Cryptocurrency is a topic that divides financial nerds.
In one corner there are the fans. Many watch the wild swings in value and share tips with each other for investing, hoping to buy in during a dip and then cash out when it once again hits a wild high.
Others like it for the technology aspects, the possibility of payments made without a country's government getting involved, the relative anonymity of payments.
Anarchism with a side of riches. Why not?
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All types of crypto fans cheer when their king, Elon Musk, tweets that Tesla is investing into Bitcoin.
But in the opposing corner are the sceptics, and some of them are truly, deeply, sceptical.
Chief among them has to be the Indian government. They're in the midst of a process to ban all cryptocurrencies, while simultaneously launching their own national version.
It would seem their problem with the technology, then, is mostly whether they can control it.
The sceptics also have a sizeable number from the investing world, who see it as a wildly speculative investment, that isn't linked to any production of value, and so is mostly hype at this point.
Cards on the table, you can count me among that number.
I do think there's a future for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, I just don't see what it is just yet.
When I invest into shares, I invest into a company that is producing something of value that people will pay for. The way I'm making money is clear, and I understand it.
Meanwhile, these cryptocurrencies haven't found a mainstream use yet, so the investing strategy seems to be just "buy some and hope some other sucker buys into the hype and is willing to pay more than I was". That's not an investing strategy that's for me.
But I do still understand some of where the fans are coming from.
Most of the biggest coins like Bitcoin offer more autonomy than the standard "fiat" currencies, or currency issued by a particular country's government.
They're not issued by a central bank or government, and in theory this gives users more freedom to decide how and where they spend their money.
They also offer more anonymity than other digital forms of payment.
It's not truly secret, as transactions are recorded in the blockchain and could eventually be traced back to you. But it's far more anonymous than paying by credit card.
These are genuine points of difference for cryptocurrencies, that could see them find a mainstream use in the future.
These user drawcards are the exact reasons why banks, governments and other regulators are wary of cryptocurrencies.
India choosing to ban them draws a line in the sand, and make no mistake, other governments will be watching to see how that plays out.
Here in New Zealand, mainstream banks have refused to provide accounts to certain cryptocurrency traders, saying it puts them at risk of breaching the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.
Cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia was kicked out of its New Zealand bank in 2018, and that's before the 2019 hack which saw $24 million of digital currency stolen, in what's regarded as the biggest theft in New Zealand history.
Cryptopia is now in liquidation.
So, while it's a fascinating area that certainly has a future, you can see why I have hesitation.
To me, the biggest question mark is how regulators will approach crypto in the future.
How many will be inspired by India, and seek to ban it entirely?
Will they simply make it so difficult to trade, that it never reaches the possibilities it could have if it slipped into mainstream use?
Or will a truce finally be agreed between the centralised powers that be, and those who want to operate outside of their control?
This column is general information only, and not individual financial advice.
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