Ethereum’s ether might be next in line to attract funding from institutional investors after bitcoin. Consensys, a firm started by Joseph Lubin, ethereum cofounder, to implement smart contracts, is partnering with TrueDigital, an affiliate of New York-based TrueEx, to develop a benchmark rate for ether and “the infrastructure needed for the broad adoption of digital assets by the institutional community.” The first product of the initiative is a bitcoin forward contract to be traded on TrueDigital’s swap platform.
A benchmark rate will help iron out price divergences from multiple exchanges into a single, standardized price for investors. The differences in prices between various exchanges can be as high as 30% in the case of some cryptocurrencies. For example, Ripple investors are often subject to the so-called “kimchi premiums” due to the enthusiasm of South Korean investors for the cryptocurrency.
This is the second such initiative for a standalone ethereum product in institutional markets in as many weeks. Index fund Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), which trades in OTC markets, also announced the addition of a new investment product Ethereum Investment Trust last week. Mirroring the general slump in cryptocurrency markets, the trust has generated returns of -3.94%, as of this writing, since inception.
Even though it is the second-most valuable cryptocurrency, ethereum has mostly taken a backseat to its glamorous cousin bitcoin. That changed since the beginning of last year. The price of ether has skyrocketed by 2263.7% in the last one year. Its market cap has increased by 2457.1% during the same period. While its returns have turned negative in the last week, ether has mostly bucked the trend of a slump in cryptocurrency markets by generating positive returns in the last one year.
More importantly, ethereum has mostly generated positive press. Multinational corporations and banks interested in using its smart contract platform have formed alliances, such as the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, to promote development of interoperability standards.
This is unlike bitcoin, which has become synonymous with criminal activities and come under fire from regulators and governments around the world. Perceptions are important, especially to institutional investors who might be wary of putting their money into unsustainable investments.