Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are making headlines across the country, and across the world, as investment in the cyber coin market starts to exceed $365 billion this year alone. Yet this massive amount of investment capital is, for the most part, being raised and invested by individuals and small private groups, not by the big Wall Street companies.
But all that may be finally changing as the demand for cryptocurrency options continues to increase with institutional investors. The smart money on Wall Street is not about to be left behind just because bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have had some rough sledding, and bad PR, in the last year or so. In fact, bitcoin exchanges are now offering completely professional and certified trading products that even the most cautious bull or bear will find attractive. But will Wall Street take the bait in a big way? As always, when a new financial gambit is presented to the big institutions, nobody seems to want to be first, but just about everybody is ready to be second.
But there are signs that this glacier-like pace is starting to speed up. Some important investment firms on the Street are making tentative moves towards cryptocurrency experiments. Goldman Sachs, for instance, recently sent out a news release stating they are starting a trading desk for bitcoin. And over at JP Morgan Chase they’ve admitted to searching for a cyber coin expert to take up a desk or two at their main office and handle cryptocurrency strategy. With several crypto based companies like Trecento, CGCX and MillionCoin coming out on a regular basis, its no wonder.
Wall Street is not shy about embracing new technology — no broker today would be caught dead without his or her smartphone — but they like to know ahead of time that a given technology is guaranteed to lead to profits. Is Goldman Sachs’ announcement or JP Morgan Chase’s announcement going to be that watershed moment when the walls come tumbling down and Wall Street embraces the cryptocurrency movement? Most investment and finance experts say it’s still too early to tell — but that the signs are very promising.
Wall Street remains skittish about investing in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for two very good reasons. Security and fraud. Without an absolute guarantee that a bitcoin account will not be hacked and hijacked, institutional investors may have no choice but to decline to play the game. Quite a number of bitcoin exchanges over the past six months have been hacked, even very prominent exchanges with the latest technological safeguards like the so-called Mt. Gox. They had to admit to their clients that over 650 thousand bitcoins had been stolen, and have not been recovered to this day. That’s about five billion dollars at today’s market prices. Drained accounts are no longer front page news, because they continue to happen so frequently. And then there are the numerous startup cryptocoins — with little regulated certification, it’s anyone’s guess how long these new cryptocurrencies will be around, or how much they might make for their investors. That may be okay for Las Vegas, but it gives Wall Street the jitters.
Still, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not going away. They are here to stay, and so the real challenge is to ramp up security and legitimate oversight to the point where Wall Street feels safe about commiting substantial investment amounts.