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How to Discuss Cryptocurrency with Clients

Cryptocurrency remains an emerging phenomenon, and the time has not yet come to endorse or condemn it. With clients seeking investment advice on cryptocurrencies, financial advisors are telling their clients it is highly speculative and to approach with caution. Prior to investing in a cryptocurrency, advisors are having clients consider expanding their investments in top performing mutual funds and ETFs. Clients with a high risk tolerance are more likely to buy a cryptocurrency or crypto ETFs and they should have a clear understanding of what a cryptocurrency is and how the crypto market works.

What is Cryptocurrency?

We believe cryptocurrency is similar to many traded commodities like soybeans, corn, coffee, and sugar. They all have fluctuating values that are impacted by usage, demand, and availability. Cryptocurrency vendors control their own supply, but cannot prevent new vendors from entering the market. There is actually no limit to how much cryptocurrency may be mined. Anybody can enter this industry. According to CoinMarketCap, a crypto tracker, in 2019 there were over 2,100 cryptocurrencies created and today there are at least 5,520 cryptocurrencies available. This is what makes calculating cryptocurrency prices based on usage quite challenging.

There are a number of factors that contribute to cryptocurrency’s fluctuation. Crypto has no backing in the form of a nation, major bank, or precious resource, and there is no guarantee of its base value. Bitcoin, dogecoin, Unobtanium — all these cryptocurrencies are only worth what the market says they’re worth. In 2020 and 2021, expectations that national fiat currencies would undergo devaluation in the wake of COVID-19 (among other factors) led to a surge in the value of crypto as its projected worth increased, only for the latest Chinese vigilance to have the exact opposite effect as expectations clashed with the reality of government intervention.

And such intervention is not likely to stop anytime soon. Governments simply have a lot to lose and not much to gain by allowing the cryptocurrency revolution to supplant their own fiat money, so crypto must rise despite the intervention of some of the world’s most powerful fiscal and temporal institutions. Demand for digital currencies may well erode further if the United States Federal Reserve begins raising interest rates in the near future, and when countries like China and Russia seek to create their own digital currencies with national backing.

Cryptocurrency is a new commodity, and that very novelty contributes to its volatility. Cryptocurrencies don’t have a long track record over which experts can collate massive amounts of data about its inherent trends, risks, and rewards. Investors thus lack the knowledge to make truly informed choices.

Volatility and Speculation

Cryptocurrencies do not accrue interest over time and are now subject to capital gains taxes. This suggests that digital currencies should be considered a speculative trading tool more than anything else. It could potentially offer rich payouts if an investor can manage to buy low and sell high, but carrying the attendant risk of any volatile asset without the guaranteed upside of interest.

Most retail investors understand that investing always carries some degree of risk. For investors that relish the Wild West atmosphere around bitcoin and other digital currencies, advisors have the task of telling their clients that cryptocurrency’s volatility makes it a very speculative asset class and to treat crypto as an alternative investment. As a rule-of-thumb, institutional investors invest less than 1% of their overall assets in alternative investments. Individual investors buying crypto may want to consider their risk tolerance.

The Last Word is Pending

Some things appear to have a value just because they are popular, but as their popularity falters, so does their value. Some people have become overnight millionaires buying cryptocurrencies, and this has driven the demand for investors to get in on the action. The big question remains, “Can cryptocurrency continue to grow in value and is it a good or bad investment?” It remains to be seen if those overnight millionaires will be able to hold on to their wealth. At this time, many factors point to crypto being a highly speculative investment where many investors could find themselves at the short end of the stick.

Christopher Crawford is the Director of Sales & Distribution for the Buffalo Funds. He has over 10 years of experience in the financial services industry, previously holding positions at Invesco, IMA Financial Group, and Arthur J. Gallagher. At the Buffalo Funds, Christopher works with investment consultant relations, key account management, institutional distribution and client service. His main goal is to partner with advisors to bring business building ideas and provide unparalleled customer support to their business, always striving to make it easy and reliable to work with the entire Buffalo Funds investment team. Christopher received an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and a B.S.F.A. from Southern Methodist University. He also holds licenses for the Series 7, Series 63, and Series 65.

Cryptocurrencies could be vulnerable to fraud or cybersecurity risk. Investing in cryptocurrencies is highly speculative and an investor can lose their investment.

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Christopher Crawford
Director, Advisor Relationships