The world is changing, with a “revolution happening on many fronts in slow motion,” as Mike Novogratz of Galaxy Digital said at an invite-only institutional crypto conference at Bloomberg’s headquarters.
Incremental improvements here and there, a product announced now and then, a coder incorporating blockchain somewhere. All may not be visible or may seem like little, hiding the forest for the tree.
But at some point it becomes obvious that something has changed and fundamentally so. We think that point is today.
After the miraculous 2017, we greeted 2018 by calling it the decisive year. There were regulatory battles to be fought, questions on whether scalability would really be solved, questions on how the world would now respond to the debut of crypto coins.
We may say, in a way, the miracle year has continued. Some battles were lost, but on the regulatory front we declared the war was won. Perhaps a bit prematurely, megaphone “negotiations” with SEC could have gone a bit better. They could have established a more accommodative regulatory framework for token fundraising, an industry that may turn out to be a game changer.
Soon, however, it became clear it is not for SEC to establish a regulatory framework fit for the digital age, but for congress. Lawmakers may have stayed out to not limit innovation. Now they may have no choice, but to intervene as both Silicon Valley and Wall Street unite in their criticism of SEC where the token economy is concerned.
On the scalability front, 2020 was always the target as far as we’re concerned. It remains so and now it looks more likely it will be met after devs elevated sharding in priority at a slight expense of Proof of Stake.
Now months on, it looks like they’ve finally reached a stage they know where they going and they know how to get there, with all the conceptual aspects seemingly solved, leaving “just” the coding and “small” details.
The most surprising aspect of 2018, however, has been a cultural shift. We did not just win the debate, we won the hearts and minds.
They look up to us now as tech pioneers out to improve the world. As scientists and visionaries with ambitions to do things better. As drivers and innovators, inspiring a generation.
While there are still the Roubinis, no one listens to them any longer. Their old arguments are now fading.
It’s as if overnight the world has decided cryptos are cool. That they’re a new thing which is here to stay, and that they’re overall a good thing.
The change in tone is striking for anyone who has been around for some time, and most of this change in tone has occurred in 2018. It has done so across political spectrums, across income levels, across industries.
Young (at least in mind) bankers are leaving the old industry to build a new, better, crypto financial system. Facebook, Google, Wall Street now look old and uninspiring to university students who keep flocking to blockchain courses. Politicians, by and large, now speak of crypto tech innovators.
All taken holistically means we are at a tipping point of crypto mainstream adoption in usage, at least as an investment.
That may be primarily because a number of studies have shown cryptos do not correlate with any other asset, making them effectively necessary in any portfolio for diversification and as a hedge.
There are some studies which have shown portfolios with crypto tend to perform better than those without in a risk adjusted manner. The scholarly consensus there, however, isn’t well established with questions on whether it applies just during bull markets or consistently.
Yet all studies agree that cryptos are just different when looked from an investment perspective. That means, in line with modern portfolio theory, that one should have at least a little bit of crypto. Especially when one considers long term horizons, such as pensions.
We tend to think of pensions as pensioners, but that’s the end of the pension story, rather than the beginning, for it starts or should start in late 20s, early 30s.
It is difficult for one to predict what will happen in 30 or 40 years by the time this generations’ pensions are needed.
The natural reaction is to say cryptos are far too risky for what is intended to be safe pension investment portfolios. Yet if we extend the time horizon to 30 or 40 years, it is easy to argue not having crypto in the portfolio is a far more risky option.
In such a long time horizon, one can not rule out that the dollar might collapse through hyper-inflation. It is not likely, one can say maybe it is not foreseeable, and of course we can all pray it doesn’t happen so brutally, but it could happen.
For that reason if nothing else – and there are plenty of other reasons – the most prudent thing to do is to have at least a small amount, say perhaps 10% of the portfolio, in cryptos, especially now that studies have establish they a new class that doesn’t correlate with other assets like stocks or bonds.
That at least appears to be the realization of 2018, which will probably end up being known as the year of institutional investors.
Like merchants came to the “rescue” of bitcoin in 2014, so too now asset managers and institutional investors are giving the crypto space some very big headlines, with Fidelity being the latest one.
A race is probably on, some of it hidden and some of it in the open, as established companies rush to be first to market to incorporate crypto products for institutional investors which by and large now seem to have decided they want some.
It’s a trickle, and the effects probably won’t be visible until a year or two, but by 2020 or thereabouts cryptos may well be incorporated in every financial product.
It is more difficult to foresee whether cryptos would be incorporated into bank accounts, or be lumped with stocks requiring “specialized” means of access.
As they are new, unlike stocks which have been around for centuries, what we may see is cryptos used as a competitive advantage. For example, a millennial who might want to move his bank account for whatever reason, may well find easy access to cryptos as a decision making factor.
At least one high-street bank, therefore, may try to incorporate cryptos in a convenient way. Depending on how events unfold, competitive pressure may then lead to all banks doing the same.
Which means we are probably on the verge of cryptos being incorporated into ordinary aspects of financial life.
The timing, in many ways, is very much perfect. The above will need at least some months for the infrastructure to be established and so on, with some traditional pioneers leading the way and the rest following.
During that time, coders get all ready the parallelization of blockchain through sharding. Dapp devs launch new projects and refine existing ones. Industry improves their pilots with some going to market where they are again improved based on live feedback. And it all basically may reach a stage in 2020 where you buy a cryptokittie from your bank app for a very low fee.
This parallel crypto system, moreover, while incorporated into the current financial system, can have huge advantages for end users.
A simple example is international payments. Banks so far have tried to incorporate analogue fiat into digital blockchain, which is somewhat similar to scanning a document rather than writing it in word office to begin with.
If instead they simply incorporate natively digital assets, then you can now transfer bitcoin or eth on the public blockchain through your bank account in very much seconds, with the receiver so free to then transfer it into fiat or keep it as it is. So moving money across the globe without any friction, while enjoying the convenient aspects of a bank account.
Naturally some will say wasn’t the point to get rid of banks? The prudent answer being you don’t throw away what works before getting a replacement that performs the same function and does so a bit better.
Nor will banks cease to function overnight, if ever. Nokia may have gone, but Apple is still around. Plenty will adapt to the new world. Some may wither in stubbornness. Some will rise seemingly from nothing. The end consumer will benefit through it all.
The transformation will be gradual, until it will feel like it all happened so fast. That’s because the benefits, even in the limited examples we have given, are obvious. While the disadvantages are almost none save for whatever it would cost to incorporate them.
With that being the case, free market pressure will perform its function of supplying to demand. Some banks are already doing so. The Swiss based Dukascopy Bank, for example, is incorporating eth and bitcoin into their current account, making us very tempted to open one.
So the miraculous year may well turn into a miraculous decade, or perhaps even the beginning of a new golden age, as two aspects in parallel race, with coders improving the base while businesses keep laying the infrastructural pipelines.
Making 2018 now less a decisive year than a turning point when it appears somewhat clear as to just where we are going and how to get there.