The Global Housing Market is Broken, and It’s Dividing Entire Countries

Soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon all hope of owning a home. The fallout is shaking governments of all political persuasions.

It’s a phenomenon given wings by the pandemic. And it’s not just buyers — rents are also soaring in many cities. The upshot is the perennial issue of housing costs has become one of acute housing inequality, and an entire generation is at risk of being left behind.

“We’re witnessing sections of society being shut out of parts of our city because they can no longer afford apartments,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller says. “That’s the case in London, in Paris, in Rome, and now unfortunately increasingly in Berlin.”

That exclusion is rapidly making housing a new fault line in politics, one with unpredictable repercussions. The leader of Germany’s Ver.di union called rent the 21st century equivalent of the bread price, the historic trigger for social unrest.

Politicians are throwing all sorts of ideas at the problem, from rent caps to special taxes on landlords, nationalizing private property, or turning vacant offices into housing. Nowhere is there evidence of an easy or sustainable fix.

In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in’s party took a drubbing in mayoral elections this year after failing to tackle a 90% rise in the average price of an apartment in Seoul since he took office in May 2017. The leading opposition candidate for next year’s presidential vote has warned of a potential housing market collapse as interest rates rise.

China has stepped up restrictions on the real-estate sector this year and speculation is mounting of a property tax to bring down prices. The cost of an apartment in Shenzhen, China’s answer to Silicon Valley, was equal to 43.5 times a resident’s average salary as of July, a disparity that helps explain President Xi Jinping’s drive for “common prosperity.”

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a two-year ban on foreign buyers if re-elected.

The pandemic has stoked the global housing market to fresh records over the past 18 months through a confluence of ultralow interest rates, a dearth of house production, shifts in family spending and fewer homes being put up for sale. While that’s a boon for existing owners, prospective buyers are finding it ever harder to gain entry.

What we’re witnessing is “a major event that should not be shrugged off or ignored,” Don Layton, the former CEO of U.S. mortgage giant Freddie Mac, wrote in a commentary for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

In the U.S., where nominal home prices are more than 30% above their previous peaks in the mid-2000s, government policies aimed at improving affordability and promoting home ownership risk stoking prices, leaving first-time buyers further adrift, Layton said.

The result, in America as elsewhere, is a widening generational gap between baby boomers, who are statistically more likely to own a home, and millennials and Generation Z — who are watching their dreams of buying one go up in smoke.

Existing housing debt may be sowing the seeds of the next economic crunch if borrowing costs start to rise. Niraj Shah of Bloomberg Economics compiled a dashboard of countries most at threat of a real-estate bubble, and says risk gauges are “flashing warnings” at an intensity not seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

In the search for solutions, governments must try and avoid penalizing either renters or homeowners. It’s an unenviable task.

Sweden’s government collapsed in June after it proposed changes that would have abandoned traditional controls and allowed more rents to be set by the market.

In Berlin, an attempt to tame rent increases was overturned by a court. Campaigners have collected enough signatures to force a referendum on seizing property from large private landlords. The motion goes to a vote on Sept. 26. The city government on Friday announced it would buy nearly 15,000 apartments from two large corporate landlords for €2.46 billion ($2.9 billion) to expand supply.

Anthony Breach at the Center for Cities think tank has even made the case for a link between housing and Britain’s 2016 vote to quit the European Union. Housing inequality, he concluded, is “scrambling our politics.”

As these stories from around the world show, that’s a recipe for upheaval.

Argentina

With annual inflation running around 50%, Argentines are no strangers to price increases. But for Buenos Aires residents like Lucia Cholakian, rent hikes are adding economic pressure, and with that political disaffection.

Like many during the pandemic, the 28-year-old writer and college professor moved with her partner from a downtown apartment to a residential neighborhood in search of more space. In the year since, her rent has more than tripled; together with bills it chews through about 40% of her income. That rules out saving for a home.

“We’re not going to be able to plan for the future like our parents did, with the dream of your own house,” she says. The upshot is “renting, buying and property in general” is becoming “much more present for our generation politically.”

