In Focus: Passive Investing  

Crypto is an asset class, but not as we know it

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

For example, cats and babies are neophobes. Try to get them to eat something new or introduce a new sound: their reaction is as terror-filled as if you unleashed the demigod Zuul from the fourth pit of hell.

So, too, investors and advisers used to working in a structured, regulated environment, where the structure of the product makes sense and there are years of collated data available, are neophobes.

When it comes to crypto, the fact it has not been around long enough to build up a track record is a big sticking-point for regulators and the regulated.

Without proper authorisation and a framework in place that provides protection for investors in the event of fraud or crypto wallet theft, advisers have been cautioning clients not to commit swathes of capital to what is still a volatile and uncertain market. 

That said, there are developments that might make it easier for advisers to provide their clients with exposure to the investment or speculation (whatever you want to call it), such as investment trusts and ETFs that can track the direction of crypto through exposure to synthetics or to companies working in the industry. 

And with familiarity breeding contentment, the increased knowledge of blockchain – the building blocks for cryptocurrency exchange – and ledger technology is making it easier for banks to allow crypto payments as deposits on houses, and dentists to accept crypto payments. 

It is worth putting an aside here on traceability; while it is hard to trace, bitcoin does not make payments anonymous. Blockchain is a public ledger so the address of your crypto wallet is visible to everyone. 

This means it can provide more certainty as to the origin of money than, for example, cash that suddenly arrives in a bank account. On the other hand, it can also mean hackers are able to find and hack into your wallet. 

But just as in the fiat currency world, where scammers and fraudsters prowl and banks work hard to protect customers from theft, so, too, steps are being taken in the cryptocurrency world to protect and secure clients’ virtual money.

And with the rise of ETFs – a regulated investment – starting to offer investors a way to track a basket of synthetic cryptocurrencies without the risks of direct exposure, it will not be long before the FCA starts to allow these or similar products to be promoted to UK retail investors. 

After all, if fund managers such as digital currency asset manager Grayscale Investments can launch five new digital currency investment trusts for accredited investors, why shouldn't ordinary investors soon be able to get their hands on a retail-friendly, FCA-regulated version?