Onramp Launches First Spot Bitcoin Trust With Multi-Party Custody

Bitcoin financial services firm Onramp has launched a spot bitcoin (BTC) trust for high net worth investors, that takes advantage of the cryptocurrency’s multi-signature (multisig) capability to enable what Onramp calls multi-party custody – where a group of separate custodians each hold a private key in a multisig arrangement.

Onramp has recruited qualified custodian Kingdom Trust and bitcoin financial services firm Unchained Capital to create a 2-of-3 multisig model, meaning two of those three entities will need to sign a transaction in order to move client funds. The goal is to give clients direct exposure to bitcoin without the hassle of self-custody or the risk of trusting a single custodian.

Each unit of the trust will be equivalent to one BTC and clients will be able to process in-kind redemptions, where they redeem the underlying asset (bitcoin) without triggering a taxable event.

Bitcoin exchange traded funds (ETFs) in the U.S. are currently not allowed to hold bitcoin directly and typically hold bitcoin futures contracts instead. Other investment funds like the $18.7 billion Grayscale bitcoin trust (GBTC) – the world’s largest bitcoin investment fund – do hold BTC but don’t allow in-kind redemptions.

Grayscale ceased redemptions in 2014, citing compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, although some, including Onramp and hedge funds like Fir Tree Capital Management, argue Grayscale’s stopping redemption was self-imposed.

“GBTC did do redemptions,” Michael Tanguma, CEO and co-founder of Onramp told CoinDesk. “They stopped doing them back in 2014/2015 as they wanted to accumulate AUM [assets under management].”

The inability to redeem has been a source of disgruntlement for institutional investors like Fir Tree, which has sued GBTC over the matter. Tanguma says Onramp’s in-kind redemptions (which can be processed after an initial 12-month lockup period) and multi-party custody arrangement sets it apart from Grayscale and offers a new model for bitcoin custody.

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“It’s essentially the product GBTC should have been,” Michael Tanguma, CEO and co-founder of Onramp told CoinDesk. “And I believe it will be the future of how bitcoin is custodied.”

When asked whether Onramp would need SEC approval to start the redemptions and if so why the regulator would approve the plan, Tanguma responded: “It does not require formal approval because bitcoin is a commodity as per the CFTC, not a security. With that, Onramp does plan to work with securities lawyers to get opinion letters in place to reduce the 12-month lock-up period for redemptions, and will work with all regulators to make mühlet Onramp stays compliant in all jurisdictions where it offers its services.”

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