BlockFi’s First Independent Director, Former CFTC Chair Chris Giancarlo, Quits Board After Just 4 Months

BlockFi’s First Independent Director, Former CFTC Chair Chris Giancarlo, Quits Board After Just 4 Months

Former chief US commodities regulator Christopher Giancarlo has made an exit from the board of directors of crypto lending firm BlockFi after four months, the company said on Wednesday.

“We appreciate the wisdom that Chris has imparted in his formal capacity as a Board member,” said Zac Prince, CEO, and Founder of BlockFi.

Giancarlo has been replaced by Ellen-Blair Chube, a managing director at William Blair, but he will continue to provide strategic counsel to the firm in an advisory role.

“BlockFi is an institution that is critical to the broader crypto ecosystem. I’m looking forward to continuing to advise this impressive group of leaders as they work to bridge the worlds of traditional finance and blockchain technology,” said Giancarlo in a statement.

The reason why Giancarlo has resigned from his position in BlockFi wasn’t shared by the company. He was the first independent director of BlockFi’s board.

During his tenure as chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Giancarlo was known as ‘Crypto Dad’ for his crypto-friendly views. He has also co-founded the Digital Dollar project.

Great Turmoil

BlockFi has been going through a turbulent past few months as it faced an onslaught of legal issues. As we reported, multiple US states issued a warning against the company’s flagship BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIA), alleging they were unregistered securities.

The company stopped onboarded new accounts in the states and warned that it could be forced to do so “worldwide” if its New Jersey case isn’t resolved, whose thrice-delayed cease-and-desist order takes effect at the end of the month.

The firm is also planning to go public as soon as 2022 after a potential $500 million Series E funding round at a roughly $5 billion valuation. Reportedly, lead investor Third Point LLC has pulled out following its ongoing fight with regulators.

Amidst this, yet again, BlockFi slashed the rates on crypto holdings for the fourth time this year. Starting Sept. 1st, rates and tiers are changed for Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Chainlink (LINK), PAX Gold (PAXG), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Uniswap (UNI), and Stablecoins (BUSD, DAI, GUSD, PAX, USDC, and USDT) holdings in the BlockFi Interest Account (BIA).

“Tier 1 rates for all cryptocurrencies are increasing. By our estimates, close to 75% of clients will see an increase in their APY,” noted the company, which said the rates are set based on “market dynamics for lending and borrowing.”

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Author: AnTy

Merrill Lynch’s Former ETF Boss to be the Head of its Newly Created Crypto Assets Initiative

Merrill Lynch’s Former ETF Boss to be the Head of its Newly Created Crypto Assets Initiative

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s former head of exchange-traded products (ETF) will be leading the bank’s newly created digital assets initiative, including crypto strategies.

Mark Donoghue was previously leading the ETP and SMA group at the firm but has been given a new role during the second quarter to serve as head of digital trading within the wider investment products group aimed at defining and executing the wealth management strategy related to digital assets, reported Citywire.

However, so far, no crypto-related offerings are available to the advisors and users of the bank.

A spokesperson for Merrill Lynch confirmed that this division is separate from the cryptocurrency research team, which is part of the bank’s global research group, lead by Alkesh Shah, that provides company views, investment insights, and economic forecasts. A spokesman for Merrill Lynch said,

“These moves highlight our continued focus on talent mobility, as well as our strong commitment to product and trading innovation within our wealth management business”

Recently, BofA became a new strategic investor along with FTX, Coinbase Ventures, and Founders Fund in New York-based Paxos’ $300 million Series D funding that it raised three months back.

With this, the investment giant has joined its competitors. JPMorgan started to pitch an in-house private Bitcoin fund to its wealthy investors just this week after announcing in July that it would make five crypto funds available to all of its wealth management clients. Morgan Stanley also made three bitcoin-focused funds available to its wealth management clients in March.

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Author: AnTy

FTX.US Hires Former CFTC Attorney, Who Served as SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s General Counsel

FTX.US Hires Former CFTC Attorney, Who Served as SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s General Counsel

This new addition is to help the growing crypto exchange expand in the US, where it aims to become the “market-leading” platform by volume “over the next two years.”

