Monday 11 February 2019 4:23 am

DEBATE: As London Blockchain Week kicks off, will people ever feel safe buying their groceries in bitcoin?

As London Blockchain Week kicks off, will people ever feel safe buying their groceries in bitcoin?

Dr James Smith, co-founder and chief executive of Elliptic, a cryptocurrency intelligence agency, says YES.

Cryptocurrencies are in still their early stages, used more as an investment and tradeable asset than as a form of money, and a lot of infrastructure still needs to be built. But they will eventually be fundamental to our financial system.

Services that enable trusted interaction and which provide people with the safety to transact across borders are an essential building block for this new, inclusive financial system – and we’re developing them now.

Some big-name businesses are already accepting bitcoin, from Virgin Galactic to Expedia and Wikipedia. The list will only expand as the technology becomes more mainstream.

Whether the future of currency is bitcoin, a crypto-pound, or some other form of cryptocurrency remains to be seen. But will ordinary people one day feel safe transacting in digital tokens rather than cash? Yes, absolutely.

Fergal McGovern, chief executive of VisibleThread, says NO.

No, not until there is full transparency. The most important aspect of any financial product is trust. That starts with clear communication of what it is, how it works, and the risks involved.

Our research into cryptocurrency marketing has uncovered lots of confusing messages, and the lack of clarity confirms the public’s suspicion that crypto may be a con.

The cryptocurrency market portrays itself as the decentralised, equitable alternative to the establishment’s opaque banking systems. However, with bitcoin trading at just 20 per cent of its highest value, what role has poor communication played in creating this blockchain bubble?

Until cryptos improve communication standards, most people will see them as a playground for techies, not a legitimate way to pay for the weekly shop. Similarly, high street retailers won’t put effort into championing a largely unregulated system which is failing to win consumer trust.

Communication is the bedrock of trust. Cryptos have to get this basic right before they can hope for mainstream success.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.