Legislation passed by President Alberto Fernandez’s coalition aims to give greater rights to tenants like Cholakian. Under the new rules, contracts that were traditionally two years are now extended to three. And rather than landlords setting prices, the central bank created an index that determines how much rent goes up in the second and third year.

It’s proved hugely controversial, with evidence of some property owners raising prices excessively early on to counter the uncertainty of regulated increases later. Others are simply taking properties off the market. A government-decreed pandemic rent freeze exacerbated the squeeze.

Rental apartment listings in Buenos Aires city are down 12% this year compared to the average in 2019, and in the surrounding metro area they’re down 36%, according to real estate website ZonaProp.

The law “had good intentions but worsened the issue, as much for property owners as for tenants,” said Maria Eugenia Vidal, the former governor of Buenos Aires province and one of the main opposition figures in the city. She is contesting the November midterm elections on a ticket with economist Martin Tetaz with a pledge to repeal the legislation.

“Argentina is a country of uncertainty,” Tetaz said by phone, but with the housing rules it’s “even more uncertain now than before.”

Cholakian, who voted for Fernandez in 2019, acknowledges the rental reform is flawed, but also supports handing more power to tenants after an extended recession that wiped out incomes. If anything, she says greater regulation is needed to strike a balance between reassuring landlords and making rent affordable.

“If they don’t do something to control this in the city of Buenos Aires, only the rich will be left,” she says.

Australia

As the son of first-generation migrants from Romania, Alex Fagarasan should be living the Australian dream. Instead, he’s questioning his long-term prospects.

Fagarasan, a 28-year-old junior doctor at a major metropolitan hospital, would prefer to stay in Melbourne, close to his parents. But he’s being priced out of his city. He’s now facing the reality that he’ll have to move to a regional town to get a foothold in the property market. Then, all going well, in another eight years he’ll be a specialist and able to buy a house in Melbourne.

Even so, he knows he’s one of the lucky ones. His friends who aren’t doctors “have no chance” of ever owning a home. “My generation will be the first one in Australia that will be renting for the rest of their lives,” he says.

He currently rents a modern two-bedroom townhouse with two others in the inner suburb of Northcote — a study nook has been turned into a make-shift bedroom to keep down costs. About 30% of his salary is spent on rent; he calls it “exorbitant.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government announced a “comprehensive housing affordability plan” as part of the 2017-2018 budget, including 1 billion Australian dollars ($728 million) to boost supply. It hasn’t tamed prices.

The opposition Labour Party hasn’t fared much better. It proposed closing a lucrative tax loophole for residential investment at the last election in 2019, a policy that would likely have brought down home prices. But it sparked an exodus back to the ruling Liberals of voters who owned their home, and probably contributed to Labor’s election loss.

The political lessons have been learned: Fagarasan doesn’t see much help on housing coming from whoever wins next year’s federal election. After all, Labor already rules the state of Victoria whose capital is Melbourne.

“I feel like neither of the main parties represents the voice of the younger generation,” he says.

It’s a sentiment shared by Ben Matthews, a 33-year-old project manager at a university in Sydney. He’s moving back in with his parents after the landlord of the house he shared with three others ordered them out, an experience he says he found disappointing and stressful, especially during the pandemic.

Staying with his parents will at least help him save for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat. But even that’s a downgrade from his original plan of a two-bedroom house so he could rent the other room out. The increases, he says, are “just insane.”

“It might not be until something breaks that we’ll get the political impetus to make changes,” he says. -Jason Scott

Canada

Days after calling an election, Justin Trudeau announced plans for a two-year ban on foreigners buying houses. If it was meant as a dramatic intervention to blind-side his rivals, it failed: they broadly agree.

The prime minister thought he was going to fight the election — set for Monday — on the back of his handling of the pandemic, but instead housing costs are a dominant theme for all parties.

Trudeau’s Liberals are promising a review of “escalating” prices in markets including Vancouver and Toronto to clamp down on speculation; Conservative challenger Erin O’Toole pledges to build a million homes in three years to tackle the “housing crisis”; New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh wants a 20% tax on foreign buyers to combat a crisis he calls “out of hand.”