Amidst the ongoing growing regulatory scrutiny over the cryptocurrency market, crypto exchange FTX.US has hired Ryne Miller as its General Counsel.

“I am really excited to join the FTX.US team. We will be working alongside U.S. regulators to bring regulated digital asset markets to U.S. customers,” said Miller, who joins FTX.US from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, where he was the co-head of its Commodities, Futures & Derivatives practice.

The former attorney at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where he served as legal counsel to current SEC Chairman Gary Gensler, Miller has extensive experience in securities and derivatives.

“We’re excited to have Ryne join the team and guide us through the evolving regulatory landscape of cryptocurrencies and derivatives. His industry expertise and leadership will be critical as we forge cooperative working relationships with US regulators amid the expansion of our businesses,” said Brett Harrison, President of FTX.US.

In its official announcement, FTX.US describes itself as a regulated crypto exchange that aims to “become the market-leading US cryptocurrency exchange by volume over the next two years.”

Crypto market participants actually characterizes FTX’s legal and regulatory competence as “an enormously under-appreciated moat.” It is especially of importance in the current environment when the industry is growing fast, institutions are coming in a herd, and regulators don’t want to have it remain an unregulated “Wild West.”

Besides leading the regulatory landscape, FTX is also among the very few, if not the only company to have amped up its marketing efforts substantially.

In its attest efforts, FTX has signed a partnership with League Championship Series (LCS) to become its official crypto exchange.

“Our seven-year partnership with FTX represents the largest sponsorship agreement Riot has ever signed for an esports league,” reads the official statement.

Starting this weekend, FTX branding will appear on the LCS broadcast around the most valuable currency in League of Legends: Gold. The exchange will also directly sponsor the LCS Most Improved Player Award.

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Author: AnTy

ECB Promises to Pump Money; IMF Praises Fed for Being ‘Highly Effective’ at Overshooting 2% Inflation

Amidst this, former BitMEX CEO talks about an investor’s ability to really outperform $4.72 trillion of money created out of thin air in 2021.

European Central Bank (ECB) keeps its monetary policy steady and will continue to be more accommodative for a more extended period.

The central bank has committed to purchasing 1.85 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion) of bonds until March 2022, and policymakers voted to keep this stimulus injection into the market going for the time being.

Interest rates were also left unchanged, with that on the primary deposit facility remaining at 0.5%, the benchmark refinancing rate at 0%, and the marginal lending facility at 0.25%.

Additionally, ECB said it wanted to see inflation stabilizing at 2% over the medium terms adding, this may also imply a transitory period where inflation is “moderately above target.”

Prices rose 1.9% this year to June in the 19-member euro bloc, down from 2% this year to May, which has the ECB expecting inflation to drop, forecasting a decrease of 1.5% – 1.4% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

The central bank had changed its guidance “to underline our commitment to maintain a persistently accommodative monetary policy stance to meet our inflation target,” said ECB President Christine Lagarde.

“There is still a long way to go before the damage to the economy caused by the pandemic is offset.”

On Friday, ECB member Francois Villeroy de Galhau, who is also the governor of the Bank of France, said it was justified to keep an accommodative monetary policy for now.

Villeroy also said that the ECB sees the midpoint of its forecast horizon for a 2% inflation target coming in around 12-18 months in the eurozone.

Fed “Highly Effective”

As for the US, the Federal Reserve has started to talk about tapering, but Chair Jerome Powell has assured that it is “still a ways off,” and President Joe Biden gave the Fed his blessing to “take whatever steps necessary” to support a strong economy.

The International Monetary Fund’s Executive Board also commended the Fed for being “highly effective” at managing the COVID-l9 crisis and supporting recovery with its commitment to overshoot a 2% inflation target in the near term.

While raising concerns about higher interest rates that will drain capital flows from emerging markets, the board also said that the Fed must carefully communicate its thinking to ensure the eventual withdrawal of monetary accommodation. The IMF said this scaling back,

 “will require deft communications, under a potentially tight timeline, to avoid market misunderstandings, volatility in market pricing, and/or an unwarranted tightening in financial conditions.”

