Morgan Creek Digital now takes up around 1 percent of the assets of two Fairfax Retirement System pension funds – an investment which has more than doubled since taking their first position in the fund that closed in February.
Two of the three pension funds under the system from Fairfax County, Virginia, the Police Officer’s Retirement System and Employees’ Retirement System, invested $55 million in Morgan Creek’s second fund in October.
The new allocation came after seeing good preliminary results from the first fund, in part because of the performance of crypto, which makes up 15 percent of the Morgan Creek’s investments; the majority of the fund’s positions are in blockchain-related infrastructure companies.
“The final close for fund one was only in February of this year, and it is a short time frame admittedly,” Katherine Molnar, chief investment officer of the police officer’s fund, told CoinDesk.
“It’s gone well and part of that is because of Morgan Creek’s decision for how they’ve timed buying bitcoin. The liquid part of the fund has done quite well based on how they have timed ramping that up in the portfolio.”
The police officer’s pension fund contributed $22 million of the investment while the county employees’ fund put up $33 million. Molnar said $50 million of the investment went to the second fund raise while $5 million was a separate co-investment in a specific undisclosed project under Morgan Creek.
Those figures represent around 1.5 percent of the police officer’s fund’s 2018 total assets and around 0.8 percent of the county employee’s fund‘s total assets from the same year. For context, both pensions normally put up around 2 percent of their assets in a new investment.
This time around, convincing the board to re-up the investment was easier than taking the initial stake.
“We didn’t have to do a lot of extra explanation or discussion, and people are generally pleased with the way the performance is off to a good start. It was a much easier legal process because the lawyers did a good job on the first contract.”
The Morgan Creek fund was characterized as a private equity venture capital fund, and a replacement for a small capitalization US equities fund in their portfolio – one of the higher return and higher risk parts of pension fund investing.
While the crypto part of the Morgan Creek Digital fund is performing well, the pension fund’s CIOs expressed the most interest in the blockchain side of Morgan Creek, which makes up 85 percent of the fund.
Andy Spellar, chief investment officer of the employee’s fund, told CoinDesk:
“Think about every time you go to buy a property and refinance – you have to pay title insurance for someone to figure out if there’s a lien against your property. If the ownership of your property is digitized and transferred instantly, in the way that this is done in a day, title insurance goes away.”
As pension funds suffer from low interest rates, technology venture capital funds become more attractive to funds trying to meet their return targets, Spellar added.
“It’s a problem across the board for everybody,” Spellar said. “The level of interest rates is a major component of your total return over time.”
Since all assets are priced off of cash, low cash rate affects the price of every other asset class, Molnar added. This hasn’t yet convinced the two funds to invest in purely crypto-focused funds, however.
“We’re not doing this for crypto exposure, but we do get some of that, and it does so far exhibit some uncorrelated behavior relative to other asset classes,” Spellar said. “To be honest it’s so early in its lifecycle that I don’t have a good idea of whether that will hold up or not.”
Spellar, in general, sees any kind of disruptive technology as a hedge against traditional investment.
“We’re looking for disruptive innovation – anything that can be negatively correlated to other things we own,” Spellar said. “So if we own a bunch of banks, this is a way to hedge against their monolithic and slow moving processes.”
Coinfield CEO Claims Ripple’s XRP is Better than Ethereum
Everyone in the cryptocurrency industry is entitled to their own opinion. Even when they claim how Ripple’s XRP is better than Ethereum in many different ways.
This rather unusual statement was uttered by Coinfield CEO Bob Ras during an interview not that long ago.
XRP IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM ETHEREUM
He clearly stated how “XRP is better than Ethereum”, for a wide variety of reasons.
This statement is not entirely surprising, considering how Coinfield is offering some services to the XRP network at this time.
Furthermore, Ras has uttered a very similar statement in the past, albeit on an even bigger scale.
In that statement. Bob Ras claims how Ripple’s XRP will become the global reserve currency in the not so distant future.
One does have to wonder if it is a smart idea for the CEO of Coinfield to publicly ally himself with just one project in this industry.
It is true Ripple and XRP have seen significant growth over the past few years.
The use of Ripple’s technology in money transfer corridors around the world has been well-documented.
It is fairly obvious statements like these will draw both support and flack from cryptocurrency enthusiasts around the world.
In fact, many people have taken an openly hostile stance toward Ripple, XRP, and everything they stand for in this day and age.
That is primarily due to Ripple building infrastructure for the financial industry, rather than trying to replace it altogether.
In the end, it makes no sense to compare XRP to Ethereum as both are different ecosystems tackling completely different use cases.
COULD CHINA’S WAR ON CASH HERALD A NEW GLOBAL CRYPTO REVOLUTION?