Facing a surprisingly tight race, Trudeau needs to attract young urban voters if he is to have any chance of regaining his majority. He chose Hamilton, outside Toronto, to launch his housing policy. Once considered an affordable place in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s faced rising pressure as people leave Canada’s biggest city in search of cheaper homes. The average single family home cost 932,700 Canadian dollars ($730,700) in June, a 30% increase from a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Hamilton and Burlington.

The City of Hamilton cites housing affordability among its priorities for the federal election, but that’s little comfort to Sarah Wardroper, a 32-year-old single mother of two young girls, who works part time and rents in the downtown east side. Hamilton, she says, represents “one of the worst housing crises in Canada.”

While she applauds promises to make it harder for foreigners to buy investment properties she’s skeptical of measures that might discourage homeowners from renting out their properties. That includes Trudeau’s bid to tax those who sell within 12 months of a house purchase. Neither is she convinced by plans for more affordable housing, seeing them as worthy but essentially a short-term fix when the real issue is “the economy is just so out of control the cost of living in general has skyrocketed.”

Wardroper says her traditionally lower-income community has become a luxury Toronto neighborhood.

“I don’t have the kind of job to buy a house, but I have the ambition and the drive to do that,” she says. “I want to build a future for my kids. I want them to be able to buy homes, but the way things are going right now, I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”

Singapore

Back in 2011, a public uproar over the city-state’s surging home prices contributed to what was at the time the ruling party’s worst parliamentary election result in more than five decades in power. While the People’s Action Party retained the vast majority of the seats in parliament, it was a wake-up call — and there are signs the pressure is building again.

Private home prices have risen the most in two years, and in the first half of 2021 buyers including ultra-rich foreigners splurged 32.9 billion Singapore dollars ($24 billion), according to Singapore-based ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd. That’s double the amount recorded in Manhattan over the same period.

However, close to 80% of Singapore’s citizens live in public housing, which the government has long promoted as an asset they can sell to move up in life.

It’s a model that has attracted attention from countries including China, but one that is under pressure amid a frenzy in the resale market. Singapore’s government-built homes bear little resemblance to low-income urban concentrations elsewhere: In the first five months of the year, a record 87 public apartments were resold for at least SG$1 million. That’s stirring concerns about affordability even among the relatively affluent.

Junior banker Alex Ting, 25, is forgoing newly built public housing as it typically means a three-to-four-year wait. And under government rules for singles, Ting can only buy a public apartment when he turns 35 anyway.

His dream home is a resale flat near his parents. But even there a mismatch between supply and demand could push his dream out of reach.

While the government has imposed curbs on second-home owners and foreign buyers, younger people like Ting have grown resigned to the limits of what can be done.

Most Singaporeans aspire to own their own property, and the housing scarcity and surge in prices presents another hurdle to them realizing their goal, says Nydia Ngiow, Singapore-based senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a strategic policy advisory firm. If unaddressed, that challenge “may in turn build long-term resentment towards the ruling party,” she warns.

That’s an uncomfortable prospect for the PAP, even as the opposition faces barriers to winning parliamentary seats. The ruling party is already under scrutiny for a disrupted leadership succession plan, and housing costs may add to the pressure.

Younger voters may express their discontent by moving away from the PAP, according to Ting. “In Singapore, the only form of protest we can do is to vote for the opposition,” he says.

Ireland

Claire Kerrane is open about the role of housing in her winning a seat in Ireland’s parliament, the Dail.

Kerrane, 29, was one of a slew of Sinn Fein lawmakers to enter the Dail last year after the party unexpectedly won the largest number of first preference votes at the expense of Ireland’s dominant political forces, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

While the two main parties went on to form a coalition government, the outcome was a political earthquake. Sinn Fein was formerly the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, yet it’s been winning followers more for its housing policy than its push for a united Ireland.

