Bitcoin could be at the start of a “massive transformation” into the mainstream and on the path to become “the currency of choice for international trade,” according to leading investment bank Citi, which noted the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise in value in recent years and a growing interest from institutional investors as potentially setting the stage for widespread success.
In a report published Monday, Citi analysts said the world’s most popular cryptocurrency was at a “tipping point” between widespread adoption or a “speculative implosion.”
Bitcoin’s growing use as a payment tool, the increasing availability of digital wallets, and institutional interest from the likes of Tesla and Mastercard have all helped buoy confidence in the cryptocurrency and could see it become the leading medium for international trade in the future, Citi said.
The analysts described Bitcoin as the “North Star” of the blockchain ecosystem, with its underlying technology launching an entirely new domain of the digital economy around it.
However, there are a number of risks and obstacles that could see the Bitcoin bubble burst, the analysts warned, and widespread changes to the market would be required for Bitcoin to be adopted more widely.
Dampened institutional investment in the post-Covid-19 world would remove a key pillar of support for Bitcoin, Citi said, and anticipated regulation and oversight—which runs counter to the anti-establishment ideology underpinning the cryptocurrency—could also “cause many of the most innovative developers and entrepreneurs to exit the ecosystem,” the analysts wrote.
Bitcoin is one of the most volatile asset classes around. It has a bumpy and storied history since it was outlined in a paper in 2009, moving from practically worthless to an all time high of over $58,000 a coin in February 2021 (the price has since dropped to around $47,000) with several significant troughs and peaks in between. At its highest, Bitcoin’s market capitalization exceeded $1 trillion. As with the bulk of its history, Bitcoin is still driven by retail investors, who billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates warned not to get drawn in by the “mania” and enthusiasm of Elon Musk who has money to spare should things go wrong.
“I think bitcoin is really on the verge of getting broad acceptance by sort of the conventional finance people,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Clubhouse earlier this year.
In October, PayPal finally welcomed cryptocurrencies to its platform, believed by many to be a precursor to it moving into the mainstream. PayPal will support four different cryptocurrencies—bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash—and will expand the service to Venmo in 2021.
I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org