There has certainly been a lot of buzz recently about crypto-currencies, Bitcoin, Blockchain and the opportunities they represent. Having done a lot of reading on this subject we thought it would be helpful to give an overview about them and, more importantly, what sits behind them that is so disruptive. We have also set out below links to the articles and commentary that we have found the most useful in this area.
What are they?
Cryptocurrencies are a potential disruptor to the traditional ways of thinking about money. They are probably best described as ‘tokens’ that exist in digital form and are traded via online exchanges. The most famous at present is Bitcoin due to its surges in price recently. In some ways it is like the heady days of old when gold rushes would sweep through and tales of vast wealth being found on the side of a river. In this case, the most prominent story stems from the fact that in April 2013 the Winklevoss twins (who got a settlement from Mark Zuckerberg as they claimed he stole the idea for Facebook from them) – bought $11 million dollars of Bitcoin (at $120 per coin). Do the math quickly and that makes them now Bitcoin billionaires.
What is going on now and why all this sudden interest?
There is a huge element of FOMO involved here (fear of missing out) and the reality is large volatility is seen with huge price fluctuations, delays in transactions being processed and rumours of hacking. All this in an environment where no one country has issued this new form of currency – that gets around some issues but creates others such as who stands behind it. There is a lot of talk about it being a classic bubble that will one day burst – but no one knows when that may happen and in the meantime millions more investors are getting in on this due to the seemingly endless rises of hundreds of percent. What is going to happen? If I knew I wouldn’t be writing this article! But be wary of anyone who looks to make a quick gain without the usual hard work. That can happen but more often than not it is the owners of the grocery stores that sold the products to the gold miners who actually made money.
How does The Blockchain fit in?
Underlying the different cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin is just the most famous) is the real disruptor – the Blockchain. This is a technology that allows cryptocurrencies to exist. It acts as a decentralised ledger (so no government controls it) on a network – so changes made to it are public and viewable. So a transaction begins by being requested and once it is validated it is a new “block” which gets added to the blockchain. The real point of interest is how the Blockchain can be used in other areas e.g. contracts, health care, energy, home ownership, voting etc.
This is all new and disruptive, do I still need to comply with “old world” rules on securities?
Yes. The FMA has issued guidance about this (see below) and it is worth talking through with your adviser before you set yourself up as a provider of services relating to crypto-currencies. It may be disruption but there are still implications of trading Bitcoin or other currencies.
I want to know more – where do I go?
For those who do want to dive deeper we recommend you have a look at the following resources online by clicking on the links below – is there something we have left out? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can add more in.
We have been helping a number of people with their questions about Bitcoin and crypto-currencies and the Blockchain. Let us know if you would like to discuss.
03 348 8480