involved in a transaction? Smart Contracts are a new type of software that facilitate a cryptographically secured transaction on a blockchain. Smart Contracts function as rules written in code which dictate the execution of the transaction. 

Decentralized Applications – DApps and DEXs

Decentralized Apps (DApps in the crypto world) are unique applications that use smart contracts for different purposes. Smart Contracts have allowed for the creation of decentralized exchanges (DEXs), which are smart contracts that facilitate peer-to-peer market making using complex smart contracts, rather than relying on 3rd party clearing houses, broker/dealers and bank custodians. These applications run exchanges using a permissionless network (no 3rd parties are involved), therefore making DEXs secure. Popular DEXs include Compound and Uniswap.

You may be wondering, why wouldn’t you just use a centralized exchange like Robinhood or Coinbase? The real value behind decentralized applications like a DEX is that you own and maintain custody of your asset up until the transaction takes place. The application cannot restrict your ability to transact with any asset as what recently occurred with the Robinhood’s restriction of Gamestop stock. 

Becoming your own Bank: Decentralized Lending Platforms 

Lending platforms offer a flexible alternative to traditional banking services. They provide users the ability to borrow and lend cryptocurrencies on a peer-to peer network, insinuating the idea of “being your own bank.” Privacy is heightened as classic bank requirements such as identity and credit scores are not required through the platforms.

Stablecoins 

Most people are familiar with Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry because of industry wide price volatility. Stablecoins were created as a way to mitigate volatility risk in the DeFi space. These coins are pegged to the value of traditional fiat currencies. For example, USDC is a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. Dollar.

Decentralized finance is in for a wild ride in 2021. As you follow along, it will be critical to be educated on what powers these technological advances and how they are changing the future of finance.

Final Thoughts

At Sarson Funds, we understand that you’re not going to jump straight into a new investment opportunity without educating yourself first. That’s why our core mission is to thoroughly educate financial advisors on this emergent investment class with Wall Street-grade standards. To learn more about how digital assets can support your investment objectives, stay tuned for more educational materials or reach out to schedule an appointment with one of our experts today.

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For more updates on the world of digital assets, follow the journey via our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, or here at: https://www.sarsonfunds.com

By Abigail Almonte

Crypto Likes the Stock: How Blockchain Empowers WallStreetBets to Trade “Stonks” on Their Own Terms

Wall Street Bets Finds Easy Solution to Censorship in Mirror Finance

Wall Street Bets Finds Easy Solution to Censorship in Mirror Finance

The market revolution surrounding WallStreetBets (WSB), Gamestop (GME), and electronic trading platforms Robinhood and TD Ameritrade is inspiring a renowned cry for financial freedom in traditional finance markets. The overarching realization many investors are experiencing is that the United States’ “free market” is not so free after all, as Robinhood and TD Ameritrade took actions to limit trading on GME and AMC to protect Wall Street hedge funds from collapsing. At the cost of small-scale investors, Wall Street’s vulnerabilities are being protected by the platforms originally designed to empower we the people, and we the people are furious. 

Crypto and blockchain-based solutions have quickly surfaced to quench the modern investor’s need for a censor-free, frictionless financial system. Mirror Finance is bridging the gap between Wall Street, everyday investors, and crypto, as this decentralized financial (DeFi) protocol gives barred investors a pathway toward true financial freedom. Mirror Finance is a DeFi protocol on the Terra blockchain that allows the creation, use and trading of synthetic assets known as Mirrored Assets (mAssets). mAssets are designed to mirror the price behavior of real-world assets on a blockchain, giving traders all over the world 24/7 access to financial markets without actually owning or transacting with real assets.

Crypto synthetic assets are blockchain-based financial instruments that combine derivative products like futures, options and swaps to imitate and track the value of any traditional asset, allowing for crypto integration with traditional finance. These crypto synthetics enable users to trade these mirrored-assets at their real-time value 24/7, 365 days a year regardless of stock market hours. Mirror brings the financial freedom that crypto offers to traditional finance, permitting fractional ownership, open access and freedom from censorship for everyday investors.

WallStreetBets investors looking for more exposure to WSB-pumped stocks that were censored by Robinhood and TD Ameritrade can regain their stance with these assets through synthetic replicas on Mirror’s protocol. 

The collusion between Wall Street and electronic trading platforms is awakening our society to the true need for decentralized finance. Inspired? So are we. We hope the capabilities that Mirror brings to the world will empower the finance community to continue bridging the gaps between traditional and decentralized finance to inspire the next frontier of financial services.