The Fund’s board also said that the US should prioritize spending towards programs that have the most significant impact on productivity and that more could be done to boost tax revenues.

“Don’t Get Shook.”

In 2021, a total of $4.72 trillion has been created out of thin air, collectively in the US, China, and EU. “If the quantum of money increases, it must go somewhere,” noted Arthur Hayes, former BitMEX CEO, in his latest write-up.

“The Fed has removed $1.4 trillion of the highest quality collateral from the system…Whatever anyone says about a taper in the future, in the present, asset managers must replace this collateral with higher risk stuff.”

The Fed’s balance sheet has expanded at a YoY pace of +22.74% and +13.21% YTD. ECB grew its balance sheet by +25.18% YoY, and YTD +13.34%, and China’s most recent 2Q21 YoY GDP print was +7.9% using an 11% growth in credit.

So, how does one outperform this? Bonds are certainly not the answer.

The US GDP forecast for 2021 is +6.60%, vs. the 10-Year bonds that yield 1.20%, equating to a rough negative real yield of -5.40%. In the “strongest Eurozone economy,” Germany, 2021 GDP is expected to print at 4.5%, with real yields approaching negative 5%.

Here, crypto comes as a clear winner, with Bitcoin up 10% YTD and Ethereum 182% and about 250% and 700% YoY, respectively.

“The data is clear – central banks continue to print money. When / if that changes, the data will show us. There is no need to predict when it stops if you own scarce assets that appreciate in fiat terms at least at the same pace of balance sheet expansion. On the past 6-month horizon, crypto underperformed, but from the onset of the COVID pandemic till today, crypto markedly outperformed as central bankers stepped on the gas. Don’t get shook.”

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Author: AnTy

Another Win For Ripple As Judge Orders The Deposition Of Former SEC Official, William Hinman

Another Win For Ripple As Judge Orders The Deposition Of Former SEC Official, William Hinman

Ripple Labs Inc has been given the go-ahead to question former SEC official William Hinman in its lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

ETH Is Not A Security – William Hinman

Ripple had asked the US Judge Sarah Netburn to let it depose the former director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. This motion was aimed at revealing the rationale behind the SEC’s decisions and policies.

In a prepared speech, William Hinman asserted that Ether, the native token of the Ethereum network, was not a security. He based his reason on the decentralized structure of the Ethereum network, noting that the sales of Ether were not considered securities transactions.

Ripple believes that Hinman’s deposition would add more weight to its claim that the XRP token is not a security. The blockchain firm intends to use Hinman’s testimony as a means to understand the commission’s position and why it classifies XRP as a security, Bloomberg reports.

Although the SEC tried to suppress the deposition of Hinman, the motion was denied by Netburn in a ruling on Thursday.

SEC had argued during the hearing that it was yet to decide on Ether’s regulatory status at the time of Hinman’s speech. The regulator said that his speech only contained personal remarks and did not reflect the agency’s viewpoint.

The SEC also argued that Hinman’s testimony would subject high-level government officials to depositions, and that could deter other qualified people from taking public service jobs.

However, Netburn noted that this is not “a run of the mill” enforcement case, adding that the deposition is not supposed to affect other SEC departments.

Judge Netburn concluded that Hinman must sit for the deposition after Ripple and the SEC agree on the scope in advance.

Ripple Continues To Portray SEC’s Stance As Unfair

Thursday’s ruling is the latest clash in the lawsuit that began last December when the SEC sued Ripple, its CEO Brad Garlinghouse and co-founder Chris Larsen. The watchdog alleged that they had conducted unregistered securities with their XRP token sales worth $1.3 billion.