“Housing was definitely a key issue in the election and I think our policies and ambition for housing played a role in our election success,” says Kerrane, who represents the parliamentary district of Roscommon-Galway.

Ireland still bears the scars of a crash triggered by a housing bubble that burst during the financial crisis. A shortage of affordable homes means prices are again marching higher.

Sinn Fein has proposed building 100,000 social and affordable homes, the reintroduction of a pandemic ban on evictions and rent increases, and legislation to limit the rate banks can charge for mortgages.

Those policies have struck a chord. The most recent Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll, in June, showed Sinn Fein leading all other parties, with 21% of respondents citing house prices as the issue most likely to influence their vote in the next general election, the same proportion that cited the economy. Only health care trumped housing as a concern.

Other parties are taking note. On Sept. 2, the coalition launched a housing plan as the pillar of its agenda for this parliamentary term, committing over €4 billion ($4.7 billion) a year to increase supply, the highest-ever level of government investment in social and affordable housing.

Whether it’s enough to blunt Sinn Fein’s popularity remains to be seen. North of the border, meanwhile, Sinn Fein holds a consistent poll lead ahead of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly due by May, putting it on course to nominate the region’s First Minister for the first time since the legislature was established as part of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.

For all the many hurdles that remain to reunification, Sinn Fein is arguably closer than it has ever been to achieving its founding goal by championing efforts to widen access to housing.

As Kerrane says: “Few, if any households aren’t affected in some way by the housing crisis.”

By Alan Crawford

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/

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To Reimagine The Student Experience, Think Like A Tech Company

With these five mindset shifts, higher-ed institutions can immerse digital learning into their strategies and operations, reveals Tij Nerurkar, Business Leader for Cognizant’s Education practice.

The news that online learning platform 2U is acquiring edX, a nonprofit platform run by Harvard and MIT, is yet another sign of the momentum of digital learning.

Among the deal’s synergies is 2U’s access to edX’s global learner base of 39 million registered users and 120 million annual website visitors. This increases 2U’s reach and stands to lower student acquisition costs, which typically account for as much as 20% of online program managers’ revenues.

Often overlooked amid the headlines, however, is the reality that technology is only part of the change that digital learning is inflicting on higher education. Equally important is the change in mindset among colleges and universities as they shape the direct-to-consumer (DTC) learning experiences that will engage today’s students.

How to make the higher-ed shift

To reimagine the college experience and make the transition to digital learning, higher-education leaders need to think like a tech company would. The following mindset shifts will propel them forward to immersing digital learning into their strategies and operations:

  • Out with the old culture, in with the new.

This change is among the toughest for colleges and universities to execute. Many university leaders we talk with focus exclusively on the technology that the DTC model requires. But the reality is that DTC is an outside-in approach that puts the student experience first, ahead of any administrative and departmental priorities. It brings changes that ripple across campuses, especially the institutional mindset.

Thriving in today’s higher-education environment requires all campus functions — from recruitment and admissions to financial aid and academics — to move quickly and in seamless, connected ways. Reimagining the student experience will require organizational changes that break down siloes and emphasize collaboration.

  • Be willing to take risks.

While bold moves don’t come naturally to higher-ed institutions, they can be an important differentiator. For example, when the pandemic halted college entrance exams, a nonprofit testing organization used the hiatus to overhaul the paper-based exams that millions of students took annually at its 7,000 centers. Our team built a new-generation platform that digitized the entire testing workflow, including online and mobile apps designed to appeal to Gen Z learners accustomed to multitasking and virtually interacting with their peers. As higher ed begins to emerge from the pandemic, the company is ready with a business model fit for today’s students.

  • View the CIO’s role as strategic.

In our recent research, higher-ed leaders said they believe industry disruption will only accelerate; however, we see too many higher-ed institutions that still limit their CIOs to overseeing back-office operations. A talented CIO can help institutions think out of the box by spotting new business models and investment opportunities to drive enrollments and revenue.