By Liam McDonald

Investing in Crypto: 5 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

Crypto Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

Crypto Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

As Bitcoin and the digital asset ecosystem break past a total market cap of $1 Trillion USD, we want to be your resource for all things crypto. Thus, to help you along your digital asset discovery, we have compiled what we believe to be the five questions you should be asking your financial advisor about crypto.

  1. How can I invest in digital assets?
  2. What digital assets should I invest in?
  3. Should I invest with a digital asset manager or an exchange?
  4. What are the best educational resources to learn more about crypto?
  5. What strategies are driving the best returns?

As crypto emerges as the most lucrative new asset class in finance, it is crucial for your financial advisors to know how to best serve your digital asset needs. We are a crypto education, investment, and marketing firm that manages some of the highest-returning digital asset investment strategies in the industry. It is our duty to provide Wall Street-grade educational, investment, and marketing services to our community. If you have questions about how you to get involved in this exciting new space, please reach out to us – we are here to help.

By Liam McDonald

Market Update: Crypto Market Cap Breaks Past $1 Trillion

Crypto Market Cap Reaches 1 Trillion

Crypto Market Cap Reaches 1 Trillion

BREAKING: Last night, the entire crypto market cap broke past USD $1 Trillion. This escalation is indicative of the global pace of crypto adoption as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and crypto tokens around the ecosystem break past all time highs as the world is awakened to the true utility of digital assets. Fueled by the economic uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the macroeconomic response of countries worldwide, we expect this momentum to continue as regulation strengthens, Wall Street and global institutions validate the utility of crypto, and the world leans more and more on digital commerce. 

As global sentiment shifts to embrace crypto, we are here to educate the world on the power of the blockchain ecosystem and enable true financial sovereignty. Please reach out to us for educational inquiries and our recommendations on how to get involved in the next great shift in global finance.

By Liam McDonald

2020 in Crypto: Top Stories of the Year and a Look Towards the Future

Crypto 2020 - Sarson Funds Cryptocurrency Financial Advisors

Crypto 2020 - Sarson Funds Cryptocurrency Financial Advisors

Reflecting on a year that brought its handful of challenges, 2020 proved the importance of adaptation. Life in a digital world became inevitably crucial, and as changes in everyday life were made rapidly, the cryptocurrency ecosystem followed suit.

With more talk than ever surrounding the world of decentralized banking, we’ve compiled the top stories of 2020. 

Throughout the year, our team focused on understanding the importance of digital asset data security. With the emergence of quantum computing capabilities, we’ve identified Crown Sterling as one of the leading engineers of the future of quantum-resistant data security. Led by mathematician Robert Grant, Crown Sterling has created the first quantum-resistant digital asset, the Crown Sterling token. The token, protected by their new quantum-proof encryption algorithm, CrownEncryptOTP, provides lifelong protection of user-sensitive data. As cryptocurrencies grow vulnerable to quantum-hacking, this future-proof digital asset provides a pathway toward progressive and sustainable encryption advancement. 

In October, the crypto ecosystem welcomed PayPal into the space. The company announced they would be adding Bitcoin and crypto transactions to their payment options for users. CEO Dan Schulman hopes this change will drive momentum for PayPal’s 375 million users and registered merchants to become more comfortable with digital payments through the crypto ecosystem. Tech giants Square and Venmo followed suit with integrating buying, holding, and selling capabilities for cryptocurrencies. The commercial adaptation by large institutions is positively shifting public comfortability towards digital payments as they are continuously mainstreamed. 

Aside from the use of digital assets in big tech, Wall Street began to embrace Blockchain as well. Leaders in the finance world such as J.P Morgan, Guggenheim, and AllianceBernstein have all noted that cryptocurrencies are here to stay. Overcoming CEO Jamie Dimon’s 2017 claim that Bitcoin was a “fraud,” JP Morgan proceeded to release their ‘JPM Coin,’ in addition to their new branch for digital asset operations and custody services, Onyx. JPMorgan spearheaded the use of blockchain on Wall Street, and it is no surprise that Guggenheim and AllianceBernstein were so quick to follow as blockchain proves to be a profitable and efficient way to secure transactions without lag time or third-party interference. Bitcoin is becoming increasingly valued as a medium of exchange, as growing adaptation occurs on Wall Street and beyond. 

