The Covid-19 Crypto Craze

You might have noticed when you checked the price of Bitcoin (BTC) on 27th July that it had tipped over the $10,000 point and is continuing to rise. It was pretty unusual for a Monday, as there is usually a dip after a weekend. Not so in July..

Ron Shevlin is just one of the fintech writers and Snark Tank analyst who saw this shift as ‘The Coronavirus Crypto Craze’. He asked, “Where is this Coronavirus-fueled trading volume coming from and who will drive the future growth?” It was, and still is, a good question.

According to Cornerstone Advisors, 15% of Americans now own crypto in some form, and just over half of these people invested in cryptocurrency for the first time during the first six months of 2020. Furthermore, these new investors obtained roughly $67.5 billion in cryptocurrencies, averaging out at around $4,000 per person. 

This new penetration in the USA brings it into the Top 10 countries when it comes to crypto ownership, although it still has surpass Turkey (20%) Brazil and Colombia (18%), Argentina and South Africa (16%).

Who is buying crypto?

But what we all want to know is this: who has been on a BTC buying binge during the months when the pandemic forced people to stay at home across the world. Although, of course, if you’re at home, that’s the perfect place form which to buy crypto.

High-income men with postgraduate degrees account for eight in 10 buyers, and have an annual salary of around $130,000. Then there are the Millenials and Gen Xers. Millennials (26 to 40 years old) comprised 57% of the consumers buying cryptocurrency in 2020 with Gen Xers (41 to 55 years old) accounting for 30%. Baby Boomers hardly feature accounting for only 3% of crypto consumers, and Gen Zers are similarly thin on the ground at 7%.

Significantly, the majority of buyers are customers of traditional banks rather than the new digital challengers, which is surprising. Shevlin reports, “Of the consumers buying cryptocurrencies during the Bitcoin binge, almost half—47%—are customers of Bank of America.” By contrast only 6% of the 2020 BTC buyers use a digital bank as their primary bank.

Financial health and first time buyers

Another interesting revelation from the study is, “44% of Americans who have already invested in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies said that their financial health is “much better” since the beginning of the Covid crisis,” whereas only 5% of all other US consumers agreed with this statement.

The first time investors are an interesting group. In some ways similar to established crypto owners, they differ in one respect: they’re changing up the financial institutions they do business with.

Half of the first timers switched their primary banking relationship in the past six months—one-third did so in the past three months alone.

The key takeaway from all this is, as Shevlin says: “

 All banks—in particular, community banks and credit unions—should look at opportunities to provide Bitcoin wallets and other cryptocurrency trading services as a way to differentiate their services.”

Are crypto exchanges poised for a growth explosion?

What will the financial sector look like in 2030 after spending the decade challenging the incumbent financial services? Leeor Shimron, a Forbes Contributor, believes that crypto exchanges are poised to capture the growth in this space.

To date, crypto exchanges have provided users with a first contact point with an ever-increasing range of crypto assets. Lets’ not forget that the first crypto enthusiasts were retail investors who for the first time were able to access a new asset class before the institutional investors. As a result, most exchanges, such as Coinbase and Binance, were set up to service demand from the retail investor. For example, as Shimron remarks, “In just 8 years, Coinbase propelled crypto to the mainstream serving over 30 million users.”

Follow the Internet’s history

There have been several commentators who have suggested that the crypto story is very similar to the emergence of the Internet. The Internet was a fundamentally disruptive and paradigm shifting technology, and crypto very well may exhibit similar changes, mimicking the growth in Internet usage.

Illustrating this claim, Shimron cites the statistics: “User adoption of the internet reached 10% of American households in 1995, five years after the first web browser was launched. User adoption reached 50% in the U.S. by the year 2000.” Currently, US adoption of crypto is at around 5%, and hasn’t seen the same rate of adoption as the Internet. This is caused by “issues of scalability, privacy, and ease of use,” something that the Internet also had to overcome.

However, if Bitcoin’s growth story follows that of the Internet, it should achieve user adoption of between 20–50% by the year 2030.

Crypto exchange growth

Shimron applies a similar metric to exchange growth. He writes, “To project future exchange growth in the U.S., I assumed 5% user adoption of crypto in the US currently and calculated revenue growth if user adoption reaches 10% (conservative case), 20% (base case), and 50% (optimistic case) in the year 2029.”

The resulting scenarios for 2029 in terms of exchange revenues are: “$1.9 billion in the conservative case, $3.8 billion in the base case, and $9.6 billion in the optimistic case.”

He also remarks that although the 50% adoption may seem far-fetched, there are indicators supporting it, including ample growth potential amongst retail investors and demographic changes over the next decade, with more 18–39 year olds living in cities and being more familiar with digital technologies and virtual goods. These millennials will also inherit $68 trillion from the baby boomer generation by 2030, and they are looking for new ways to generate yield and store their wealth.

