Traditional investors and bitcoin (BTC) boosters may not be all that different in their thinking anymore.
As cryptocurrency enters its second decade, traditional investors are still skeptical about it but find themselves paying more attention to bitcoin and its movements, according to a recent survey. “We’re seeing two worlds colliding,” Nolan Bauerle, CoinDesk’s director of research, said during a webinar last week.
CoinDesk and Dow Jones publication MarketWatch surveyed two pools of cryptocurrency-focused and more traditional investors for their joint “Crypto Sentiment Study.” About 20 percent of each 1,600-person survey group was accredited investors.
One surprise: About 40 percent of traditional investors surveyed believe bitcoin is more trustworthy than bank protocols.
It’s important to note the survey was conducted before the announcements that traditional financial players Fidelity and New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange are working on their own cryptocurrency trading exchanges, making questions about the arrival of institutional money somewhat moot. More interesting, however, is how the views of these once vastly different groups are converging on several key points.
Traditional Investors: Skeptical but Interested
More than half of the pool of traditional investors don’t own bitcoin and aren’t interested in doing so. Some 57 percent believe bitcoin is simply too risky to buy, compared with just 10 percent of the crypto-focused respondents. There’s a tell in the survey data, however: Traditional investors are almost as likely as their crypto counterparts to check bitcoin prices daily.
“They’re supposedly not interested, [but] they’re checking prices as frequently” as more crypto-focused investors, said Andrew Neary, Dow Jones customer intelligence director, during the webinar. That’s not reflective “of an audience saying no, not ever,” he added.
However, there’s one clear point of divergence. Traditional investors are far less interested in altcoins or anything other than bitcoin. In their eyes, “bitcoin is a bit of a synonym for cryptocurrency,” Neary said. Conversely, the outsized interest in bitcoin among more cryptocurrency-aware investors is likely due to their knowledge of the faults of other coins, he added.
Nearly half (about 40 percent) of traditional investors believe that institutional money will largely stay away from cryptocurrency. That, Bauerle said, suggests they believe “that this thing doesn’t have legs.”
Majorities of both groups believe government regulations represent the largest obstacle to cryptocurrency adoption. They also agreed this summer’s statements by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission officials defining ether (ETH) as a utility token weren’t enough to resolve the ongoing uncertainty around regulation.
The Price Isn’t Right
Another area of agreement between traditional and crypto-focused investors is today’s market values of non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies don’t reflect their true value, with around 60 percent of both audiences agreeing with that statement.
Their reasoning diverged sharply, however, with slightly more than half of traditional investors believing they’re overvalued while similar proportions of crypto-focused investors saying they’re undervalued. The latter group “believes everything’s a bargain right now,” said Bauerle, while traditional investors are more likely to believe “the bubble hasn’t receded to its maximum depth.”
Both groups of investors also challenged stubborn stereotypes. For example, a surprisingly large number of crypto-focused investors believe a government-sponsored “fedcoin” is more likely to upend fiat currencies than decentralized currencies like bitcoin.
“That makes my head spin,” said Bauerle. “For a lot of people in this space, that was the point… [They] don’t want a central bank-issued currency…. especially the early people who got involved for those political reasons.” Majorities of both investor groups, however, say they’re not at all interested in fedcoins, and traditional investors believe it’s unlikely that the dollar will ever be upended.
Another surprise: About 40 percent of traditional investors surveyed believe bitcoin is more trustworthy than bank protocols. “That’s real progress for the bitcoin story,” said Neary. When asked whether they’d rather have $1,000 in blue-chip stocks, gold, bitcoin or mutual funds, bitcoin, not bullion, came in a close second to blue-chip stocks.