Money managers are often reluctant to dive into new asset classes. That notion appears to be holding true with cryptocurrencies as a recent survey suggests a small amount of asset allocators plan to embrace bitcoin and friends this year.
A survey of attendees at the Context Summits conference in Miami revealed that 11% planned to allocate to cryptocurrencies this year.
“The respondents included staff from funds-of-hedge-funds, consulting firms, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, pensions, and family offices representing a combined $5 trillion under management,” reports Institutional Investor.
The skepticism surrounding cryptocurrencies among institutional investors comes even as many of these market participants are expected to increase exposure to alternative investments amid expectations that equities could underperform relative to 2017’s performances.
“The demand for alternative investments is supported by doubts over how long the current bull market can last, with 69% of institutional allocators surveyed predicting that traditional equities and fixed income markets will underperform in 2018 when compared to 2017, and an additional 19% predicting similar year-over-year performance,” said Context Capital Partners.
Lingering Crypto Skepticism
Institutional investors’ reluctance to embrace cryptocurrencies arrives against a challenging backdrop for digital currencies. Just a few months ago, the digital currency universe had a combined market value of about $700 billion, but that number has since dwindled to around $262 billion as the price of bitcoin has plunged. Bitcoin, the largest crypto by market value, has lost more than half its value just this year.
“There remains uncertainty surrounding the long-term investment merits of cryptocurrencies as 71% of allocators have no plans to invest in crypto-related funds and 18% are still undecided,” said Context Capital.
While some institutional investors remain apprehensive about cryptocurrencies, the number of hedge funds focusing on blockchain and crypto investments is surging. That number was approximately 150 at the start of this year, up noticeably from the start of 2017, and some market observers believe the number of blockchain and digital currency hedge funds could double or triple again in 2018. Still, some market participants are expressing doubts.
“At the same time, there was broad confusion and skepticism about the viability of crypto as an asset class, with 27% calling it a fraud, 27% calling it legitimate and the remaining 47% saying they ‘don’t know,’” said Context Capital.
Some well-known investors and Wall Street executives have previously excoriated bitcoin while others have endorsed the digital currency.
Cardano founder, Charles Hoskinson speaks on the future of Bitcoin and taking profits
Charles Hoskinson has always been a huge advocate for decentralized finance and building a network that could provide solutions to the problems with our current financial and banking systems. In this recent AMA Charles speaks out on his view about the issues that Bitcoin faces as well as reminding everyone that cryptocurrency isn’t all about taking profits.
Despite Charles Hoskinson open criticisms of Bitcoin he does say:
“I would still be working on Bitcoin if Bitcoin could evolve”
PayPal’s crypto trading goes live in the US!
Customers will be able to trade up to $20,000 a week, rather than the originally announced $10,000.
On Thursday, PayPal’s crypto trading and payments went live for all eligible customers in the United States.
Per its updated announcement, PayPal ended its waitlist for customers looking to use cryptocurrency in the U.S. Trading features a limit of $20,000 per week, which is double the originally announced $10,000.
PayPal ultimately plans to make crypto payments available at 26 million merchants globally.
A representative said that PayPal will notify U.S. customers about the general availability of crypto services in the coming days.
Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, noted that the shift to supporting crypto was driven by what he sees as an “inevitable” drift toward virtual currencies.
“The shift to digital forms of currencies is inevitable, bringing with it clear advantages in terms of financial inclusion and access; efficiency, speed and resilience of the payments system; and the ability for governments to disburse funds to citizens quickly.”
Much-anticipated global services are expected to launch at the beginning of 2021, alongside crypto payments on Venmo. PayPal initially announced its plans to integrate crypto three weeks ago. The announcement led to a boost in BTC price.
As part of its crypto services, PayPal received the first conditional Bitlicense from the New York Department of Financial Services, one of the most hawkish sub-national financial regulators in the U.S. Many noted that the terms of PayPal’s crypto services would entail that coins bought on the platform would not be able to leave, likely as part of its compromise with regulators in bringing crypto services to such a wide user base.
PayPal Allows Bitcoin And Crypto Spending
PayPal has entered the cryptocurrency market, announcing that its customers will be able to buy and sell Bitcoin and other virtual currencies using their PayPal accounts.
Those virtual coins could then be used to buy things from the 26 million sellers which accept PayPal, it said.
PayPal plans to roll out buying options in the US over the next few weeks, with the full rollout due early next year.
Bitcoin prices rose alongside the news, breaking the $12,000 (£9,170) mark.
The other cryptocurrencies to be added first will be Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash (a spin-off from Bitcoin).
All could be stored “directly within the PayPal digital wallet”, the company said.
Cryptocurrencies have remained a niche payment method, partly down to the rapid change in prices they can experience compared with traditional state-backed currencies. That has made them popular among some types of investors.
PayPal said it was aiming “to increase consumer understanding and adoption of cryptocurrency”.
“As part of this offering, PayPal will provide account holders with educational content to help them understand the cryptocurrency ecosystem,” it said.
But David Gerard, author of Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain and the forthcoming Libra Shrugged: How Facebook Tried to Take Over the Money, said PayPal was describing “a crypto day-trading market”.
“I’m at a loss as to who the market is for PayPal as a crypto-exchange,” he said.
He likened it to playing the stock market, but with Bitcoin – whose volatile and less well-regulated nature was like “gambling on penny stocks”.
“Have a flutter, drop $10 on it, you’ll learn things you wouldn’t learn any other way – but you are gambling,” he warned.
He said there were “a lot of big players who manipulate the price”, and ordinary people risked losing their money.
“I don’t expect much of a market for this beyond existing crypto holders… I’m baffled that PayPal would offer this, and it’s not clear what they’re trying to do here,” he said.
“There must be someone at PayPal who is very interested in cryptocurrencies,” he added.
Paying with crypto
Other payment firms, such as Square’s Cash app and Revolut, have already offered cryptocurrencies for sale. But PayPal has one of the largest merchant networks in the world.
When it comes to using the virtual coins, PayPal will convert the cryptocurrency into the relevant national currency, so the company being paid will never receive the virtual coins – just the correct amount of pounds or dollars.
PayPal said the system meant there would be “certainty of value and no incremental fees”.
But using Bitcoin to pay at ordinary merchants is not due to launch until “early 2021”.
Cryptocurrencies’ volatile prices – along with their historical use as a less traceable payment method for illegal purposes – have led to numerous calls for them to be regulated.
PayPal has been granted permission for its operation from the New York State Department of Financial Services, in the form of a conditional “Bitlicence” – the first such licence granted.
To begin with, the service will work with an existing cryptocurrency provider in the US, the Paxos Trust Company.
But it is not PayPal’s first venture into the area.
The firm was once a partner in Facebook’s digital currency Libra, but became the first to pull out of the alliance, just a few months after it was announced.
The scheme was controversial, attracting attention from financial regulators in several countries.
Earlier this year, Facebook was reported to be “rethinking” the idea amid the resistance.