The crypto cavalry is not coming

Life, for most of us, is a slog that sees us get up early, traipse to a job we barely tolerate, organise our free time around family members and additional responsibilities, then recharge overnight – only to do it all over again the next day.

Throw into the mix some getaways, even a sabbatical or two, and sprinkle in some rites of passage, personal highlights and familial achievements. That’s pretty much it.

Along the way, we have a constant need to keep funding it all. It’s our own responsibility to keep our fiscal heads above water – and it seems to be getting increasingly tough to stay afloat.

Should it be any surprise then, that the number of scams and amounts being lost to them have been on a meteoric rise over the past couple of years?

The circus owner PT Barnum is famously misquoted as saying “there’s a sucker born every minute”. But if he didn’t say it, someone else did and with good reason.

The motivation for behaving like a sucker comes from – just this once – wanting an easy win.

I remember in the 1980s watching rich people on television, and hearing my mum saying, “they don’t work any harder than us”, while shaking her head ruefully. And it was true, in terms of hours and effort. They didn’t. But no one’s fortune was ever made working for the public sector in the Lake District.

Today, many people find themselves in a similar situation. I see people on their City commute every morning, getting the early train, ready for a 12-hour slog that will see most of them running just to stand still, financially speaking. So far, so generally accepted human condition.

I have spoken in this column before about how financial literacy in the UK needs massive, wholesale improvement – the World Economic Forum notes Denmark has an impressive 71% rate – so I’m not going to go over old ground.

My point is that the asset management industry needs to make sure it doesn’t also fall victim to the get-rich-quick schemes that have plagued humanity since we first learned how to barter and trade.

After years of handwringing, bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies seem to have finally won over regulators and are being quickly worked into fund wrappers and products for an apparently eager investing public. The press releases and LinkedIn posts I have read about this move – heralding some kind of New Dawn for the investment industry and all its ancillary suppliers and offshoots – are unanimous.

Yet, instead of providing a word of caution to the consumer, today the financial services industry itself should take heed. It is easy to see why it is so hungry for the next big thing – but that cannot blind it to reality.

As I type, news is filtering through about the collapse of another boutique asset manager, alongside the merger of two major mid-cap brokers that already made significant layoffs last year. Many City friends have already begun to dust off their CVs and many are considering a move to a different sector entirely.

Unlike during the GFC and subsequent years, this bloodletting seems to be happening almost imperceptibly – but for those of us who remember the good old days of 20 years ago, the shine has distinctly come off.

© 2024 funds europe



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