By Konstantin Zaripov, Co-founder & Managing Director, Nebeus
Banking traditionalists have long expressed disdain towards the development of cryptocurrencies. We’re warned not to trust cryptos such as Bitcoin. Arguments range from their having no ‘tangible’ value, to scare stories about the fragility of the market. But the belief that the old system will prevail is not only misinformed, but damaging; it stops us from properly embracing and educating ourselves about an inclusive, financial future. And this could have serious, long-term implications.
It is true that Bitcoin is technically valueless, but then so is a £10 note. All finance is built upon belief. Howard Marks, co-founder of Oaktree Capital, once said in an argument against cryptocurrencies; “digital currencies are nothing but a fad […] based on a willingness to ascribe value to something that has little or none beyond what people will pay for it.” But that’s how all currency works. The value of our currency has been built upon a collective belief in the value of gold – a material with no intrinsic worth. Therefore, since previous and current systems are grounded in nothing but belief, it seems reasonable that we can direct this same belief towards valuing a new, digital currencies and a new way of tracking their transactions.
It would be naive to think this can happen overnight. Trust in any new system takes time to establish itself; be it political, social or financial. The public needs reassurance, but this can only come with increased exposure and familiarity with the burgeoning digital economy. The more we refuse to embrace it, the scarier it will become.
Whenever we’re introduced to new technology – whether it’s the latest smartphone, laptop or AI driven robot – familiarity and acceptance comes from increased exposure and understanding. Until recently, cryptocurrencies were generally inaccessible, as retailers worried about their fluctuating values, and they were only embraced by early adopters and speculators. But now, with over 1,600 cryptocurrencies in existence, we’re starting to see a shift. P2P crypto loans are opening up new routes of finance. People across the world are dabbling in crypto trading. Even retailers are starting to reconsider their previous assessments; we’re seeing crypto cards, such as the Nebeus card, being introduced into mainstream society as a way of bridging crypto and fiat finance.
Why do we need to embrace a tech-led financial future? Well, for one, people don’t trust the traditional financial sector: they’re concerned with fraud, greed and potential gross negligence due to a lack of safeguarding with current banking. The crash of 2008 brought confidence in the sector to an all time low that never recovered. Transparency, openness and fair-play are attractive elements to any mainstream banking system. Add to that the 2 billion people globally who are unable to access mainstream finance, and a new way of doing things starts to look pretty attractive.
But change is scary. The terminology of blockchain and cryptos is pretty confusing to most. What should be welcomed as an exciting evolution is shied away from due to lack of understanding. Yet the change is happening and will continue to gather pace, leaving those who don’t engage with it behind the times and blocked off from potentially life-changing forms of finance.
Whilst the lexicon and tech behind it might be confusing, the aims and objectives of the new financial reality are nothing to be scared of. It’s time for school, governments, tech leaders, and traditional banking establishments to start demystifying this space. It’s time to embrace the future of finance or risk getting left behind.