Ripple’s strategy has been fixed on portraying the SEC’s lawsuit as partial and unfair. The firm argues that the XRP should be treated as a commodity offering just like Bitcoin and Ethereum. BTC -0.72% Bitcoin / USD BTCUSD $ 31,398.03
Volume 23.68 b Change -$226.07 Open $31,398.03 Circulating 18.76 m Market Cap 588.97 b
8 h Cardano Launches Latest Version Of Alonzo Testnet, Dubbed Alonzo White 8 h Bitcoin DeFi is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s New Goal 9 h Another Win For Ripple As Judge Orders The Deposition Of Former SEC Official, William Hinman
ETH -1.43% Ethereum / USD ETHUSD $ 1,877.52
Volume 14.75 b Change -$26.85 Open $1,877.52 Circulating 116.72 m Market Cap 219.15 b
8 h Cardano Launches Latest Version Of Alonzo Testnet, Dubbed Alonzo White 9 h Another Win For Ripple As Judge Orders The Deposition Of Former SEC Official, William Hinman 10 h Thorchain (RUNE) Tested, Network Gets Halted After Being Attacked for 4k ETH

In April, Ripple also won a discovery ruling that required the SEC to produce internal documents about its discussions of Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Ripple had earlier disclosed that the regulators couldn’t regulate XRP because it is majorly used for international and domestic transactions as a digital currency, suggesting XRP as a medium of exchange and not a security.

While the latest ruling is a win for Ripple, it could be considered a relatively small win in a much larger case, one for which the outcome is uncertain.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Former CFTC Chair Says A Bitcoin ETF Would Be Good For Regulators; SkyBridge BTC ETF Delayed

Timothy Massad, former chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), has urged the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Massad made his points known in a Bloomberg opinion piece. He said the SEC should look into approving an ETF in a way that would enhance transparency and integrity in the industry.

Bitcoin ETF Would Be Good For Retail Investors

Massad said a Bitcoin ETF would help retail investors invest in digital assets without purchasing them and dealing with the complexities of custody.

He said that while it would be best to have crypto regulations in place before approving a Bitcoin ETF, this may not happen soon. This is why Massad thinks a conditional approval would be best to increase the industry’s transparency, integrity, and investor protection, not just its mass appeal. Massad said,

“Although it would be best to see such ETFs approved only after Congress has strengthened crypto regulation generally, the likelihood of that happening in the near future is low.”

While cryptocurrency exchanges are largely unregulated in the U.S, the former CFTC chair said the SEC could use the ETF listing process to improve the integrity of cryptocurrency exchanges in the absence of comprehensive regulations.

He added that the ETF approval could be granted on the condition that the ETF prices are based on an index of exchanges meeting certain prescribed standards.

Massad’s comments follow similar comments attributed to SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, who argued that a Bitcoin ETF should have been approved a long time ago.

In an interview with CNBC, Peirce said that she sees the SEC using double standards in approving crypto products. According to her, the SEC applies a heightened standard in filings associated with cryptocurrencies, unlike the standards it uses for traditional, equity-based products.

SEC’s Continuous Delay In Approving ETFs

Over the years, there have been several applications for a Bitcoin ETF, but the SEC is yet to approve any of the applications.

The regulator had previously cited concerns like fraud, market manipulation, and volatility as the reasons behind the rejections or delays.

The latest application facing delay by the SEC is Anthony Scarammuci’s SkyBridge Capital’s application for a Bitcoin ETF. A filing by the regulator shows that the application submitted on May 6 has been extended for 45 days ending in August.

The SEC is currently reviewing many applications and has invited public comment on the Bitcoin ETF filed by asset manager VanEck. The review process has also been extended until August 2021.

Other firms currently witnessing delays from the regulator in approving ETFs include WisdomTree, Kryptoin, and Fidelity Investments.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

“We’re Past the Point of No Return,” says Former NYSE President Who is Bullish on Crypto & DeFi

“We’re Past the Point of No Return,” says Former NYSE President Who is Bullish on Crypto & DeFi

Thomas Farley, the former president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is bullish on the entire growing cryptocurrency industry.

“The only thing I find more exciting than debating on tax policy is talking about crypto. I’m all in, and I think Coinbase (COIN) is a great company,” said Farley in an interview on CNBC.

He then shared how the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US, Coinbase is the 8th largest exchange in the world but “if you ask the everyday American they would probably think it’s the biggest exchange in the world.”

