Betterment reveals that it now owns Seattle crypto firm and that it will be a ‘centerpiece,’ yet the deal timing means it could be a ‘big blunder,’ Morningstar analyst says

Brooke Note: Yes, there is very good news implicit in all the bad news about cryptocurrencies. If you are late to Cryptomania 1.0, you have the opportunity to enter near the ground floor for Cryptomania 2.0. For Betterment, that is the positive side expected to buy Makara in March just in time for one of the worst months in the history of cryptography. The vast majority of projected Betterment cryptocurrencies will invest in the future. However, the Betterment offer will not be available until maybe August and by then we have reached version 3.0 and who knows what exactly it will be. The improvement could remake Makara’s current risk management process, which requires cryptocurrencies to be covered by buying a different basket of other cryptocurrencies. That part of Makara’s secret sauce is having limited success in mitigating a not-so-secret defeat.

The improvement came late at the party when he bought a new cryptocurrency company that sells diversified wallets of cryptocurrencies, as it turns out to be too late.

Just as the New York City robbery advisor closed the deal in early March, the fund fell from the cryptocurrency market.

Raoul Bhavnani: Someone is always stirring the pot.

Bitcoin dropped to a low of $ 37,000 that month. It recovered above $ 48,000, before falling, again, below $ 27,000 in early May, eliminating all of its 2021 earnings, according to CoinDesk and other sources.

At least one analyst thinks it can go down a lot.

“When you break below 30,000 consistently, 8,000 is the ultimate fund, so I think we have a lot more room for disadvantage, especially because the Fed is restrictive,” Guggenheim chief investment officer Scott Minerd told TheStreet.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say this was Betterment’s biggest mistake to date. His time was poor,” Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s director of global ETF research, said in an email.

In fact, Betterment seemed to be keeping the deal low.

The company announced on February 8 that it would buy Makara. But he made no formal announcement of his closure on March 8, until he acknowledged it in response to a RIABiz consultation.

Market crash

New York robbery staff explained that they did not mention the closure because the initial press release a month earlier specified that the deal would materialize by the end of the first quarter.

Brian Murphy
Brian Murphy: The odds are three to one for things to work out.

Betterment declined to disclose the price paid or even if it was a cash deal, but its valuation is likely to decline since March.

“[The February purchase] price [of Makara] it’s probably much higher than a venture capitalist would value Makara today, “said Brian Murphy, who writes about wealth technology and serves as investment director for Mountain View, California. RIA Pariveda Investment Management.

Betterment agreed to buy Makara when the market capitalization of the cryptocurrency stood at $ 1.85 trillion. Today, it stands at $ 1.3 trillion, just 43% of its peak of $ 3 trillion in November 2021, according to coinmarketcap data.

Bitcoin hit a $ 68,906 high on November 9th. He now trades at a 56% discount, or $ 30,369.

The dollar-linked ‘stablecoin’, Tether, broke its fix in mid-May and then fell from $ 86.02 to $ 0.0001. He is now trading at $ 0.00018. Other “stable currencies”, such as Luna and TerraUSD, also collapsed.

Crypto bullish

Despite the market crash, Betterment is still optimistic about investing.

We’re building the right product for long-term investments, as opposed to traders, ”says Makara founder and vice president of cryptocurrency investment Jessie Proudman, by email.

Company spokesman Raoul Bhavnani said in an email that Betterment’s cryptographic strategy was never a game of time. Crypto remains a “core piece” of its emerging business model.

“There’s always someone stirring the pot,” he says.

“We don’t time the markets, [we] to make long-term investments … as we did by bringing the experience of the Makara team closer to Betterment … Recent volatility … only underscores the importance of … diversification and expert advice, ”he adds.

According to the firm, Betterment Crypto will be available first for retail investors, then in early fall for RIAs holding assets in Betterment.

The RIA version of Betterment Crypto will come with additional controls that will allow advisors to customize their clients ’cryptographic wallets and access level, he says.


Makara’s diversified cryptocurrency portfolios are supposed to mitigate the risk of strong price fluctuations. It is estimated that it buys and holds about 50 separate cryptocurrencies in eight separate portfolios, and then rebalances them periodically.