For example, Arizona State University’s widely admired CIO helped ASU break ahead early in online learning with innovative programs like its Global Freshman Academy. By providing CIOs with a seat at the table, higher-ed institutions and their governing boards open themselves to emerging ideas such as adopting blockchain for digital credentials or applying mixed-reality simulations to learning.

  • Reassess your marketing strategies.

Glossy direct-mail brochures are a common and costly rite of passage. The median public university spends 14% of its marketing and recruiting budget on student lists purchased to identify prospects, with one public university’s student data costs topping $2 million from 2010 to 2018. Building predictive analytics capabilities can help organizations reach targeted student populations more intelligently and fill seats more effectively than the basic demographics of lists.

For example, St. Mary’s College credits predictive analytics with increasing its applicant pool. When data showed that prospective students who visited the Maryland campus were more likely to enroll, St. Mary’s doubled down on personalized campus tours that deliver a more on-brand experience. Investing in data modernization, automation and robust platforms requires greater capital investments upfront, but it also creates better and long-lasting pull as universities seek to attract lifelong learners.

  • It takes a platform.

The single biggest lesson to learn from educational technology players is the ability to respond to market conditions with agility, and platforms are at the heart of that flexibility. Ed-tech companies are able to pivot quickly and scale their business models in new directions.

For instance, 2U built momentum and scale by positioning itself not just as a provider of online degree classes for individual students but also as a provider of cloud-based software as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to colleges and universities. The strategy elevates 2U from a services-only business model to the SaaS model.

Now colleges and universities are beginning to take steps in the same direction: Last fall, ASU launched the University Design Institute, through which it scales the innovative approaches and solutions it has developed for its own campus to help other universities create online offerings and is even partnering on community-based projects such as supply chain improvements in Ghana and across Africa. Thinking like a tech company means investing in the right platforms and building the ability to scale.

Capitalize on higher-ed strengths

The most successful tech companies also know and relentlessly develop their strengths, which is why you don’t see Apple rolling out a social network or Netflix designing smartphones. It’s no secret that education’s disruptors offer curriculum options that are fast, dirt-cheap and job-ready. Coursera estimates students can complete a Google Professional Certificates program by studying five to 10 hours per week for eight months or less.

Ed-tech clearly knows its market strengths. At the same time, two-thirds of students between the ages of 19 and 30 still think a college degree is a good investment, whether in-person or virtually. Higher ed’s brand value remains strong in the wake of COVID-19: In another survey, 93% of students polled — both enrolled in fully online programs and studying remotely due to COVID-19 — expect a positive return on their online education investment.

The scalability enabled through digital can help colleges and universities press their pedagogic advantages and compete with online competitors’ lean operations. For example, at a time when applications to full-time MBA programs have declined, enrollment in the University of Illinois’ online MBA program has reached 4,000 — up from 114 since the program’s 2016 launch.

The key to capitalizing on the momentum of digital learning is to reimagine a student experience that taps into today’s youth by reshaping your institution’s mindset and approach to education.

Download our latest research report “The Work Ahead in Higher Ed: Repaving the Road for the Employees of Tomorrow.”

Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar is the North America leader for Education Business at Cognizant. For over 25 years, Tij has advised and implemented digital learning solutions across private and public sector clients on a global basis. In his current role, he helps educational institutions and ed-tech companies develop and implement digital strategies to transform their business model, reimagine learner experience and drive skill enablement. Previously, Tij was the Head of Cognizant Academy in North America. In this role, he was responsible for developing industry partnerships for the Academy and worked as a core member of the talent team to help bridge the reskilling gap through innovative synergistic business models. Tij has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in management studies from the University of Bombay, India, and he has completed a sales and leadership program at Harvard University. Tij is also on the executive learning council of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). He can be reached at Kshitij.Nerurkar@cognizant.com

Source: To Reimagine The Student Experience, Think Like A Tech Company

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Here’s a Useful Fund For Investing In Blockchain Without Buying Bitcoin

“Buy the rumour, sell the news” is an old market saying – and we got a classic of the genre yesterday.

It was a huge day in the evolution of bitcoin. From its origins on obscure chat boards, the open-source experiment of a few renegade computer programmers, to mainstream investment vehicle.

