Explore three key methods to invest in cryptocurrencies in New Zealand, understand some of the risks and benefits, and navigate the changing landscape of digital assets.
With cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream and increasingly recognised as a viable financial product by traditional financial institutions (for example BlackRock’s iShares Bitcoin Trust started trading for the first time in the US on January 11th, 2024), cryptocurrency is becoming increasingly accessible to the everyday investor.
This article outlines why cryptocurrency investing is increasingly popular, why cryptocurrency has traditionally been somewhat difficult to invest in, three different ways you can invest in cryptocurrency (as a person living in New Zealand), and the risks and benefits of each investment method.
Why is investing in cryptocurrency becoming so popular?
There’s a lot of hype in the media around cryptocurrencies, and this can usually be attributed to the significant high and lows in their prices. However, some cryptocurrencies are increasingly being seen as more mainstream financial products.
Many institutions that regulate financial markets around the world remain cautious – and at times even sceptical – about cryptocurrency as an asset class. This month the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved exchange traded funds (ETF’s) that invest directly in Bitcoin. Investors can now directly invest into these ETF’s which are more accessible to investors compared to cryptocurrency exchanges. The ETF structure allows a wider group of investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin and helps to mitigate certain risks often experienced by cryptocurrency investors. However, cryptocurrency is still a risky investment.
Why is it risky?
Cryptocurrency has delivered significant profits for some investors, while others have experienced tremendous losses. This is largely due to cryptocurrency’s tendency to experience significant price fluctuations. Big highs are usually followed by significant lows. This is why it is considered a volatile asset.
Alongside its volatility, the digital nature of cryptocurrency can open investors to other risks such as fraud or cyberattacks. Overall, cryptocurrency still remains a risky asset class. But there are ways investors can invest into cryptocurrency that can help mitigate some of the risk.
Three Ways to Invest in Cryptocurrency (for people living in New Zealand)
The three most common ways to invest in cryptocurrency are investing through a digital wallet or cryptocurrency exchange, investing in a KiwiSaver fund that offers cryptocurrency exposure, and directly investing in ETF’s.
Buying Bitcoin in A Wallet or Exchange
In the past, buying Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies was a complicated process. The only way to access Bitcoin was to mine it yourself or through a peer-to-peer transfer. Now it’s a bit simpler. Investors wanting exposure to cryptocurrency can join a crypto-trading service or venue such as Coinbase, Easy Crypto, or Binance. However, investors who use a cryptocurrency exchange will still need to hold and protect their cryptocurrency wallets and the respective keys.
Even though owning cryptocurrency directly is more accessible to the everyday investor, doing so still comes with certain of risks. For example, investors in this method may be less inclined to diversify their investments. This impacts their ability to minimize risk and means that if Bitcoin prices take a tumble, so do all of their investments into Bitcoin. Investors are also at risk if the cryptocurrency exchange collapses.
Another set of risk factors with direct ownership are scams, hackers, or losing the key to your wallet. By directly owning your cryptocurrency, the onus is on you to protect it. If you lose access to your cryptocurrency, there’s no way to get it back.
Some KiwiSaver Providers also offer exposure to certain cryptocurrencies. In most cases, this exposure isn’t into a cryptocurrency directly but into an Exchange-Traded Fund (explained further below). Kōura’s Carbon Neutral Cryptocurrency Fund invests exclusively in an Exchange Traded Fund that invests in Bitcoin. This fund is run by Fidelity Digital assets, a subsidiary of the world’s fourth largest asset manager Fidelity with over US $4 trillion of assets under management.
One of the benefits of using your KiwiSaver to gain exposure to cryptocurrency is that it can add diversification to your KiwiSaver portfolio by adding a new asset class. A small allocation to a highly volatile asset like Cryptocurrency can support a KiwiSaver portfolio that has a long term objective.
