Wednesday 18 September 2019 12:01 am

Brits curious about cryptocurrencies but still keen on cash, survey finds

Members of the public are curious about the possibilities offered by cryptocurrencies, but cash is likely to remain king for the foreseeable future with the vast majority consumers wanting it to remain in use, a new study has found.

Just 20 per cent of British people would prefer it if cash no longer existed, according to a survey by ING, which also found that many members of the public are still confused about how exactly cryptocurrencies work.

Read more: Global authorities to quiz Facebook on Libra

Those who were keen to abandon cash completely were more likely to be male, young, and have a higher income, the study found.

Although 69 per cent of the 15,000 adults surveyed understood that cryptocurrencies are a form of digital currency, the majority either (incorrectly) thought cryptocurrencies were controlled by a central body or said they did not know.

“People aren’t clamouring to understand the details of how cryptocurrencies work, or even what they are,” said ING behavioural scientist Jessica Exton.

“While small groups are enthusiastic about their future use of cryptocurrencies,” Exton continued, “everyday relevance and demonstrated benefits will be key to turning the crypto curiosity… into a true money revolution.”

The study also revealed significant discrepancies in UK respondents’ attitudes towards cryptocurrencies. Opinions were split among the 79 per cent of UK respondents who knew at least a little about the subject. Almost a third (32 per cent) said they had high expectations for cryptocurrencies, but 28 per cent reported having low expectations.

Just over a fifth (21 per cent) of Britons thought cryptocurrencies were the future of online spending, significantly behind the European average of 32 per cent.

A similar proportion of Brits (21 per cent) said they were open to receiving cryptocurrency offerings from familiar brands, and agreed that banks should offer crypto current accounts.

ING economist Teunis Brosens said affiliation with well-known brands could help cryptocurrency “gain trust and acceptance beyond a core group of enthusiasts”.

“In short, cryptocurrency would need to present itself to potential users from within the existing financial framework, instead of placing itself outside,” Brosens added.

The future of cryptocurrencies has been a hotly-debated topic recently, with social media giant Facebook unveiling its proposed Libra digital currency in June.

Libra is one of a new breed of asset-backed cryptocurrencies known as ‘stablecoins’, designed to avoid the wild price fluctuations seen by coins such as Bitcoin, but there has been a sustained backlash against the plans from regulators across the globe.

Watchdogs and lawmakers have expressed concerns over Libra’s potential impact on the global financial system and the possibility of it being used for money laundering.

Read more: France plans to block Facebook libra in Europe

“We cannot accept a parallel currency”, said German finance minister Olaf Scholz yesterday during a panel discussion.

Bank of France governor and European Central Bank (ECB) board member François Villeroy de Galhau said yesterday that although ‘stablecoins’ are “quite different from speculative assets like Bitcoins,” regulators “will have to keep a very close eye at the global level”.

“Believe me, we will do it,” said de Galhau.