Why 2020 might be the year cryptocurrency goes mainstream

August 24, 2020, 11:00 PM UTC
Cryptocurrency and digital money like Bitcoin are poised to go mainstream in 2020 due to a confluence of factors, writes Catherine Coley.
Photo-Illustration by Fortune; Original Photographs by Getty Images(2)

I run an online platform that helps people buy and sell digital assets (like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies). In 2016, I knew little about the industry, and today I lead one of the foremost digital asset marketplaces in the U.S. I’m evidence that anyone can learn about crypto. 

For the most part, the world of crypto has operated in a strange lane all by itself, confined to Twitter and Telegram private chats. But in 2020—amid the coronavirus pandemic—interest in crypto has boomed. Whether it’s been TikTok cheering on DogeCoin or a twenty-something hacking into high-profile Twitter accounts and asking for Bitcoin, 2020 might just be the year everyone from teens to nonagenarians learns about cryptocurrencies and digital money. 

There are a few factors contributing to this change, and they are important enough that Americans should be paying attention. First, government payments to individuals and businesses alike are weakening the U.S. fiat (physical cash) system. Second, large banking institutions like JPMorgan Chase are condoning and even welcoming digital currencies onto their platforms. And third, more Americans are home, witnessing the discrepancy in the market’s growth and the nation’s unemployment rate. 

The weakening dollar

With numerous sports and large events canceled, and many Americans receiving government aid, the U.S. has a captive audience for financial change. While most things we took for granted have halted, two things have stayed the same: the Internet and the exchange of money. 

What has changed notably is the value of money, in particular the U.S. dollar. As Americans continue to receive public financial assistance and businesses utilize Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans, the inherent value of the dollar is dropping. Earlier this week, the U.S. Dollar Index reported that the value of the dollar dropped to its lowest level since May 2018.

What does this mean? More people will hedge their bets on currencies that act outside the confines of the dollar and buy other fiat currencies. However, we are also seeing more people invest in cryptocurrencies: Some even had an influx of exact deposits of $1,200 in the weeks after initial stimulus checks were received.

Bank momentum

The best performing asset of the last decade was not Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, real estate investment trusts (REIT), or real estate—it was Bitcoin. When the best performing asset doesn’t even exist in traditional banking models, banks get interested. 

In May, the largest retail bank in America, JPMorgan, which has historically been a staunch opponent of Bitcoin, announced it is already processing crypto transactions on its platforms, and has plans to create JPM Coin, a digital currency tied to the dollar, that would expedite global payment transfers. In June, CoinDesk reported that PayPal and Venmo might be joining the crypto community by offering direct sales of cryptocurrencies. Earlier in August, we saw Goldman Sachs bring in a new head of digital assets to scale up its crypto operations.  

Crypto—once reserved for the gamers, coders, and early tech millionaires—is now a place where more people have the opportunity to participate in an alternative system where they can have more control over their wealth. Anyone with a smartphone can access crypto without waiting for banks to open up or for a debit card to be mailed to them. What’s more, because crypto is decentralized and uses a public ledger to notate payments, there is an opportunity for a level of transparency government assistance programs do not provide.

Disconnect between actual wealth and the stock market

Many Americans remain unemployed and feel the disconnect between the stock market’s success and the financial reality of their lives. New personalities entering the crypto world—from Paul Tudor Jones to William Shatner to Olympian Christie Rampone—are helping initiate an honest conversation about whether our financial systems are helping or hurting us all.

These names are also an important part of showing everyone that cryptocurrencies and digital currencies are real. Although there may not be a Tom Brady of crypto due to the fact that the originator of Bitcoin is anonymous, everyone who talks about cryptocurrencies and digital assets helps validate the industry. Because crypto and Bitcoin were built to be decentralized and without one governing body, there are impassioned contributors across the globe who work constantly to improve access to digital assets. I expect that soon there will be more who come forward to provide credibility to crypto and digital assets, as their relevance and benefits are unavoidable. 

The future of Bitcoin

Whether or not you’ve heard of Bitcoin, it’s a word and a concept that is not going anywhere. There is a reason why the most prestigious university endowments, such as those affiliated with Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, all invest in crypto funds. 

Crypto is building in credibility. If for no other reason than curiosity, investigate Bitcoin and digital assets and see what everyone is talking about. After all, crypto will keep going while we are locked in our homes—a surefire sign that, pandemic or not, crypto is a huge part of our future. 

Catherine Coley is CEO of Binance.US.

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