Belfast Telegraph

Why financial experts think world currency Bitcoin will be worth billions

By Adrian Weckler

You're selling your three-bed semi-detached house. Your asking price is £400,000. Would you accept 200 bitcoins instead? Reuben Godfrey says he would.

The director of the Blockchain Association of Ireland is bullish about the current state of the world's most popular crypto-currency, which has tripled in value so far this year.

"I believe the eventual value of Bitcoin will be 50 or 100 times what it is now," he says.

"There are only ever going to be 21 million Bitcoins in existence. At the moment, it represents a negligible value of international global wealth. But in future it could be many, many billions."

In case you missed it, Bitcoin is booming. Its value has soared almost 300% so far in 2017 and by 400% in the last 12 months.

What is behind the extraordinary sudden rise in value of the eight-year-old crypto-currency? And will it last?

Experts say that a combination of user trust, utility and regulatory acceptance are the main components behind Bitcoin's sustained rise.

"It has gained roots and looks like it may be here to stay," says David Dalton, head of Deloitte's Irish financial services business.

"You can almost see this as an emerging asset class, something that's become a vestable asset."

What has happened is that the number of people and organisations willing to assign value to Bitcoin is increasing and deepening.

Just as significantly, the underpinning technology behind Bitcoin - blockchain - is now being considered for much more mainstream financial services.

"Blockchain technology is progressing rapidly," says Mr Dalton. "There's a huge amount of interest by financial services companies like banks and insurance firms."

Dalton heads a Deloitte 'lab' in Dublin with 25 people working on financial pilot projects, with some including blockchain technology.

"We built a trading finance prototype with five banks in Hong Kong to help blockchain improve their processes," he says. "Industries outside financial services have started to get on board too, especially in areas of supply chain."

Cynics might say that underworld activities have played no small part in the continued usage of Bitcoin.

Last month's Wannacry ransomware outbreak, which crippled hospitals and other organisations in Britain and around the world, was partially sustained by the ability to receive ransom payments in untraceable Bitcoin. The virtual currency has undeniably become an important crutch for cyber-criminals.

However, crypto-currency experts say that this narrative is overblown. "To say that Bitcoin is a criminal currency is preposterous," says Reuben Godfrey.

"It's a negligible amount involved. If you look at the Wannacry episode, I think it was in the region of $100,000 that was paid over, a tiny, negligible sum in international crime. Criminals use all sorts of currencies, so to link it all with Bitcoin is ridiculous."

One big challenge 'virtual' currencies have is credibility. Sceptics point out there is no sovereign backing the standard, no central bank, no vault of gold.

This, they argue, presents a long-term trust issue for those thinking of jumping into Bitcoin or other crypto-currencies.

Bitcoin advocates acknowledge the point but say there are already enough people who accept crypto-currencies to make it viable.

Belfast Telegraph