And then yesterday, for the first time, a nation – El Salvador – made bitcoin legal tender. The bitcoin price was steadily running up on the story – from $30,000 to $53,000. Then “Bitcoin Day” arrived and wallop: it sells off $7,000 to $46,000. The bitcoin price “should” have risen. It didn’t; it rose on the rumour and sold on the news.

How many times? It’s happened before and it will happen again.

How to bet on cryptocurrencies without having to own cryptocurrencies

Traditional investors have long been searching for a vehicle by which they can own bitcoin through their Sipp or Isa, via a regular broker account. The older generation in particular don’t want to get involved with wallets and keys and storing coins on hard drives in safes and all the rest of it. They just want to be able to buy and sell bitcoin through their regular broker, with which they are familiar.

In response to this demand there have been numerous attempts to establish bitcoin ETFs, but every attempt has run into some sort of regulatory issue. The most successful were probably the Greyscale Bitcoin Trust, listed in the US, or Coinshares Swedish listed XBT Bitcoin Tracker One. Neither is quite the same as owning bitcoin, but they do track the price.

But another vehicle has come to my attention and I thought I’d flag it up for you today, as I think it might be quite useful. That is the VanEck Vectors Digital Assets Equity UCITS ETF (LSE: DAGB).

It invests in companies that, to use its own lingo, “are driving the blockchain revolution”. That is to say in miners, exchanges, payment providers, service providers and companies that hold and trade crypto and crypto patents.

If I were to draw a parallel, I’d say that, rather than buying gold, it’s like holding a basket of gold mining companies or a gold mining ETF.

The ETF is listed in London, and it’s been going since the beginning of May. There’s a dollar denominated version whose ticker is DAPP – and a sterling version, which is probably most useful to us, with the ticker DAGB (there are also euro-denominated versions listed in Germany (DAVV) and Italy (DAPP), and a Swiss franc denominated version listed in Switzerland (also DAPP)).

It’s still small – very small – but as awareness grows it has the potential to grow too. It holds 25 companies in total, with 75%-plus weighting to the US and Canada and 12% to China, and it rebalances on a quarterly basis. I’ll post the holdings below, but in case you’re not familiar with them, I’ll outline what the major ones do. 

It’s biggest holding is Marathon Digital Holdings (Nasdaq: MARA) a Nasdaq-listed bitcoin miner. Then there’s Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame’s payment company Square (NYSE: SQ) and Coinbase (Nasdaq:COIN), the recently-listed wallet-provider and exchange

Other miners it owns include Riot (Nasdaq: RIOT), Hive (Vancouver: HIVE) and Argo (LSE: ARB), while other notable holdings include Silvergate (NYSE: SI), the bank for fintech and cryptocurrency businesses, and Michael Saylor’s Microstrategy (Nasdaq: MSTR). 

Saylor has in the past year totally got the bitcoin bug and become one of the most vocal and articulate cheerleaders for the space. His company, Microstrategy, has gone from being a software company to a bitcoin holding vehicle, owning more than $5bn in bitcoin. He’s raised debt to do it so it is a highly leveraged bitcoin play.

Anyway, here are the main holdings:

