Cryptocurrency North America

Highlights: Consensus by CoinDesk 2021

Cryptocurrencies have taken off in the last few years. They’ve gone from being merely a forgotten niche to one of the most popular, mainstream commodities. Crypto has seen its highs and lows, as valuations have plummeted and skyrocketed at a moments notice. CoinDesk hosted an event, Consensus 2021, to encompass all things crypto: the four-day experience brought together more than 10,000 attendees across a variety of educational panels, workshops, keynotes, fire-side chats, networking experiences and more for an up-close look at the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, the excesses and the optimism of crypto. 

Some notable keynote speakers included Dr. Lael Brainard, Ray Dalio, Lawrence H. Summers and Cathie Wood amongst many more.

Ray Dalio gave a lot of food for thought when discussing Bitcoin and the state of crypto. He made it clear that crypto’s value is something that will only grow as he stated “cash is trash”, and that “I have some bitcoin.” Dalio is not alone in his views of the declining value of the dollar – many have started to see the value in cryptocurrency, especially during the pandemic, as it was seen as a short term solution to bolstering one’s funds.

“There exists the possibility that bitcoin and its competitors can fill that growing need,” for an alternative store of value, Dalio wrote in January. Having announced his initial scepticism towards digital currency before, he is now a strong believer in it.

As Dalio sees it, currency supremacy moves in three “cycles” that may occur simultaneously: the creation of debt and financial assets; an “internal cohesiveness clash cycle” (“as the wealth gaps grow and the value gaps grow – and political groups grow – you have a greater amount of conflict”); and the rise of another great power to challenge the existing top currency.

Another notable keynote was Dr. Lael Brainard, who spoke about central bank digital currencies (CBDC). “I do believe that in the context where we maintain the role of safe central bank money as a foundation for the payment system, there’s a lot of room for competition and innovation to flourish,” she said. Any innovation had to be spread across the industry – it was not something a singular company should hold on to she said, arguing that they should help develop the standards around cross-border payment systems, which CBDCs could provide.

“Unlike central bank fiat currencies, stablecoins do not have legal tender status,” Brainard said, “Depending on underlying arrangements, some may expose consumers and businesses to risk… It is not obvious that new forms of private money that reference fiat currency, like stablecoins, can carry the same level of protection as bank deposits or fiat currency.”

Brainard pointed out the Federal Reserve Banks which were making moves towards CBDC inclusion and innovation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is examining how a CBDC can boost financial inclusion, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston plans to publish its first white paper detailing its research around central bank digital currencies this summer and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is launching a public-private sector collaboration as a Special Committee on Payments Inclusion to ensure that cash-based and vulnerable populations can safely access and benefit from digital payments.

A surprise guest was announced on the final day of the event. Former New England Patriot and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Tom Brady took to the stage and spoke about his views on crypto.

“In our quarterback room one of my coaches has been on it for eight/nine months, so we talk about it every day. the prices of different tokens and how the space is doing. It’s something that’s on all of our minds.

“I’m a big believer in it [crypto] and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.” He likened the crypto space to his own health brand. “I wanted to start a business that was based around the teachings that I had as an athlete… A lot of people will see you as an outlier you’re doing something different until they adopt and go wow this is amazing – this is a great contribution!”

In the same way he received some backlash about starting his own company, Brady argues those who supported and still support crypto despite its current turbulence should stick through it, because once it becomes adopted by the masses, they will see its usefulness.



  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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