So, the future for crypto exchanges is bright, “as new use cases and killer apps emerge,” alongside retail users flooding the market and exchanges capture this growth.

Elon Musk hogs the headlines again!

Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur, is making headlines again. Over the last week, we’ve had the controversy over the naming of his latest offspring, his nmother-in-law condemning his ‘red pill’ tweets, and now, unable to stay out of the press, he has slammed the Federal Reserve’s coronavirus stimulus package.

Musk claims that US fiscal policy has become “detached from reality,” and that it should be viewed in sharp contrast with “bitcoin’s looming supply squeeze,” as reported by Billy Bambrough. Now, Musk has gone a step further, according to Bambrough in Forbes, where he quotes the entrepreneur as saying “the central bank currency issuance” is making cryptocurrency bitcoin look “solid by comparison.”

Harry Potter and the Bitcoin Blockchain

Rather bizarrely, Musk’s latest statements came in response to a query from Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling about how bitcoin works. The two are prolific Twitter users, and this is where the conversation took place on 15th May.

Rowling tweeted, “People are now explaining Bitcoin to me, and honestly, it’s blah blah blah collectibles (My Little Pony?) blah blah blah computers (got one of those) blah blah blah crypto (sounds creepy) blah blah blah understand the risk (I don’t, though.)

In reply, Musk told her Bitcoin looked solid by comparison with the currency issued by central banks, and said that he still owns 0.25 BTC. Cointelegraph stepped into the fray, and tweeted, “I think wveryone is just waiting for you to send them to the moon Elon,” which resulted in some comic responses in the form of Buzz Lightyear memes.

However, it seems nobody was able to convince Rowling about bitcoin, as she later tweeted, “I’m just about able to grasp a barter system. Talk of collectibles, tokenomics and blockchains and my brain just takes a walk.”

Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum then stepped up to provide the creator of wizards with his explanation, and Neeraj Agrawal, of Washington-based cryptocurrency policy think tank Coincenter, really tried to get Rowling to understand it by saying it was “magical Internet money.” Tyler Winklevoss objected to this, replying bitcoin was not ‘magical’, it was the US dollar that could be described that way.

J.K. Rowling may not have been convinced by the responses of the various cryptocurrency heavyweights, but as Bitcoin Magazine tweeted,

“Dear Diary, Today was a wild ride for #BitcoinTwitter.”

Is it time to buy bitcoin?

This is the big question of the week, although you may have other questions on your mind, particularly those about Covid-19. But let’s forget the virus for the moment, and focus on the bitcoin halving that is happening this week, in fact in about nine hours from now at the time of writing.

What will this halving, which happens approximately every four years, or every 210,000 blocks, mean for the bitcoin price. Is it a time when investors should jump on board?

What is the evidence for a price change?
We can look back at the halvings in 2012 and 2016 and see what happened. In 2012 the price increased slightly after the halving, but it was nothing like a bull run. In 2016, it shot up and then shot right down to where it had started at the time of the halving. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that we can expect more of the same this time.

As Billy Bambrough wrote towards the end of last week, whilst bitcoin did surge at the beginning of May, that doesn’t mean it is time to invest, because the market is volatile. He quotes Lennard Neo, head of research at Singapore-based institutional-grade bitcoin index fund Stack, who said, “With the bitcoin halving fast approaching, we believe a short-term pullback is highly likely immediately post-halving, as traders begin taking profits.”

Rich Rosenblum, co-head of trading at Hong Kong-based crypto market maker GSR told Bambrough, “
“The move back down to $8,000 wasn’t a big surprise. It’s likely that we’re going to see increased volatility through May, with the pandemic, ongoing stimulus measures and the halving.”

Scott Freeman, co-founder at New York-based bitcoin and crypto-focused institutional trading firm JST Capital, added his view: “Bitcoin has risen over 100% over the last few months and we believe most of that rise was driven by continued retail demand.” He also added a comment of interest: “We expect continued volatility but expect to see good long term risk reward in bitcoin and also expect it to behave in an uncorrelated manner to traditional financial assets.”

Another factor that might galvanise investors is the announcement that Paul Tudor Jones is buying bitcoin as a hedge against the inflation he sees coming as a result of unprecedented coronavirus and lockdown-induced central bank money-printing, Bambrough writes, and we should perhaps take into account that the two previous halvings didn’t take place during a global pandemic.

Scott Freeman believes Jones’ move could prove to be a “seminal moment for bitcoin.” Why? Because the value of traditional assets is looking questionable in this crisis, and he claims he has received calls from a number of institutional investors “who now see bitcoin as a great hedge against the easy money policies and the looming global recession.”

Although it depends on your viewpoint of the crypto market, it appears there is no clear answer about whether or not this is the time to invest, but the views aired by these experts seem to suggest it is.