Are you ready for crypto as a ‘new asset class’?

October 20, 2021, 10:33 AM UTC

Good morning,

When I recently spoke with Macrina Kgil, CFO at, about surpassing $1 trillion in cryptocurrency transactions, she told me: “At this point in time, a lot of people actually think crypto is here to stay. It’s just [a matter of] how big and how fast it will grow within the overall economy.” And along those lines Bank of America (BofA), the second largest bank in the U.S., believes that “crypto-based digital assets could form an entirely new asset class,” according to an inaugural report. This is yet another sign that mainstream banks are taking crypto seriously.

Digital Assets Primer: Only the first inning, released this month, launched the bank’s foray into crypto and digital asset research. “With a $2 trillion-plus market value and 200 million-plus users, the digital asset universe is too large to ignore,” according to the report. And it’s not just Bitcoin, even though it’s important with a market value of $900 billion, BofA noted. Increased adoption and new blockchain-enabled applications such as decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which enables connections between creators and fans, fuel market growth, the report found.

Without relying on a traditional financial institution, the DeFi ecosystem allows users access to financial products and services like borrowing, lending, insurance, and trading, BofA explained. Meanwhile, NFT sales were $3 billion in August, up from $250 million in all of 2020. For example, Beeple’s digital artwork NFT sale at Christie’s sold for $69 million in March. 

“Everyone in this room should definitely care what an NFT is,” Kathryn Haun, general partner at the crypto fund of Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, said during Fortune’Most Powerful Women Summit last week. In August, Fortune sold animated versions of a recent crypto-themed magazine cover as NFTs raising 429 Ether, which is about $1.3 million. Part of the NFT sale profits were donated to journalism organizations.

Within the “digital asset ecosystem,” there are hundreds of companies providing services such as infrastructure support, BofA explained. In the first half of 2021, venture capital funding jumped to approximately $17 billion, compared to $5.5 billion in all of 2020, the report found. Digital asset-related M&A, year to date, increased to $4.2 billion, up from $940 million in 2020, and $2.5 billion in 2019. 

Although “we’re still in the early innings,” BofA predicted that similar to prior tech cycles, “only a handful of well-run, focused companies will likely succeed.” The bank also noted that as the regulatory scrutiny of the digital asset ecosystem grows, and more individuals participate, that may mean “digital assets are a step closer to the end of their Wild West days.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada


Fortune’s CFO Collaborative in partnership with Workday, “The CFO’s Role in Redefining the Future of Work,” takes place on October 27. The program, created just for CFOs, will feature a discussion with Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer, Accenture, and KC McClure, Chief Financial Officer, Accenture, and be followed by a panel with CFOs including Tracey Doi of Toyota North America, Scott Herren of Cisco, and Robynne Sisco of Workday. We will explore how leaders are differentiating their organizations when it comes to upskilling, digital capabilities, training, and creating talent pipelines amid the war for talent. CFOs can apply here. For more information, email

Big deal

The 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey takes at look at how the practice of empathy affects leaders and employees in U.S. workplaces. The report released by the firm on October 15 found 54% of employees left a previous job because their boss wasn't empathetic to struggles at work or in their personal lives (49%). About 46% of respondents said their employer's efforts to be empathetic are dishonest. The top qualities workers seek in an empathetic senior leader include transparency and fairness, according to the report. The majority (89%) of respondents agreed that empathy leads to better leadership. The report data is based on a survey of 1,010 Americans who are employed, either full-time or part-time.

Going deeper

There's a booming market for investment strategies that incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG). But the strategies often fail to account for the “S" in ESG or social factors, according to Making ESG Work, a new report by Casey O’Connor-Willis, a senior program manager and research scholar at the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. The report argues that investors should view the growing economic divergence between high- and low-wage workers as a priority concern for the "S" in ESG.


Brittany Bradrick was named CFO at Neurelis, Inc., a neuroscience company. Prior to joining Neurelis, Bradrick was COO and CFO at ViaCyte. She also previously served in strategy and corporate development positions for 10 years at Insulet and Abbott Diabetes Care. Bradrick was also an investment banker to the life science industry for 10 years at Piper Jaffray, Credit Suisse and Chase Securities.

David M. Gray was named SVP and CFO at Aviat Networks, Inc., a wireless transport solutions company, effective October 18. Gray will work closely with the company's departing CFO Eric Chang, who will remain with the company in an advisory capacity for a period of time, according to Aviat. Before joining Aviat, Gray was CFO and treasurer at Superior Essex. Prior to that role, he served as VP of finance at Cooper Industries. Gray has also held a variety of executive finance and accounting positions at Newell Brands, Philips Electronics, and Autoliv.


"It was sort of like stars aligned."

—Brian Barnes, chief executive of M1 Finance, a financial tech startup, on officially buying First National Bank of Buhl, one of the smallest banks in the U.S., for an undisclosed amount, as reported by Fortune

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