As Bitcoin continued to gain value with record-breaking prices, business intelligence company MicroStrategy bought  70,470 Bitcoin, a total of 1.1 billion dollars. CEO Michael Saylor says, “The acquisition of additional bitcoins announced today reaffirms our belief that Bitcoin, as the world’s most widely-adopted cryptocurrency, is a dependable store of value.”

A common saying for the new year: out with the old, in with the new. In the world of Fintech, rather, out with traditional financial services, in with decentralized banking. Brian Brooks and the OCC began emphasizing the cost effectiveness and efficiency of removing third parties. As we saw with the shift from postal services to email, instant and direct financial services solutions are now being provided by decentralized finance (Defi) platforms to simplify the future of banking. With Defi’s increasing capabilities, the entire banking system will soon be forced to adopt blockchain technology. 

In September, Kraken, one the largest US-based crypto exchanges, made history as the first digital asset company in the United States to receive permissions as a bank charter. The Wyoming-based Special Purpose Depository Institution will offer depository, custody, and fiduciary services for cryptocurrencies. The integration of both banking efforts along with crypto services is projected to expand into a variety of initiatives including cryptocurrency debit cards, mobile banking, etc., paving the way for regulatory adoption from banks everywhere.

In the last month of 2020, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Ripple Labs. The company had raised over $1.3 billion dollars through the sale and distribution of XRP, which was recently declared an unregistered security.  XRP is one of the largest and most valuable coins in the crypto industry, known for its rapid speed and accessibility in over 50 countries. The SEC plans to ban Ripple’s ability to participate in XRP’s market trading. The case is being referred to as “the crypto trial of the century.” 

In 2021, we expect the pace of crypto adoption and innovation to continue as competition from big tech grows. Crypto’s integration into banks and the strengthening of regulation will add to the continued growth of the ecosystem,  making for 2021 to be another year of crypto’s outperformance of traditional finance.

By Liam McDonald

Protecting Your Bitcoin from Quantum Computing Risk: Part 1

Protecting Bitcoin from Quantum Computing Risk

Protecting Bitcoin from Quantum Computing Risk

The pace of the past few weeks have revealed several updates to the data security world. From Chinese researchers announcing quantum supremacy as their quantum computer, named Jiuzhang, completed a computation that would have taken the world’s best supercomputers 2.5 billion years to complete, to Crown Sterling and IBM releasing quantum-resistant encryption solutions, the true reality of computational power is only just emerging. Of course, in the midst of the threat of future quantum-powered data breaches, our concerns revert to the value protection and control of Bitcoin. As these progressions in quantum computing take place, we can’t help but ask: are my Bitcoin safe?

The surface level answer, as doomsday preppers might lean toward, is no. So, we’re here to tell you that there are precautionary steps that you can take to ensure the value protection of your coins and continue transacting without existential data protection concerns.

Per a release from Deloitte, around 25% of the world’s mined Bitcoin are at risk of attack: the risk that a quantum computer will guess a wallet’s private key password. This risk exists because when a Bitcoin holder engages in a transaction, quantum computing makes their public key identifiable through its knowledge of the users’ wallet address. Once the public key is discovered, quantum computers will be able to derive a user’s private key from the public key and take control of their Bitcoin. Therefore, preventing quantum attack requires the frequent moving of users’ Bitcoin to unused wallet addresses to keep these coins unidentifiable and impenetrable. If a user’s wallet has not been used to transact on Bitcoin’s blockchain, quantum computers will not have a starting point to begin deriving from.

So, how can you change your wallet address? This happens naturally on crypto blockchains when transactions take place that do not equal their original transfer of value (i.e. when you first receive $20 in Bitcoin, unless you transact with the exact change of $20 that you first received, your Bitcoin will be delivered back to you from the blockchain with a new address, meaning that any transaction below what the original payment was will deliver a new wallet address in return). This is because when users interact with Bitcoin, the whole amount of the original input needs to be transacted with when a payment takes place, meaning that whatever Bitcoin is left over (if the transaction is not exactly $20) will be delivered back to you with a new wallet address. So, our advice? If you’re looking to protect your coins, do not transact with centralized crypto exchanges that only offer one universal wallet address, public and private key for ever user, take your crypto off exchanges and interact with the blockchain yourself, keeping your coins safe on cold storage hardware like the Ledger Nano X.

To learn more on the security that Ledger Nano X offers, read part two of our quantum-proof security advice, coming soon.

By Liam McDonald