Why Fink Flipped from Bitcoin DoomLeader to Cheerleader

In 2017, when bitcoin was hovering around a then-high of $17,000, CEOs were weighing in to ridicule the nascent digital currency and scorn its early adopters.

Insults ranged from nuanced to blunt. Rather ingloriously, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon called people who owned the cryptocurrency “stupid.” And chief among the doom leaders was the now most powerful man in global asset management, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.

Fink aimed his sling at bitcoin, citing concerns about money laundering and inferring that bitcoin was principally a vehicle for illicit activities.

“Bitcoin just shows you how much demand for money laundering there is in the world,” he said.

It seemed then, at least, Fink was a paid-up member of the growing band of elite money managers eager to see the demise of bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry.

Damascene moment

Fast forward to 2023, and it appears Fink has pivoted into a bitcoin evangelist. In a recent CNBC interview, Fink not only talked up bitcoin but stressed that it was incumbent on mega-players such as BlackRock to spread the good word on global adoption. 

“We believe we have a responsibility to democratise investing. We’ve done a great job, and the role of ETFs in the world is transforming investing. And we’re only at the beginning of that,” he said.

This Damascene conversion may have something to do with the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States has just approved BlackRock’s request to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). The ETF will be focused on bitcoin and will provide investors with a convenient way to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency.

US regulators have repeatedly rejected proposals for spot bitcoin ETFs that would open the digital asset up to retail investors on a mass scale, citing the need for protective investor guardrails. But now it seems the wind is at BlackRock’s back.

No turning back for global adoption

One could be forgiven for scepticism around Fink’s U-turn. But the gravity of having the world’s largest asset manager join the bitcoin community is hard to overstate. We are living through the inception and scaling of a new asset class. Since the birth of bitcoin in 2009, there have been many milestones, but few potentially as blockbuster as BlackRock’s foray into the world’s foremost digital asset. “Game-changing” doesn’t quite do it justice.

What is clear to us is that Fink and BlackRock will eventually find a way regardless of the current approval.

Blockshot newsletter

Join thousands of other innovators, investors and decision-makers to access data-driven reports and premium insights on how global blockchain adoption is reshaping wealth, economics, politics, sustainability and culture.