Wednesday 18 November 2020 11:38 am

Why the pandemic and the coming economic downturn will accelerate Bitcoin’s adoption

In October this year, Mode floated on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market.

Two weeks later, we decided to allocate a portion of the money we raised to purchase Bitcoin as part of our treasury strategy. In doing so, we became the first plc in the UK to officially announce the diversification of our reserves into Bitcoin. Other companies in the US had already made this move. Square, the payments company founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had already done this, as had business intelligence group Microstrategy. Together, they poured almost half a billion dollars of their cash reserves into Bitcoin.

The COVID pandemic and the efforts of policymakers to combat its economic impact have triggered another massive round of money printing. Here in Britain, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s support schemes have dramatically increased the country’s debt burden. So far, the UK has borrowed £175bln more than last year, pushing our debt-to-GDP ratio to 103%, the highest level since 1960. And there’s more to come as the Chancellor has bounced into extending his furlough scheme deep into 2021. These debt levels increase the chance of higher inflation and debasement of the pound. When the government announces such quantitative easing plans, you don’t need a degree in economics to begin to worry. If money can be created so easily, what value does it truly hold? More importantly, how will it hold value in future?

We believe that crisis we’re living today highlights the need for change and the need to be prepared for the future. Like Matt Huang said in May this year in his “Bitcoin for the Open-Minded Skeptic” paper:

Financial crises stress the limits of existing systems and can highlight the need for new ones. This was true during the financial crisis of 2008 (out of which Bitcoin was born), and it is perhaps more true today with the unprecedented levels of monetary and fiscal stimulus being pursued by governments worldwide”.

We believe that the pandemic and the coming economic downturn will accelerate the adoption of Bitcoin. Today, the world is showing signs of distrust towards the current financial system. Faith in the dollar, euro, pound and other government-backed currencies has been severely weakened and is unlikely to be restored anytime soon. Thus, the likelihood of more public companies and institutional investors diversifying their reserves into Bitcoin is increasing. And with the number of publicly listed companies holding the digital asset on their balance sheets increasing, so will its reach. A few years ago, no one would have imagined a country’s pension fund being exposed to Bitcoin. Yet today this is a reality in Norway where the government’s ownership stake in MicroStrategy means Norwegian pension owners are indirectly invested in the number one digital asset, Bitcoin. This is a huge step forward that will have long-lasting effects for the entire digital asset industry.

Critical to Bitcoin’s success will also be its growing acceptance by everyday investors and savers. In the UK alone, according to the FCA’s latest report, the number of crypto asset buyers has almost doubled since 2019 (an estimated 2.6 million UK consumers have bought crypto as of today), indicating strong growth over the last 12 months. Yet, as interest rates hover close to zero and the Bank of England intimates that they may remain there for some time, potentially even going negative in the near future, the growth of crypto asset holders may pick up at a significant pace. Since earlier this year, holding cash as a yielding asset is no longer an option for most savers, which is already pushing many to look for alternative options to grow their wealth. Bitcoin’s long-term investment attributes together with its potential for generating a return (through crypto lending), as well as recent price gains, have begun to attract the attention of retail investors.

Furthermore, receiving support from billion-dollar blue chip companies such as Paypal, which recently announced that customers will be able to buy and sell crypto using their PayPal accounts, will also be critical in helping solidify Bitcoin’s position in the market and ultimately contributing to the asset class’s growth and maturity.

Corporate buy-in, retail buy-in, what about institutional and regulatory buy-in? To be sure, US, European and UK regulators have been slow to accept and support crypto but important progress has been made. Last month SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said the US financial watchdog was actively considering crypto ETFs, which would pave the way for more retail and institutional investors to dip their toes into the world of digital assets. EU regulators are considering new rules that would require banks to hold more capital against their crypto investments. And let’s not forget the UK’s FCA giving the green light for the first UK IPO of a digital fintech offering crypto (Mode!). Growing acceptance of Bitcoin will grow the overall size of the asset. That in turn could attract the attention of central banks who need to diversify and hedge their reserves. Bitcoin’s $200 billion market cap makes that hard right now, compared to the sheer size of the bullion market at $9 trillion. But that could change.

COVID-19 and government plans to mitigate the effects of the pandemic have laid a clearer path for Bitcoin to play a pivotal role in the digital economy of the future and have already dramatically accelerated its presence among investment portfolios. The prospect of continued growth is getting stronger every day and the idea of central banks coming to view Bitcoin as a complement to their gold holdings does not seem that distant anymore. If we look back, Bitcoin was merely a far-fetched idea for many, and look at where we are now. Many things can happen from here on. 

For further information visit https://modebanking.com

Jonathan Rowland has been entrepreneur since the mid-90’s. He led some of his family investments in many FinTech ventures, including an early investment in ZOPA in 2005, led the post-crisis restructuring of Kauphting Bank Luxembourg, renamed Banque Havilland, and was CEO between 2009 and 2013. In 2017, he co-founded Redwood Bank, a technology-driven SME lender in the UK, where he currently serves as a Non-Executive Director. Jonathan has been involved in a number of Public Companies including Jellyworks PLC that was listed on AIM in 1999 and sold eight months later to Shore Capital Plc. Jonathan is now the Executive Chairman of his latest business, LSE-listed fintech group Mode. Mode is an emerging UK fintech disruptor building a next-generation ecosystem for consumers and businesses, combining the best of payments, investment, loyalty and digital assets. Mode is run by an experienced team with over 200 years of operational experience, across 30 years of downturn and boom markets, building successful financial and technology-based businesses.

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