HoldingTickerSharesMarket value
(US$)
% of net
assets
Marathon Digital Holdings IncNasdaq: MARA37,8581,491,2279.15
Square IncNYSE: SQ5,3801,430,1658.77
Coinbase Global IncNasdaq: COIN5,0421,345,2568.25
Hut 8 Mining CorpToronto: HUT125,4231,261,6757.74
Silvergate Capital CorpNYSE: SI7,986947,2995.81
Microstrategy IncNasdaq: MSTR1,378892,9585.48
Hive Blockchain Technologies LtdVancouver: HIVE257,250857,1615.26
Voyager Digital LtdToronto: VOYG53,621799,9654.91
Riot Blockchain IncNasdaq: RIOT24,755794,8834.88
Bitfarms Ltd/CanadaVancouver: BITF128,704763,9734.69
Galaxy Digital Holdings LtdToronto: GLXY34,963732,1894.49
Taiwan Semiconductor ManufacturingNasdaq: TSM5,431677,2464.15
Canaan IncNasdaq: CAN64,785620,6403.81
Northern Data AgFrankfurt: NB26,290568,4983.49
Argo Blockchain PlcLSE: ARB288,705533,3123.27
Bit Digital IncNasdaq: BTBT45,480533,0263.27
Ebang International Holdings IncNasdaq: EBON157,795397,6432.44
BC Technology Group LtdHong Kong: 863179,501372,2122.28
Coinshares International LtdStockholm COIN26,030257,8651.58
Diginex LtdNasdaq: EQOS40,141222,3811.36
DMG Blockchain Solutions IncVancouver: DMGI201,595205,8231.26
Huobi Technology Holdings LtdHong Kong: 1611113,001204,9561.26
Bigg Digital Assets IncToronto BIGG183,875180,4551.11
Future Fintech Group IncNasdaq: FTFT58,088156,8380.96
Bitcoin Group SeFrankfurt: ADE1,22261,2300.38
Other/Cash-4,083-0.03

Bitcoin is supposed to be outside of the traditional financial system so it sounds funny saying that I own DAGB in my Sipp, but I do. I’m not, however, recommending that you go out and buy it straight away. I see it more as a useful vehicle to be aware of.

My overriding theory that we are in a period of “frustrating consolidation” for bitcoin remains in play, so I would try to wait for the sell off to get really harsh before you buy: buy the dips, as they say. But this should be a good vehicle to play the bitcoin game, should you see fit.

Regulating the unregulatable

In other news, I see that a bit of a crypto storm is now brewing in Brussels, where the European Parliament is about to try and regulate cryptocurrencies. Good luck with that! What could possibly go wrong when regulators are trying to regulate something they don’t understand, one of the purposes of which is to obviate bureaucracy?

The polling company Redfield and Wilton has run a poll and found that the overwhelming majority of Europeans want cryptocurrencies regulated by their own countries and not at the EU level, with many seeing EU regulation as a power grab. Greece, The Netherlands and Latvia are the most anti-EU regulation, while Spain and Portugal are the most pro. Make of that what you will.

Daylight Robbery – How Tax Shaped The Past And Will Change The Future is now out in paperback at Amazon and all good bookstores with the audiobook, read by Dominic, on Audible and elsewhere.

Dominic Frisby author headshot

By: Dominic Frisby

Source: https://moneyweek.com/

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Visa’s 54 Bitcoin-Linked Cards Pave The Way For Younger Generations To Spend Growing Crypto Wealth

Visa V -0.5% is taking robust steps to connect digital currencies to its global electronic payments network in order to prepare for a financial future where digital assets comprise a meaningful amount of a saver’s wealth.

To date, 54 crypto companies have partnered with Visa to enable crypto spending. Much of this progress comes from the issuance of debit cards using Visa’s FastTrack program, which is targeted towards integrating fintech companies with the Visa network. Over the summer, the firm launched two more products, a crypto rewards credit card in partnership with BlockFi and a debit card with major crypto exchange FTX, which just raised a record $900 million at an $18 billion valuation.

Other crypto-friendly card partners include CoinZoom, Coinbase, Zap, Crypto.com, Bitpanda, Fold, Upgrade, Wirex, and ZenGo.

“We saw this opportunity as these crypto platforms grow, as consumers want to gain access to the liquidity that they have held in these assets, issuing a Visa card could become a bridge that unlocks that value and enables it to be spent at any merchant that accepts Visa,” Head of Crypto at Visa, Cuy Sheffield said.

These projects have gained traction — crypto-linked Visa debit cards facilitated over $1 billion worth of transactions across Visa’s 70 million merchants worldwide in the first half of 2021 alone. $1 billion is only a small fraction of the trillion-dollar payments industry, however retail interest in cryptocurrencies is picking up, suggesting the market has room to grow, especially with younger generations. Sheffield says that no single predominant spending category has emerged in crypto-linked card use.

