Consumers want banks to offer crypto

The crypto market saw a sudden uplift on 15th March, following a few days of sideways trading. According to Ron Shevlin at Forbes, Biden’s recent executive order regarding the responsible development of digital assets helped lift the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies.

Ari Redford, Head of Legal and Government Affairs at TRM Labs, offered Shevlin a neat opinion about its effects: “The executive order is really a call for coordination—playing quarterback to ensure that regulators are working together to feed into a clear and consistent framework for crypto regulation rather than engage in disparate work streams.”

This is important for traditional banks, and it should encourage them to engage with cryptocurrencies. They would be foolish not to do that, since many Americans are demanding to be able to purchase crypto directly from their bank, rather than use a crypto exchange.

For example, a very recent survey by Cornerstone Advisors conducted in February 2022 found that “one in five American adults hold some form of cryptocurrency.” The generations that favour crypto are Millennials and GenZ, with Gen X trailing a bit behoind, and the Boomers solidly rejecting the idea of crypto.

Twenty-five percent of Gen Zers already own crypto and 29% plan to buy it within 12 months. Thirty percent of Millennials already own it and 27% will buy it this year. Furthermore, among the Gen Zers and Millennials with crypto, 40% bought or sold it five or more times in 2021.

With regard to banks, the survey revealed that around 50% of Americans that already own crypto would “definitely use a bank to invest in crypto if they could, with another 42% indicating that might do so.”

But banks don’t seem to be getting this message. Shevlin writes: “According to Cornerstone Advisors’ What’s Going On in Banking 2022 study, just 1% of US banks provided cryptocurrency investing or trading services before this year.” What is more, only 1 in 10 American banks plan to offer a crypto service in 2022. It seems that although regulators are trying to make it easier for the banks to become involved, bankers are still tied to their old views.

One senior bank exec told Cornerstone:

“Why are there more cryptocurrencies than US banks and credit unions combined? When is the consolidation and fallout going to occur?”

While another said: “Cryptocurrencies aren’t stable enough to be a legit payment mechanism as the value could fluctuate during the transaction. Instead of pushing crypto ATMs and ways to create your own currencies, it would be great to see more focus on how to solve issues like unaffordable housing and the student loan.”

It seems he’s missing the point, and indeed, the demand. Although nt all of them are so blinkered. One banker actually sounded positive, commenting, “We need to accept that cryptocurrency is here and start planning TODAY on how to approach this and not wait until it’s too late and we’re reacting versus planning.”

We know that banks are risk averse, and have consistently issued warnings about the risks they see with crypto, but it would seem that based on the consumer view, the biggest risk to the banks is not getting involved with cryptocurrencies at all.

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