Bitcoin has become mainstream and impossible to ignore. Earlier today the cryptocurrency soared past $4,100 for the first time in its nine-year history.
— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) August 14, 2017
It has become impossible to ignore the cryptocurrency as institutional investors are now joining in when it comes to Bitcoin investing. Recently Goldman Sachs acknowledged that it’s getting harder for investors to ignore the cryptocurrency market with total assets ballooning to $120 billion and bitcoin soaring more than 200% this year.
Despite Bitcoin’s surging popularity, there are a number of investment advisors who remain skeptical of Bitcoin — even if they’ve put some skin in the game just in case it gets huge.
New York City-based financial advisor and the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management Josh Brown recently blogged about buying his first Bitcoin via Coinbase.
Brown says he is not a disruption hippie or an early adopter, nor a visionary or an evangelist. But he is too curious to not experience Bitcoin ownership. He believes at this stage in the game, it’s important to be open-minded and not afraid to lose money or look foolish.
“I’m old enough to realize that just because I don’t see a use for something, that doesn’t mean I won’t be proven wrong by others who do,” he writes. “At the current moment, I don’t see the financial industry use for Bitcoin other than some marginal activities like settling commodity trades that are very far divorced from my day to day existence. I understand the benefits of these things – the blockchain acting as verification that the counterparty has made payment instantly, etc. I’ve probably read all the stuff that you have. I’m skeptical.”
Tim Courtney, CIO of Exencial Wealth Advisors believes with cryptocurrencies, there isn’t enough liquidity, depth or knowledge about these assets for him to feel comfortable with them yet.
Courtney says he has received numerous inquiries from clients curious about whether Bitcoin can belong in investment portfolios. Earlier this year, in fact, a U.K. platform Hargreaves Lansdowne gave access is to make Bitcoin available to retail investors to a Bitcoin through its brokerage accounts in the form of an exchange traded note (ETN). Courtney believes perhaps one day these currencies will go mainstream, but at this point it is still in the beginning stages of the cryptocurrency revolution.
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Courtney does not recommend that clients own it. In order to enlighten clients, Courtney released the following explanation:
“The first thing to understand is that, just like every other currency, there is no asset backing digital- and cryptocurrencies,” he says. “In the past, some currencies were backed by gold or silver, but that’s no longer the case.”
He also warns of the lack of a safety net.
“Another disadvantage to these currencies is that there is no security to your trades if something unexpected happens, he says. “For example, a flash crash involving the digital currency Ether drove prices from $317.81 to 10 cents in a matter of 45 milliseconds. Unlike similar flash crashes involving established assets, the trades couldn’t be reversed.”
There’s also concern, he says, about the shadiness of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in that criminals use the anonymity they provide to demand ransom in Bitcoin among other nefarious activities.
Courtney goes on to explain there are other examples of speculative assets include collectibles, artwork and jewelry. Supply and demand determines the price of these assets, unlike many other investments. For example, your home has value regardless of what someone else is willing to pay for it: you can still live in it. A stock pays dividends and has profits, even if no one is willing to buy it from you. That’s not guaranteed with Bitcoin, but with high demand, the price will continue its upward trajectory.
“When you see returns on digital currencies moving up, that means demand for them has outnumbered the sellers out there,” Courtney adds. “That is one advantage of holding currencies in general: the supply is constrained. However, an increase in the amount of currency circulated could lead to inflation and the currency being devalued.”
There’s nothing wrong with holding speculative assets, but they should not be a cornerstone of your portfolio. The more you depend on them for income or net worth, the more risk you’re taking on.
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