According to him, the crypto space is “amazing,” notwithstanding the press that it has been getting. In fact, “it’s the best-kept secret in the world and maybe the history of the financial markets,” he added.

Farley then went to talk about decentralized finance (DeFi). “There’s this corner of crypto called DeFi where essentially very smart Kids are putting code up on a blockchain of their choosing, and then you have a self-operating smart contract,” said Farley.

“DeFi exchanges are doing as much volume if not more than Coinbase today,” he added.

The burgeoning DeFi space is home to DEXs, volume on which went parabolic in Q1 of 2021. Recording as much as $217 billion, volume on decentralized exchanges is up 236% from the previous quarter and a whopping 8,000% from Q1 2020, as per Messari.

While Ethereum-based Uniswap continues to lead the pack, BSC-based PancakeSwap was the winner as its market share grew from a mere 2% to 37% in the quarter.

Farley further notes that this growth has been ignored by traditional competitors like banks along with retail brokerages.

“The wall street banks who for a century have made markets in every asset around the world have ignored this and abdicated their role and allowed Coinbase to become an $80 billion company,” said Farley, adding that as retail brokerages ignored it as well, retail found other ways to access this asset class.

“I think it’s fascinating, and I think it’s here to stay. We’re past the point of no return,” he said.

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Author: AnTy

Gearing Up For An IPO: BlockFi Adds Former CFTC Chairman ‘Crypto Dad’ to Board

Gearing Up For An IPO: BlockFi Adds Former CFTC Chairman ‘Crypto Dad’ to Board

Former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo has joined the board of directors of crypto neobank BlockFi.

“Just another step towards BlockFi’s mission of bringing financial products to crypto investors around the world,” tweeted Anthony Pompliano, founder and partner at Morgan Creek Digital.

Giancarlo headed CFTC in 2017 when Bitcoin futures made its debut on CME Group and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). He left office in 2019.

In early 2018, during his congressional testimony in which he advocated for a “do no harm” regulatory stance towards crypto assets, it earned him the title “Crypto Dad.”

Giancarlo is the first independent, non-equity holding director on BlockFi’s five-person board.

“As the adoption of digital assets accelerates, it is critical for the financial industry to consider how to adapt and integrate these innovations in a way that best serves investors and the broader economy,” Giancarlo said in a statement on Tuesday.

Crypto lender, BlockFi allows users to earn interest on their crypto assets and also offers Bitcoin Trust and is looking for Giancarlo’s guidance on regulatory developments and other initiatives.

The crypto unicorn managed over $15 billion in assets and reported just shy of $100 million revenue in 2020. Running toward generating $500 million in revenue this year, the company has grown its client base from 10k to 250k since 2019-end.

Founded in 2017 by Zac Prince and Flori Marquez, BlockFi is rumored to be planning for an initial public offering (IPO) in the second half of 2021, which was valued at $3 billion in its latest private funding round. Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the US, made its debut on Nasdaq at a valuation that briefly went to $100 billion.

“There are plenty of reasons a company like BlockFi might want a former high-ranking gov’t official like Chris Giancarlo on its board, & I’d guess one of them is preparation for an IPO. Great move,” tweeted Jake Chervinsky, General Counsel at Compound Finance.

Besides a move suggesting BlockFi gearing up for going public, this addition also underscores the ongoing demand for regulatory experiences in the crypto industry. Just yesterday, Binance.US tapped former acting OCC chief Brian Brooks as its new CEO.

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Author: AnTy

Former PBoC Governor: China Doesn’t Have ‘An Ambition to Replace Existing Currencies’

China’s former head of the central bank said digital yuan could be useful for cross-border trade and support its efforts to promote yuan as an international currency.

Zhou Xiaochuan, who stepped down as governor of the PBOC in 2018, spoke at the Shanghai Financial Forum on Friday. According to him, digital currency allows payments and currency conversions in real-time and “brings new possibilities for interconnection.”

“If you are willing to use it, the yuan can be used for trade and investment,” said Zhou, who has been a leading advocate for China’s sovereign digital currency. He also noted that the digital yuan isn’t intended to replace globally accepted fiat currencies like the US dollar.

