It may not feel like it, but cryptocurrency is now a legitimate institutional investment option. This is the position of global financial giant Morgan Stanley, which recently published (in pdf) the results of a study regarding cryptocurrency’s evolution.
In an update to its “Bitcoin Decrypted: A Brief Teach-In and Implications” report, the company looked at the last six months of Bitcoin Core (BTC) and pointed out several trends seen with the cryptocurrency. The report’s authors described what they call a “rapidly morphing thesis” of the crypto market, which began with BTC begin defined as “digital cash” in 2016. From there, it morphed into an alternative that would overcome certain limitations of the financial system and then proceeded to become a new payment system. It has now evolved further and is a verified institutional investment asset class.
The ecosystem has evolved, explains the authors, due to several factors. Several high-profile hacks, the recording of all transactions on a permanent ledger, new options that are cheaper than BTC and market volatility are just a few that have forced cryptocurrency’s evolutionary cycle.
That evolution has resulted in the determination that crypto is a “new institutional investment class,” a designation it has held for about a year. Looking at strictly the amount of assets that are currently held under management, there is certainly some legitimacy to the assertion. Currently, there is around $7.11 billion worth of crypto being managed by a variety of financial firms, including private equity and venture capital firms, as well as a number of hedge funds.
Crypto as an institutional investment is more than likely going to evolve even further. Fidelity Investments said in September that it would launch cryptocurrency products by the end of the year. Additionally, Bakkt, the crypto trading platform that was born out of a collaborative effort between the Intercontinental Exchange, Starbucks and Microsoft, is expected to go live this December.
Morgan Stanley did offer a word of caution, however. It noted that regulatory uncertainty, a lack of participation by large financial institutions and a lack of regulated custodians is keeping a large number of investors away. The entrance of Fidelity and Bakkt into the ecosystem should go a long way to overcome these concerns.