Bitcoin (BTC) reserves on derivatives exchanges have dropped to levels last seen before the May price crash.

Data from on-chain analytics service CryptoQuant confirmed that as of Tuesday, derivatives reserves totaled 1.256 million BTC — the least since May 11.

Institutions repeat Q4 2020

Against a backdrop of institutional interest returning to cryptocurrency instruments such as the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), figures show that major players have in fact been adding to their BTC holdings throughout the downturn.

“Big money has been buying,” analyst William Clemente III commented this week.

Exchange balances prove the point, with derivatives platforms seeing a repeat of the trend last witnessed at the end of 2020.

Even during the most intense phase of the BTC bull run this year, derivatives balances conversely grew — a decreasing balance characterized only the very beginning of the run to $64,500.

Bitcoin derivatives exchange reserves chart. Source: CryptoQuant

“Since May 19th, entities with 10K-100K BTC have added +269,450 to their holdings ($12.1B),” Clemente III added, highlighting further data.

“These entities have between $450M–$4.5B of their capital allocated to Bitcoin.”10,000–100,000 BTC entity growth chart. Source: William Clemente III/Twitter

Accumulation in action

Institutions have not been put off by any overriding narrative from within or beyond cryptocurrency, including China’s miner rout since May, or the ongoing saga over the United States’ infrastructure bill.

Related: One Bitcoin now buys 0.6 kilograms of gold as 10-year returns turn negative

As Cointelegraph previously reported, retail exchange balances have already been heading lower for some time.

As of Tuesday, the total exchange balance figure stood at 2.44 million BTC, also a three-month low.

Bitcoin all exchanges reserves chart. Source: CryptoQuant