Does the ETH ETF ‘fee war’ even matter to investors?

With US spot ether ETFs expected to launch very soon, a missing detail in several of the proposals remains the fee they will charge to investors. 

Those are likely to be listed on the final registration statements, or S-1s — submitted after the Securities and Exchange Commission says it is ready to allow them to begin trading. This could be as soon as this week, people familiar with the filings have told Blockworks. 

While price is typically an important fund feature in the competitive ETF arena, being the cheapest is not a guarantee to winning an asset race in any category.

Crypto ETF pundits and media outlets (Blockworks included) talked about the so-called “fee war” in January as fund groups got set to launch the first US spot BTC funds. 

Read more: Bitcoin ETF fee war continues as Franklin Templeton undercuts Bitwise

They, and we, are watching again. But how much the slight basis-point differences mean to investors is hard to quantify to a tee.   

Franklin Templeton in May revealed a planned 0.19% fee for its spot ether ETF. VanEck’s intended fee for a similar product is 0.20%. Invesco and Galaxy Digital indicated in a Monday filing that it plans to charge a 0.25% fee for its jointly filed ETH fund. 

Other issuers ready to offer ether ETFs — such as BlackRock, Fidelity and Grayscale — have not yet shared the fee for their proposed ETH products.

Nate Geraci, president of The ETF Store, told Blockworks last month that he expects the spot ether ETF fee war to be “every bit as brutal and bloody” as the one surrounding BTC funds.

But senior analyst Sumit Roy said distribution and brand name will matter more for the ETH fund issuers than small fee differences. 

Read more: Fees, liquidity, brand: The factors investors would weigh when picking a bitcoin ETF

“A BlackRock ether ETF would probably be much more popular than an ether ETF from an upstart ETF issuer, even if the BlackRock fund was five basis points more expensive,” he told Blockworks. 

Roy acknowledged that a larger difference — such as 10 or 20 basis points — could prove to be a bigger deal to investors. 

Ultimately, he added, the spot bitcoin ETF saga offers “a good template” for how competition within the ether ETF category could shake out.

“BlackRock and Fidelity have huge advantages which they will exploit, but there is room for smaller issuers like Bitwise to gain a foothold in the space as well with low fees and unique angles,” he said.

The lowest US spot bitcoin ETF fee — excluding initial fee waivers — was Franklin Templeton’s, at 0.19%. The firm undercut Bitwise’s 0.20% fee a day after the funds launched.

But Franklin Templeton’s BTC fund has attracted just $345 million of net inflows after six months on the market. The Bitwise Bitcoin ETF (BITB) has brought in about $2.1 billion.

Funds by BlackRock and Fidelity lead flows in the category, with $18 billion and $9.5 billion, respectively. Both charge a slightly higher 0.25%.

The most expensive fund by far — the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust ETF (GBTC), at 1.5% — has endured $18.6 billion of net outflows.

Industry watchers continue to watch what Grayscale might charge for the “Mini” versions of GBTC and its Ethereum Trust (ETHE).

While some advisers have said they have moved money out of GBTC into cheaper BTC funds, others have considered custodians, spreads and liquidity when making decisions on which ETFs to allocate to.  

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