As the new year ages, last year’s high interest in Bitcoin and related items continues with skyrocketing prices. There have been some advancements in the use of blockchain technology beyond Bitcoin and its competitors and it seems likely this will continue. Amid the excitement, however, there are some concerns about hackers and the security of holdings in Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies. Regulators and governments are getting involved as well to protect both investors and various governmental interests.
Some of the major broker dealers (wirehouses), worried about the unknowns this new currency and fearful of the lack of any significant regulation, have barred their employees from offering as investments any products related to Bitcoin. As one adviser put it, “I know we are at the top of a bubble when unsophisticated investors with no money to spare start talking about buying bitcoin.”
As with many new developments, there is a great deal of speculation and volatility surrounding Bitcoin and other similar products. This in turn attracts investors by appealing to greed and the desire not to miss out on the next new thing. There is money to be made and the natural question is – when the dust clears – who will be the winners and losers in the product.
The underlying technology – blockchain – will likely have many uses other than cryptocurrency and, like many other technology investments, firms developing other uses for blockchain will be appealing to some investors. For example, Vanguard has announced that it plans to share index data using blockchain technology and expects this use will drive down the costs for investors as well as for Vanguard. Kodak has announced a new type of bitcoin/blockchain platform intended to allow photographers to protect their work and copyright. will These types of projects will be unlikely to raise the same regulatory and security concerns we are seeing with the cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It will be interesting to follow this story to see just where Bitcoin and blockchain will go.