When Ruffer Investment wanted bitcoin in November it turned to One River Digital, which went to Coinbase to hit the “buy” button on a purchase now worth over $745 million, a Ruffer representative confirmed to CoinDesk.
In a recent portfolio update, Ruffer alluded to the involvement of the “world’s largest custodian of digital assets” without naming names. “Access to the bitcoin is controlled by multi-layer security protocols,” Ruffer wrote of its cold-storage setup. A second source confirmed to CoinDesk that Coinbase was the custodian described in Ruffer’s portfolio update. Coinbase Custody announced last month it was storing over $20 billion in customer assets.
The revelation sheds light on how large investors are entering the bitcoin market: namely through trusted partners. Big bets in recent weeks by everyone from MassMutual to Guggenheim are seen as the driving force behind bitcoin’s current price rally. (MassMutual went with NYDIG for its $100 million bitcoin buy.)
As CoinDesk reported Tuesday, Ruffer invested 2.5% of its $27 billion portfolio into bitcoin in November. The following day, One River Digital, a crypto-focused offshoot of volatility hedge fund One River Asset Management, came out of stealth, proclaiming it had already brokered $600 million in bitcoin and ether for its institutional clients.
Coinbase confirmed on Wednesday it was conducting trade execution and crypto custody for One River Digital. It declined to comment for this story.
One River Digital did not respond to a request for comment.
The Ruffer revelation shows just how far San Francisco’s Coinbase is reaching into the world of fund management.
Earlier this month, it revealed itself as the “primary execution partner” for MicroStrategy’s $425 million bitcoin purchase in the fall. A case study published by Coinbase explained how the firm pulls off market-swamping allocations without alerting traders.
Meanwhile, Ruffer explained in its portfolio update that macroeconomic factors guided the manager’s bitcoin bet.
“The current macroeconomic environment is set up perfectly for an asset that blends the benefits of technology and gold,” Ruffer said, adding:
“Negative interest rates, extreme monetary policy, ballooning public debt, dissatisfaction with governments – all provide powerful tailwinds for bitcoin at a time when conventional safe-haven assets, particularly government bonds, are perilously expensive.”
Ruffer said bitcoin has grown to meet this moment.
“Since 2017, billions of dollars have been invested in the infrastructure needed to support this wave of bitcoin adoption; many of the impediments to institutional investors have been dismantled.”
Ruffer’s analysis was clear: the institutions are here with more on the way; the cypherpunks are fading fast. Wrote the $27 billion mega-manager:
“[Bitcoin] seems set to move from being loved by the anti-establishment to being embraced by the dominant interests of the establishment.”
Zack Seward contributed reporting.
CORRECTION [12/21/20 10:46 AM EST]: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ruffer owns a stake in One River Digital.