    Scott Minerd
Scott Minerd: “When you break below 30,000 constantly, 8,000 is the ultimate bottom line.”

However, the recent global collapse of cryptocurrencies suggests that digital currencies benefit far less from diversification, says Murphy.

“I’m skeptical that the premise – diversifying risk by keeping a bunch of different currencies – is valid,” he says.

“It is now a diversified basket of coins [not] remarkably less risky than keeping a handful at random … There are still many ‘sh * tcoins’ … Diversification works for ‘residual risk’ and not for ‘systemic risk’ “.

“The biggest risks are the ‘macro’ risks, which is not something that can simply be diversified. Many currencies, except Bitcoin itself, [may yet be] considered SEC-regulated securities. Diversification does little to mitigate that, ”he adds.

Johnson. says Makara, ultimately, it’s a gamble, and it’s likely he won’t pay.

“Crypto was an obvious way to stand out from the crowd … [and Makara] it could be a good long – term acquisition, although I personally doubt it. “

Falling valuation

Interestingly, until he agreed to buy Makara, Betterment was a caution against cryptocurrency.

Ben Johnson, Morningstar
Ben Johnson: “I would say this was Betterment’s biggest mistake to date.”

The main rival, Weathfront, added Grayscale funds to its fund menu last August. View: Wealthfront yields to four years of cryptocurrency claims by hiring an expensive third-party vendor that Betterment rules out

Acorns has announced its intention and M1 Finance is also looking for digital assets.

But Betterment revealed in February that growing domestic customer demand and public perception have forced its hand. See: Betterment’s new CEO adds self-directed cryptographic assignments; a guru calls it a “square nail” in a round hole.

Makara’s 20 full-time employees have joined Betterment after the deal closed, bringing the number of Betterment’s full-time staff to 425, according to the firm.

Betterment declined to offer a detailed update on its other lines of business.

In February, it served 700,000 retail clients, 2,000 advisors in 600 RIAs through its RIA custodian, Betterment for Advisors (B4A), and 1,000 business plans through its 401 (k) business. He did not dispute the figures.


Betterment’s core investment business seems relatively unscathed in the broader market slowdown.

The robbery adviser managed about $ 33.8 billion on March 31, according to his ADV Form. Today, it manages “just over” $ 31.6 billion. That figure reflects a “decline of about 6.5%,” according to the firm.

“Throughout 2022, Betterment continued to see solid customer growth and net deposits, and we had positive revenue every month until April … the end result is that we have been growing while others are declining,” says Bhavnani.

Launched in 2021, Makara raised $ 2.1 million in a May 2021 seed round, acknowledging the scarcity of ways massive wealthy investors can invest in cryptocurrencies.

Regardless of the structure of Makara’s purchase, Betterment is on the brink of capital, Bhavnani says.

“Our Series F financing, in which all of our major investors participated, has left us very well capitalized on with operational flexibility to continue investing in hiring and key growth areas,” he explains.

The company raised $ 60 million in September 2021. Query: Betterment is ready to burn money as if it were 2008 again, with 2008 co-founder Eli Broverman leading the $ 60 million fundraiser.

Keeping the line

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stands firm in suspending the approval of cryptoETFs. Giants like Vanguard and Charles Schwab & Co. they remain very clear until the regulators define the playing field.

Gary Gensler
Gary Gensler: There are going to be a lot of people injured.

Recent SEC actions are likely to confirm Vanguard and Schwab’s decision to place crypto. The agency on May 3 added 20 new employees to its cryptography application division.

SEC President Gary Gensler also recently stated that the regulator will likely classify many cryptocurrencies as securities, including “stable currencies.”

He compared them to money market funds in an April 4 speech to Penn. Annual Conference of the Law Capital Markets Association.

“Most cryptocurrencies involve a group of entrepreneurs collecting money from the public in anticipation of profits, the hallmark of an investment contract or security.

“Only a few, they’re like digital gold, they may not be securities. Even less, if there are any, they’re working like money,” he told the group.

“Many of these tokens will fail … there will be many people injured,” he added prophetically, during a separate hearing of the House Allocation Committee.

Success will focus on whether cryptography remains a class of investable assets after regulators figure out how to classify it, Murphy says.

I would say the odds are three to one for things to work out. “

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