$166B Asset Manager Renaissance Eyes Bitcoin Futures for Flagship Fund

18 April 2020

Renaissance Technologies’ market-crushing Medallion fund is considering jumping into bitcoin futures, recent regulatory filings show.

The quantitative analysis-heavy firm has “permitted” the Medallion fund to enter the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (CME) cash-settled bitcoin futures market, according to a March 30 Form ADV investor brochure

Renaissance, which had nearly $166 billion in regulatory assets under management at the end of 2019 according to that filing, has effectively signaled bitcoin could be or already is a factor in its flagship Medallion fund, whose 66 percent average pre-fee annual return since 1988 is unmatched on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday the $10 billion Medallion fund had, through April 14, returned 24 percent after fees in 2020, trouncing traditional market indices including the S&P 500 and DJIA, which had both lost more than 8 percent of their value over the same period.

Read more: Literally No One Is Trading Bakkt’s Bitcoin Options

Medallion has the go-ahead to transact in a financial instrument widely considered to be a proxy for institutional interest in bitcoin. CME’s cash-settled contracts provide exposure to price movements without the possibility of taking actual ownership, a far more popular scheme of late than other physically-settled alternatives.

The green light preceded last week’s surge in open interest positions. On Wednesday, CME reported $181 million in outstanding bitcoin futures contracts, a 70 percent rise from March’s lows but still well below 2020’s peak of near $338 million.

Whether Medallion is participating in that market is unknown. The disclosure did not state if Medallion had begun buying bitcoin futures contracts or planned to in the future, and Renaissance, notoriously tight-lipped about its best-performing fund, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The disclosure noted this “relatively new and highly speculative asset” carries, in the view of the New York-based fund, myriad risks.

Among those stated: bitcoin’s short track record, its proven volatility, the absence of a governing authority and its universal lack of legal tender status, “susceptibility to manipulation” on exchanges and by botnets, “increased regulatory scrutiny” and even its history of forking, among others.

“Any of these factors could materially and adversely affect the value of the Fund’s investments,” the disclosure reads.