Amundi sets sights on booming NFT market

Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager, is considering launching products to give investors exposure to non-fungible tokens — part of a burgeoning digital assets market that has traded billions of dollars over the past year.

Paris-headquartered Amundi, which oversees some €2tn of assets, has set out its approach to NFTs in a yet-to-be published report seen by Financial News.

“Ultimately, we cannot rule out that NFTs will also become investable assets […] and end up being ranked in the real assets category”, the asset manager said in the report.

“In which case investors should gradually become interested in them as a diversifying asset and value creator (beyond the purely speculative).”

NFTs are digital tokens which certify ownership of a unique asset, such as digital art and collectibles. Typically bought using cryptocurrency, NFTs help to authenticate who owns a piece using blockchain-based technology.

READ The dark side of NFTs: Why collectable digital art may challenge investors’ ESG targets

The NFT market exploded last year, with a record $23bn traded in 2021, according to digital analytics firm DappRadar.

Vincent Mortier, who was named Amundi’s group chief investment officer on 16 February, said the firm is considering product launches that will enable investors to tap into the NFT market.

“We are thinking if there is a way to invest thematically in companies that are involved in this space,” Mortier told FN.

Launching a dedicated fund which invests in NFTs could be another option, Mortier said.

“We are not yet there, but that’s something we could envisage at some point.”

Mortier said the NFT market showed the most promise in the areas of digital art and collectibles.

“Storage is much easier; you can track it, you can show it. There are some merits,” he said. “Some artists are doing artwork only for the NFT market. This section of the market has some legs and is investible.”

Mortier’s comments come after the boss of London’s first listed NFT investment fund last year predicted the market for tokens could outstrip the size of physical markets for collectibles such as art, music, film and TV combined.

In March 2021, a digital image by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3m, making it the most expensive digital asset ever to have changed hands. The piece featured 5,000 individual digital pictures, created and posted every day for over 13-and-a-half years.

READ Funds hunt for real returns in race to the metaverse

The following month, Sotherby’s announced its collaboration with digital artist Pak to sell his NFT collection generated $16.8m.

NFTs have also become status symbols for some wealthy buyers.

The Bored Ape Yacht Club — a collection of 10,000 unique cartoon ape collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain — is regarded as one of the most prestigious online groups.

The ape cartoons, which can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each, also double as owners’ membership cards and unlock certain benefits.

Amundi’s bullish outlook on NFTs stands in contrast to the asset manager’s critical stance on cryptocurrencies.

“On crypto, our views have not evolved. It is too speculative and there are a lot of question marks around it,” said Mortier.

Separately, Amundi announced on 16 February that it was creating the Amundi Institute — a dedicated research unit with 60 staff.

The new division, which will be chaired by former CIO Pascal Blanqué, will provide clients with the asset manager’s views on economics, finance, geopolitics and ESG matters to help with portfolio construction.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Ricketts

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