From Super Bowl commercials to teenage NFT millionaires — and even Elon Musk’s support of the dog meme-inspired currency Dogecoin — cryptoassets have been making a play for mainstream acceptance.
By the end of 2021, the global cryptocurrency market was worth more than $3 trillion, up from $14 billion just five years earlier. About 16% of U.S. adults — approximately 40 million people — have invested in, traded, or used cryptocurrency, according to a White House analysis of findings by The Pew Research Center. And more than 100 countries are exploring or piloting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), a digital form of a country’s sovereign currency.
Cryptoassets have been taking off so quickly that President Biden signed an executive order in March outlining a government approach to address the risks and harness the benefits of cryptocurrency while urging the research and development of a U.S. Central Digital Bank Currency.
Yet, for all the attention cryptoassets are receiving, many business leaders are still trying to understand what they are, how they work, and the pros and cons of using them.
What Are Cryptoassets?
Cryptocurrency is any digital or virtual currency that uses encryption to secure and verify transactions. What sets cryptocurrencies apart from traditional forms of currency is that they rely on a decentralized, unregulated system to issue them and record transactions.
Because a central issuing authority such as a bank or regulatory authority like the federal government doesn’t control these currencies, cryptoassets can avoid government manipulation or intervention.
Types of cryptoassets include:
How Do Cryptoassets Work?
Instead of relying on banks, cryptoassets leverage decentralized networks based on blockchain technology for distribution. Blockchain is a distributed public ledger that records all digital and virtual transactions.
Since cryptoassets are not tangible, people who possess them instead own a key — a secret, randomly generated number with hundreds of digits — that allows them to move cryptoassets from one entity to another without the intervention of a financial institution.
What Are the Pros, Cons of Cryptoassets?
Decentralization is one of the key selling points of cryptoassets. Because developers control who uses them, they aren’t beholden to regulatory and government controls and interventions. That means there isn’t one entity that can dictate the currency’s value and distribution.
Other benefits include:
There are also some drawbacks, the least of which is a shortfall of protection. Although cryptoassets proponents prefer the currency because of its lack of government control, that same lack of regulation puts cryptoassets owners at risk of tremendous losses. There is no FDIC protection for cryptocurrency, nor is there a way to safeguard digital assets if a tech issue wipes out your transaction records. Insurance policies are available, but ultimately, it’s up to a business to protect itself against losses.
Other concerns include:
Cryptoassets are still in their infancy, and business leaders who may want to use them are learning as they go. If you’re trying to wrap your head around cryptoassets, our team of professionals can help your business navigate this new form of currency.
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