The long-awaited launch of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the U.S. in January marked a significant milestone in the integration of cryptocurrency into traditional finance. According to Samara Cohen, BlackRock’s Chief Investment Officer of ETF and Index Investments, financial advisors are gradually warming up to these new investment vehicles, according to a report by Tanaya Macheel for CNBC.

Cohen is a Senior Managing Director and the Chief Investment Officer of ETF and Index Investments at BlackRock. In her role, she oversees the management and integrity of roughly $6.6 trillion in index funds and iShares ETFs. Cohen’s responsibilities include leading a diverse team of portfolio managers, risk managers, platform architects, and market structure developers. Her team works to enhance the quality and accessibility of BlackRock’s investment products while striving to modernize the indexing industry and ETF markets.

Cohen is a member of BlackRock’s Global Executive Committee (GEC), contributing to both the Investment Subcommittee and the Talent Subcommittee. Additionally, she plays a significant role in promoting diversity and inclusion within the firm. She is the GEC sponsor for BlackRock’s Women’s Initiative & Allies Network (WIN) and Co-Head of the Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee.

Before her current tenure at BlackRock, which began in 2015, Cohen held a Managing Director position in the Securities Division of Goldman Sachs. There, she led the Global Market Transition team, focusing on client solutions in response to the changing market structure and regulatory environment post-2008 financial crisis. Cohen initially joined BlackRock in 1993 as an analyst in the Institutional Client Business.

Per the CNBC report, speaking at the Coinbase State of Crypto Summit in New York City, Cohen revealed that approximately 80% of spot Bitcoin ETF purchases have been made by self-directed investors, primarily through online brokerage accounts. The iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT), one of the newly launched funds, has also seen interest from hedge funds and brokerages, as evidenced by recent 13-F filings. However, registered investment advisors (RIAs) have been more hesitant to embrace the new products.

CNBC’s Advisor Council recently conducted a survey to understand the reasons behind this cautious approach. Advisors cited various concerns, including Bitcoin’s notorious price volatility, its relatively short track record, regulatory compliance issues, and the cryptocurrency’s association with fraud and scandals.

Cohen acknowledged the wariness of financial advisors, emphasizing that it is their responsibility to act as fiduciaries for their clients. “This is an asset class that has had 90% price volatility at times in history, and their job is really to construct portfolios and do the risk analysis and due diligence,” she explained. “They’re doing that right now.”

The current moment, according to Cohen, is crucial for presenting important data, risk analytics, and determining the appropriate role and allocation of bitcoin in an investor’s portfolio, taking into account their risk tolerance and liquidity needs. She believes that the journey towards widespread adoption is on the right track, with advisors diligently fulfilling their responsibilities.

Alesia Haas, Chief Financial Officer of Coinbase, told CNBC that the sentiment that Bitcoin is on a gradual path to adoption, a theme that resonated throughout the conference sessions. Blue Macellari, Head of Digital Assets Strategy for T. Rowe Price, discussed the psychological component of investors testing the waters and becoming comfortable with allocating funds to bitcoin. She likened the process to a paradigm shift that requires time for people to ease into.

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