In this installment of “The Future of Active Funds,” we explore how an active fund can get started with using blockchain technology. As we predicted in Part 2 of this series, 2017 is shaping up as the year blockchain applications will be brought to market, revolutionizing the way securities transactions are executed. As an initial matter, blockchain will reduce the time and cost of settling transactions. Given the cost advantages of passive funds and ETFs over active funds, there is less of an incentive for passives and ETFs to become early adopters of blockchain. However, blockchain is a solution for at least one major problem faced by active fund managers, the inability to compete on a cost basis.
So, what is an easy way for an active fund to get started with blockchain? According to a recent HBR article, a “single-use” implementation is best. Active funds can begin simply by accepting investments in bitcoin and redeeming investors in bitcoin. This will allow the fund’s adviser, board, and service providers to become comfortable with the technology. Further, as we previously posted, experimentation is easy thanks to blockchain cloud services offered by Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM. However, there are legal issues such as appropriate disclosures regarding transacting in bitcoin and custody under § 17(f) of the 1940 Act. For a good primer on the technology, read our article, Blockchain 101 for Asset Managers. Bottom-line, active managers need to have a blockchain strategy or risk being left behind.