There is one question regarding cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, that has continued to baffle many, and has caused some skepticism amongst market commentators, namely what is the fundamental value of these assets?
Bitcoin, still by far the largest cryptocurrency that exists, is not a good store of value because the price of a bitcoin is so volatile. As a result, it functions poorly as a currency, after all, no one wants to buy something worth $100 with bitcoins if those same bitcoins are going to be worth $200 a few months later and no one wants to sell an item worth $100 for bitcoins, because those coins could be worth $50 shortly after the transaction.
Even as a means of moving funds, bitcoin has been eclipsed by other cryptocurrencies where the network is capable of processing more transactions at a higher speed and without some of the massive energy consumption concerns associated with bitcoin.
It’s not necessarily a good store of value, it’s not particularly good for making transactions and there are more efficient options in terms of making payments and moving funds. Which leads back to the question – what is the value of bitcoin?
This was a question that speakers attempted to address at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference.
“The value of the network, you can argue, is measured in the hash power – that’s the amount of electricity that the miners are putting in to secure the network,” said Michael Moro, CEO of Genesis Trading, a liquidity provider in the crypto markets. “The miners do this at great cost simply because of the financial incentive they have to secure the transactions because of two things: one is the possibility of winning a bitcoin block as a reward for securing the transaction, and two…there’s transaction fees, which are the fees that are tacked onto every single bitcoin transmission…The security and the power of the network is imminently tied to the actual value of the token itself. Otherwise, the miners have no financial incentive to do this and I would argue that if the price of bitcoin were much, much lower, then the power of the network would be that much lower as well.”
Sean Cumby, CIO of 3iQ, a cryptoasset investment firm, agreed that the value of these assets lies in the networks that they create.
“One analogy I would use is: if you go back 30 years ago, what was the value of wireless spectrum? You had two engineers trying to talk to each other over the airwaves, they weren’t even dialing, they were like tuning a big box so that they could secure a transmission. The value was very little when the network was two. Bring us [to] today, what’s the value of mobile use spectrum? It’s enormous,” he said.
Cumby added: “We’re really early in all of this. It is going to evolve, just as mobile telephones evolved, just as the Internet evolved, it’s the same thing. We have not yet truly disrupted this massive rent seeking platform of banks and payment systems, but that’s literally what this whole technology of Bitcoin, blockchain and crypto is setting out to do…..So there is value in the network, absolutely.”
David Mercer, CEO of LMAX Exchange, which recently launched a platform for trading cryptocurrencies, agreed that it’s still early days for crypto trading and cautioned against trying to pigeonhole a market that is still evolving.
“I don’t have to care about the value of sterling or euros or yen or gold or bitcoin, but people are trading it,” he said. “From a personal perspective, I think it’s a very exciting experiment. I have no idea which digital asset is going to win, but we all know that 10, 20 years from now, we’re going to be using one or other of these blockchains or probably many of them, but right now I know I have what’s becoming a liquid asset class. People want to trade it, FX traders want to trade it.”
Mercer continued: “I think the journalists as well have a duty of care to this industry. Do not try and pigeonhole something which is very much at the early stage. The crypto world is far from perfect, it evolves every single day. I, for one, am very excited about LMAX Digital’s position in that marketplace to see if we can help it evolve, to see if we can help create efficient, fair, transparent market structure. So I think we all in this room need to embrace it. But frankly, I don’t know of any real good store of value in the world.”