Survey data suggests that younger generations are increasingly diverting wealth into cryptocurrencies and digital assets. This is especially true for the most affluent members of these generations, which are especially prized by financial institutions and card networks.

A Michelmores survey of 501 ‘affluent Millennials’ in the United Kingdom found that one in five have invested in cryptocurrencies and a CNBC survey of 750 investors conducted in April and May of 2021 reports that nearly half of Millennial millionaires have at least 25% of their wealth in cryptocurrencies. Millennial interest in crypto isn’t limited to the Western world — a recent Mastercard MA -0.1% survey found that Middle Eastern and African Millennials surveyed during February and March of 2021 are especially interested in crypto with 67% agreeing they are more open to using crypto now than they were in 2020.

Meanwhile in Asia, India and China each account for 33% of the $9.4 million worth of weekly peer-to-peer payments volume in the region. In both nations, tech savvy millennials with aspirations of wealth are leading the trade. The Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend by simultaneously spurring savings ambitions and interest in cryptocurrencies.

Approximately 70% of burgeoning retail brokerage platform Robinhood’s $80.9 billion assets under custody came from users aged between 18 and 40. $11.5 billion of those assets under custody are cryptocurrencies, according to the firm’s S-1 filing, and for the three months ended March 31, 2021, 17% of its total revenue was derived from transaction-based revenues earned from cryptocurrency transactions. This number is up from 4% for the last three months of 2020. All of this data suggests high interest among retail traders between 18 and 40 in crypto assets.

As retail brokerage accounts boomed, the crypto market was also hitting new heights, adding to the excitement among younger generations. Bitcoin reached its all-time-high price of $64,654 on April 14, 2021, just after the one year anniversary of the start of the pandemic. The market crashed a month later, bottoming out in July at a $1.2 trillion value for all cryptocurrency in circulation. Since then, the crypto economy has started to recover. The market broke past $2 trillion again on Wednesday, August 11, for the first time in nearly three months.

While investors are still mostly thinking long-term, a time will come when they need to generate liquidity from their holdings. Speaking to that effect, Sheffield argues that even if crypto owners intend to HODL (hold on for dear life, a crypto rallying cry), the day will come when they want to spend.

When that happens, Lisa Ellis, partner and senior equity analyst at research firm MoffettNathanson noted that they won’t want to go through the often arduous process of converting that crypto into fiat because of what Visa is doing.

“Brokerages like Fidelity figured out a long time ago that they should — and Merrill Lynch — figured out that they should issue a card against the balance in your brokerage account because that way you can keep your money in the brokerage account and you’re not constantly moving money,” Ellis said. “It’s basically the same. This is just allowing people to keep funds in what’s essentially a brokerage account and keep it in crypto. And then if they need it for spending fine and people like to do that.”

These developments are unlikely to stop with crypto-fiat payments. In pursuit of creating opportunities for seamless crypto transactions, Visa is finding new ways to appeal to crypto platforms who are looking to expand client offerings. Among these upgrades is the ability for crypto firms to settle payments using a dollar-pegged and quickly-growing stablecoin, USDC. As of writing, USDC’s market cap stands at $27.39 billion.

Typically when transactions are carried out with a crypto-linked debit card offered by a company like Crypto.com, that company converts the crypto to fiat and then sends the funds to Visa, who then sends the funds to the merchant’s bank for the appropriate amount and in the correct currency. Through a partnership with the first federally chartered digital asset bank, Anchorage, Visa will now accept USDC, instead of fiat, from card providers like Crypto.com.

“The goal is if we can make it easier for crypto platforms to issue Visa cards and interact with Visa we think many more — and we’re already seeing a ton of demand in crypto companies coming to us — will have a path to creating a Visa card,” Sheffield said. “We are committed to Visa being the preferred network for crypto wallets and so we want to meet them where they are.”

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Source: Visa’s 54 Bitcoin-Linked Cards Pave The Way For Younger Generations To Spend Growing Crypto Wealth

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