There are no mixed signals with regards to blockchain and crypto coming from China at the moment. The People’s Republic is full steam ahead on distributed ledger technology as it prepares to ready its population for its own central bank crypto currency. A Chinese war on cash could be the start of a global crypto revolution as the rest play catch-up.
CRYPTO YUAN THE NEW GLOBAL RESERVE?
Financiers and regulators in the US should be afraid. While they stumble over their own bureaucracy, the rest of the world is steaming ahead with research and development into blockchain technology and crypto assets.
China still wants nothing to do with Bitcoin, that much is true. The regime cannot control it and has little influence over where it flows. What it does want is becoming more apparent, and that is to become the next global currency reserve and have tighter control over its people. In order to do both, it must usurp the dollar and win the digital currency race, which it appears to be already streets ahead in.
A war on cash would represent a new escalation in Beijing’s long history of weaponizing currency against the population according to ZeroHedge. A blockchain based digital currency grants the regime more information on what its people are doing with their money than anything envisaged before. A cashless society is the ultimate goal for any government given its surveillance advantages, and many including China are racing towards that goal.
China’s economy is not immune from the economic woes that are hampering the West. Household debt is increasing and the People’s Bank of China has had to take measures to cut rates. According to CNBC China’s central bank unexpectedly trimmed a closely watched lending rate on Monday, the first such cut in more than four years.
China is already way ahead of its peers when it comes to digital payments though, most things can now be purchased with the swipe of a phone and for the first time tourists have been allowed to use payments services such as Alipay
While the Trump administration’s war on trade has exacerbated any economic issues, the pressure is now on to go fully digital. And while Chinese state media has splashed bitcoin over the front pages, and made a u-turn on crypto mining, it is unlikely to warm to decentralized finance or assets at any time soon.
There have also been rumors of a gold backed crypto currency emerging from China and that would definitely be a game changer, if a little farfetched at the moment. Keep an eye on the Far East as major movements in the world of crypto will come from that direction. When that happens the rest of the world will have no choice but to follow suit it what will be the next digital revolution.
PayPal Joins $4.2M Round for Crypto Banking Compliance Startu
Financial institutions know how to calculate the risk of serving traditional businesses. But for firms touching cryptocurrency, the math is still fuzzy. The assumption of added regulatory hurdles and money-laundering fears have led to a widespread problem: Your average bank would rather just not deal with it.
Addressing those concerns with clear-eyed data is how compliance startup TRM Labs wants to accelerate the institutional embrace of crypto. And that’s why a group of investors are backing the blockchain analytics firm to the tune of $4.2 million in new funding.
“Many might consider this the unsexy plumbing of the financial system but it’s what allows [crypto adoption] to thrive,” TRM Labs co-founder and CEO Esteban Castaño said in an interview. “We’re helping financial institutions to think through crypto’s potential as well as to mitigate any of the associated risks.”
The slate of investors includes Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Capital, SF stalwart Blockchain Capital and a new strategic partner, PayPal Ventures. The influx of capital brings TRM’s total funding to $5.9 million after the startup emerged out of Y Combinator earlier this year.
It’s only the second blockchain-related investment disclosed by PayPal Ventures (the first was in April 2019) and comes just a month after PayPal itself withdrew from the Facebook-led Libra Association.
Chainalysis, but for banks
While competing firms like Chainalysis and Elliptic are known for aiding law enforcement, TRM Labs is focused solely on finance.
“Financial institutions use TRM to risk-score their cryptocurrency-related transactions, customers, or partnerships, helping them to simplify customer due diligence and meet regulatory requirements,” the company said in a statement.
That means the startup scours over a dozen blockchains, analyzing billions of transactions for signs of fraud and money-laundering.
The heightened interest from major players in traditional finance comes from a dawning realization that exposure to crypto is now “inevitable,” Castaño said.
“This new world is coming,” he said. “We’re going to help the existing financial system adapt to this new world so they can effectively engage with it.”
That doesn’t mean TRM is alone. Chainalysis, for one, already serves the finance sector, apparently to mixed reviews.
“The existing providers are trying to tailor products to financial institutions, and we’re just finding they’re not doing a good job of that,” Blockchain Capital’s Spencer Bogart told CoinDesk.
Regardless, he said, getting those institutions comfortable with crypto requires conforming to existing rules and regulations around tracking the provenance of customer funds.
“Every time we’re talking to a financial institution, number one or two on their list of concerns is compliance and risk management,” Bogart said.
TRM Labs is a team of 20, according to Castaño. The San Francisco-based company says it will use the new funding for product development, hiring and expanding to new geographies.
Image: TRM Labs co-founders Esteban Castaño and Rahul Raina, courtesy of TRM Labs