A new in­vest­ment fund prom­ises a slicker way for busi­ness-types to buy into crypto

Sharp - - GUIDE: MONEY -

It sounds like a line from Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble. “Our coins are kept on a server in a for­mer Swiss mil­i­tary base that’s built into a moun­tain­side. To ac­cess it, three dif­fer­ent pass­words have to be en­tered at three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions around the world at the same time.”

That’s the kind of safe­guard­ing it took to con­vince the B.C. Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion to let Marc van der Chijs and his busi­ness part­ner, Sean Clark, launch Canada’s first cryp­tocur­rency in­vest­ment fund last fall. “First, we ed­u­cated them about Bit­coin,” van der Chijs says. "Then we ex­plained our cus­to­di­an­ship of our in­vest­ments."

Their fund, FBC Bit­coin Trust, is now regis­tered in both B.C. and On­tario. It al­lows wealthy in­di­vid­u­als to eas­ily buy into Bit­coin as though it’s a com­mod­ity like gold. Re­quir­ing a min­i­mum in­vest­ment of $10,000, it has so far at­tracted $30 mil­lion.

Van der Chijs, who made his orig­i­nal for­tune found­ing a Youtube-like web­site in China, caught the Bit­coin bug back in 2013 af­ter the Cyprus bank­ing cri­sis froze sev­eral of his ac­counts. “I re­al­ized that money is at risk in a bank — it isn’t re­ally yours.” At first, Bit­coin seemed too far-fetched as an al­ter­na­tive. “But as I started to un­der­stand what blockchain re­ally is — the most se­cure way of stor­ing data — I saw how it can re­ally change the in­ter­net as we shift from phys­i­cal to dig­i­tal as­sets.” Af­ter in­vest­ing early, he's now earned “enough to buy a few nice sports cars.”

As a Bit­coin evan­ge­list with se­ri­ous busi­ness cre­den­tials, van der Chijs is part of a grow­ing group. In Jan­uary, he made his way to Mi­ami for the city’s an­nual Bit­coin con­fer­ence. “For the first time ever, there were peo­ple in suits there,” he re­ports. “Ties, even.”

That cor­po­rate at­tire is a sign of the times. Once at odds with the tra­di­tional fi­nan­cial in­dus­try, cryp­tocur­rency is now at­tract­ing its at­ten­tion. “Banks may still be wary, but their wealthy clients want in,” says van der Chijs. His firm, First Block Cap­i­tal, is here to help.

“Buy­ing Bit­coin is still quite hard. We want to open it up,” he ex­plains. “And we're reg­u­lated, so we’re not go­ing to run away with your money.”

While van der Chijs cau­tions his clients not to in­vest more than 1–5 per cent of their net worth in cryp­tocur­rency, he’s op­ti­mistic about the mar­ket. “I still see Bit­coin hit­ting $40,000 this year,” he says. “De­mand is ex­plod­ing, and sup­ply is fixed. There’s no other way it can go.”

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