“We are not like Libra and we don’t have an ambition to replace existing currencies.”

China has learned a lesson from Diem and took a more cautious approach. The idea is to persuade consumers and merchants to accept digital yuan payments as it quickly resolves “the problem of cross-border remittances.” He said.

“Some countries are worried about the internationalisation of yuan.”

“We can’t push them on sensitive issues and we can’t impose our will. We must avoid the perception of great power chauvinism.”

China is preparing for cross-border testing of digital yuan in partnership with Hong Kong. Additionally, over $3 million in digital yuan was airdropped to 10k residents of Suzhou on Friday. Trials are being run in other cities, including Chengdu, the Xiong’an New Area, and Hong Kong, in collaboration with companies like Didi Chuxing, Meituan, and Bilibili.

Central Banks Divided on Private Sector’s Role

According to a survey by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), more than half of the central banks surveyed expect countries to collaborate with the private sector to build and run payments systems.

The central banking and economic policy forum found that central banks are split over whether to work with private sectors in payments as three-quarters of the banks said it was the state’s job to govern such systems.

The survey by the think tank involved 20 central banks and regulators in advanced and developing economies. Bhavin Patel, OMFIF’s head of fintech, said,

“It’s up to the central banks to balance how they approach collaboration – whether it’s setting joint projects together … or if it’s more just making sure that what comes to the market is properly regulated.”

The report was produced with fintech firms that include PayPal, Citigroup, Mastercard, and Novi, the digital wallet division of Facebook. Patel said,

“Regulators need to keep pace with these innovations. New, non-traditional payment entities will emerge as systemically important components of the financial system. Proactive central banks and regulators, keen to harness the benefits of payments innovation without undue policy risks, engage more with industry.”

Demand for more efficient payments is growing, a trend that has accelerated during the coronavirus lockdowns but regulators fear that the wide use of private currencies could lower their control over monetary policy. Just last week, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said,

“We must do everything possible to make sure the currency monopoly remains in the hands of states.”

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Author: AnTy

Not Having Bitcoin in your Portfolio has Now Become a ‘Career Risk’ Says CoinShares Chairman

Bitcoin has entered a new era, said Danny Masters, former J.P. Morgan Commodity trader and current chairman of CoinShares in a recent interview with CNBC’s ‘Power Lunch.’

According to Masters, this has been largely due to the global pandemic which increased the need for inflation-resistant investments. Bitcoin is further driven by digitization because it is a digital store of value and people are looking for that, he said.

Additionally, it is driven by the fact that people are now accepting its volatility which is not only declining but the volatility of other asset classes has proved to be a lot more than people expected, added Masters.

He also pointed to CoinShares’ research which talks about four percent allocation to bitcoin in a traditional balanced portfolio having performance and diversification benefits. Masters said,

“There is definitely a narrative at the moment that this so-called this sort of perceived career risk of having bitcoin in your institutional portfolio as a portfolio manager is fast migrating into a career risk for not having bitcoin in your portfolio and that’s a really stunning development.”

Demand-pull effect

Talking about the overall current environment, Masters said that the “sentiment is electric” in the market.

For this, he mentions the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink who recently pointed out the enormous interest that they have been sensing over its social channels and websites.

Fink in his conversation with former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney shared that the hits on the BlackRock website were 3k on COVID, 3k on monetary policy, and 600k on Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has caught the attention and imagination of many people and they are “fascinated” and “excited” about it, said Fink. Although it is still untested and pretty small relative to other markets, it can possibly evolve into a global market, he added.

We look at it as something that is real but it is still untested and it has to go through many markets to see if it is real, said the CEO of the asset manager which has about $7 trillion in AUM.

He further went on to say that having a digital currency has a real impact on the digital dollar as they make the need for the US dollar less relevant. Digital currency also brings down costs quite considerably according to Fink but he added that it needs to be organized and governed and be a component of government policy worldwide.

“That’s the demand-pull effect,” said Masters referring to Fink’s change of tune, adding that companies like Square, MicroStrategy, and PayPal are outperforming the market because they are going public with their exposure to Bitcoin.

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Author: AnTy