Despite calling Bitcoin the greatest distraction from blockchain—which she described as one of the greatest disruptions in financial services—Franklin Templeton President and CEO Jenny Johnson said she’s still on board.
“A lot of people took that as I’m not a believer in Bitcoin,” Johnson told CNBC. “And yet, launching this ETF, you can see, obviously, the demand that’s out there for Bitcoin, and I think there’s a lot of reasons why that is.”
As an example, she pointed to the increasingly prevalent capability to pay for things with Bitcoin.
“[Blockchain] technology is going to open up a lot of really interesting types of investment opportunities,” Johnson said.
Calling Bitcoin just one of a suite of investment possibilities, Johnson noted Franklin Templeton created a tokenized fund on the stellar blockchain, which the investment firm launched in 2021. That same year, Franklin Templeton said in a filing with the SEC plans to raise $20 million for a blockchain venture fund.
Launched in 1947, Franklin Templeton is a global investment firm offering asset management and fund services to individuals and institutions; the firm currently has over $1.4 trillion under management.
Earlier this year, Franklin Templeton said its Nasdaq-listed OnChain U.S. Government Money Fund (FOBXX) would use the Ethereum scaling network Polygon to be “further compatible with the rest of the digital ecosystem.”
However, Franklin Templeton’s involvement in blockchain goes back to 2019, when the global asset manager partnered with institutional wallet provider Curv to manage digital shares on the stellar blockchain.
Echoing recent comments by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Johnson said a factor in the continued interest in Bitcoin is its hedge against oppressive governments, saying that as she traveled the world, she would hear stories of people keeping 50% of their savings in Bitcoin because of fear of their fiat money being confiscated because of saying the wrong things.
“There’s a fear component to it,” Johnson said. “[Bitcoin] is considered almost an insurance or safety component. But I also think it’s really important to be fueling what is the next real opportunity in the blockchain world.”
Johnson said Bitcoin ETFs are attractive to investors because they do not have to deal with managing private keys, which are technically complext to manage and give direct access to the investor’s Bitcoin holdings.
“It’s really complicated. I did it at one point, and then I was trying to actually figure out how to get back in, and it’s hard,” Johnson said. “So being able to open it up and have access to that through an ETF, and just simply through your brokerage account, is a much better way to access it.”
Johnson emphasized the firm’s expertise in active investment strategies, which are available in various forms, including mutual funds and ETFs.
“You’re seeing a lot more actively managed ETFs, and that’s a space that we’re very focused on,” Johnson said.
Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved several spot Bitcoin ETFs, including applications by Franklin Templeton, BlackRock, GrayScale, and VanEck.
On Wednesday, the Franklin Templeton Twitter account hinted at the firm’s future plans involving Ethereum and Solana.
“On Solana, we see Anatoly’s vision of a single atomic state machine as a powerful use case of decentralized blockchains, lowering information asymmetry,” they said. “Despite the midlife crisis it’s recently experienced, we see a bright future with many strong tailwinds to push the Ethereum ecosystem forward,” the account said.
While a Franklin Templeton spokesperson declined to comment on the firm’s future offerings, they told Decrypt that the company continuously monitors developments in digital assets.
“We cannot comment on any potential future fund offerings, but we can say that we are continuously monitoring developments in the digital assets and ETF ecosystems for opportunities to diversify our off,” the spokesperson said.
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.