Another benefit of using KiwiSaver to gain exposure to cryptocurrency is that you won’t have to deal with any keys or wallets. It’s as easy as informing your provider that you’d like to invest in their cryptocurrency fund (you can either contact Kōura directly or customize your portfolio over the Kōura app).
A third benefit of gaining cryptocurrency exposure through KiwiSaver is that KiwiSaver is regulated in New Zealand. These regulations include oversight on the amount of your KiwiSaver that can be invested into cryptocurrency, thereby limiting the exposure and risks to your overall KiwiSaver portfolio. This helps to mitigate Kiwi’s from losing a majority of their investments when cryptocurrencies do experience dramatic market fluctuations if it is a small part of their overall fund allocation.
One potential downside is that you can’t take any funds out of your KiwiSaver unless you’re making a first home withdrawal, financial hardship withdrawal, or you’ve turned 65. This also means that if the portion of your KiwiSaver invested in a Bitcoin ETF takes a significant downturn right before you turn 65, it can significantly affect your retirement. Fortunately, with Kōura you can switch out of your holding in the Crypto Fund into one of our other funds at your request.
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Online investing platforms like Sharesies or Hatch, allow you to directly invest into exchange-traded funds, like the recently launched funds out of the U.S. that follow the spot price of Bitcoin. Exchange traded funds (ETFs’) track a sector, commodity, or other assets but can be sold on the stock exchange just like a regular stock. In the case of Bitcoin ETF’s, they only have one holding – Bitcoin. This means that the Bitcoin ETFs do not add quite as much diversity to your portfolio as a more traditional ETF could.
One of the benefits of gaining exposure through ETFs is that, unlike Bitcoin, ETFs are a regulated financial product. This helps protect investors from fraud through licensing requirements and disclosure standards. Regulatory oversight also boosts market integrity, protecting investors from price manipulation. Additionally, with certain big name investment firms and asset managers launching Bitcoin ETFs, using a big-name manager can further help protect investors from frauds and scams.
One potential risk of investing in an ETF directly, as opposed to through KiwiSaver, is that there is no cap limiting how much you invest. While this could open you up to greater returns, investing large portions of your investments into one holding, especially one as volatile as cryptocurrency, is highly risky.
Here's a quick video to summarize the 3 ways you can invest in Cryptocurrency
For some cryptocurrency is a great investment – especially when cryptocurrencies are on the rise! Yet, cryptocurrency remains a volatile asset that is likely to experience significant fluctuations over the investment term. Fortunately, the various means of investment (owning Bitcoin through a wallet or cryptocurrency exchange, KiwiSaver, directly investing in exchange-traded funds) offer some range in the level of risk an investor takes on. If you’re keen on investing in cryptocurrency, do your research to determine what means of investing suits your risk appetite best.
We understand that investing in cryptocurrency can be a risky proposition, and we always encourage our investors to do their own research and consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Bitcoin is a highly volatile asset and historically has experienced significant value swings (+100% or – 50%) over short periods of time. There is no guarantee that assets will recover after a significant fall or that historical returns will continue. The volatile nature of the asset may result in the value of the fund falling significantly in value or even going to zero. Investors will be significantly disadvantaged if they need to withdraw funds during a Bitcoin downturn.
The majority of crypto currencies exist outside of the traditional regulatory environment. The lack of regulation and ability to hide transactions has meant that crypto currencies have and are being used by criminals to launder and transfer the proceeds of crime around the world. Some countries have banned their citizens from investing in or using crypto currencies as a result of these concerns. Some financial institutions refuse to interact with companies or individuals who operate in the crypto currency space due to Money Laundering concerns.
There is a risk that crypto currencies become subject to increased regulation or financial institutions refuse to process transactions that originate from crypto currencies. This will result in the value of cryptocurrencies falling due to investors being unable to convert their currencies into traditional currencies.
Members can only allocate a maximum of 10% of their portfolio to our Carbon Neutral Cryptocurrency Fund.
Kōura Wealth is the issuer of the koura KiwiSaver Scheme. View our PDS at www.kourawealth.co.nz/documents.