The Evolution of Cryptocurrencies As an Asset Class, with Eric Anziani, Chief Operating Officer of

Episode summary

The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was invented over 10 years ago. Since then, cryptocurrencies have evolved into a noteworthy asset class for investors. Eric Anziani, Chief Operating Officer of takes us on an excursion into the world of cryptocurrencies in this episode.


Episode transcript

Philipp: Welcome to another episode of In Your Best Interest, your personal finance podcast. I'm your host, Philipp Muedder, and today we will be chatting about all things cryptocurrencies. It's a topic that always seems to generate a lot of debate in the investment community, with people tending to either fully support it and be big supporters of it or being harshly against it. So it's quite a polarising topic that we want to explore in more depth today. 

And something I personally want to learn a lot more about for myself, because I do have some experience with it, but it's still very limited compared to our guest on the show today. And for this topic, I have invited to the show Eric Anziani. Eric is currently the Chief Operating Officer at's mission is to put cryptocurrency in everyone's wallet. He currently looks after several functions at including product, growth, institutional sales strategy, partnerships, Blockchain, research, and data.

Eric is also a seasoned tech leader with 14 years of experience in strategy, partnerships and innovation in both financial services, as well as payments, fintech and lifestyle tech. Before he joined, Eric worked at leading global companies such as Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, PayPal as well as the Global Fashion Group in cities such as London, [02:00] Paris, Singapore as well as Tokyo.

Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today, Eric, I'm really looking forward to discussing the world of cryptocurrencies with you. And as you might imagine, I have about a million and one questions for you. But before we dive more into the topic itself, I would like to take a few minutes to introduce you a bit more to our audience.

I know I just read off a lot of great achievements and a lot of your past before. But how about we take it a step back and go into your earlier childhood first. And maybe you can share with us a little bit more about where you grew up, where you went to university etc.

Eric: Sure. Hi Philipp! Thanks a lot for having me on the podcast; I'm very excited to see how I can share more about the space we're in and All right, yes, where did I grow up? So I'm a French citizen, I was born and raised in France. I started my first studies there in Paris, and later I did an MBA in Singapore. And after that, I moved to Asia and have been there for a little bit more than eight years now.

Philipp: Was Asia always on your own your list to come to? Or was it coincidence with the MBA program? Or was it always something you looked at conquering at some point?

Eric: I always had a keen interest about China's histories and culture. Even when I was back in Europe in my earlier working days, I started and founded a think-tank about China called The China Institute. So I was doing already a lot of travel, a lot of reading books, meeting people about China, so that was something I was quite keen on.

And of course, the Chinese world, which is much bigger than China itself. So I was quite keen to go into the region, Singapore was a very convenient entry point into the region with an MBA and I really enjoyed my time there, so I ended up staying there almost seven years.

Philipp: Wow, yes. I think it happens to a lot of people, once they come over, a lot of them stay, right? Because it is a very vibrant and [04:00] energetic place. I feel the same way, having lived for almost ten years in the U.S. And, like you, growing up in Europe, the pace of life feels very vibrant and positive, looking into the future, right?

Eric: Yes, that is correct. I think especially at the time when I was moving; I think Europe was a lot about cost-cutting and economic challenges and low growth. And Asia was, and still in many parts of the world, apart from this challenging year, all about growth, business opportunities. So there was a very different business and personal environment, it was very exciting.

Philipp: Yes, I completely agree with you there. When we look back before the MBA though, what did you study in your undergrad in Europe? Was it also finance or business or completely different?

Eric: I'm actually an electrical engineer, although I haven't practised that skill too much apart from homework. But yes, I went to an engineering school back in France. Although those training usually is quite broad. It covers general management processes and even computer science to a certain degree. So I did that in Paris and then started my career at Goldman Sachs in the capital market side of the business.

Philipp: So never really went into the electrical engineering side to start with?

Eric: Yes, that's correct.

Philipp: No, that's good. And then the combo with an MBA with the engineering background and brains for it, I think make a very good combo. And you see that quite a lot, right? For people going that way after all. But let's go to, you said right after studying Electrical Engineering; you started at Goldman Sachs. Was that really your first look into finance? Or was there any other experience maybe growing up that you had some exposure to the finance sector? Or maybe you started investing even before [06:00] joining Goldman Sachs. What was that affinity you had with finance itself?

Eric: It's a very good question. I think it started probably when I was young, and I was lucky that my parents started giving me pocket money, very small amounts. But, kind of, teaching me what it is to have a bit of money, how to save it, how to grow it for special occasions or specific goals. So early on, I had this aspect of how to manage and build a little bit of wealth. So, it was like a couple of euros, but back in the days. And so that was kind of the first experience.

But of course, the world of finance is much broader and very exciting; it's what's powering the economy and generating employment, and facilitating the growth of businesses. So from that perspective, of course, I was very excited to join the space and learn more.

Philipp: Yes. And I think you alluded to a good thing. I think even with pocket money; that's where it started for most people to learn how to budget, right? Set some money aside for, maybe, you want to buy yourself some kind of toy, but it's very expensive. So it takes maybe a year or two to save up for it. So, instilling this at a young age really sets people up for success in the future.

And I always mentioned this lot doing our personal finance workshops that we do for clients and the public. So, yes, that's good to hear that you had this as well. So then let's move on then, you get to Goldman Sachs, you get your first real paycheck after college. Anything, in particular, you remember buying with that first paycheck?

Eric: Well, that is a long time ago. Let me think about it. In general, I've always been a lot about experiences, so I probably have spent it with loved ones at a dinner, or something like an experience I can share with others. So that's probably what I would have done if I remember correctly.

Philipp: Yes, I know. And probably you were working a lot of hours as I can imagine from my friends who also joined Goldman Sachs out of college. [08:00] Which gives you forced savings as well, right? If you're working long hours.

Eric: For sure.

Philipp: Good. And then before we get into crypto, I had one more question more on the personal side. But what would you say was the best investment you've ever made? It doesn't have to be a financial investment if that's not what it was, it can be anything.

Eric: Yes, and actually I'm thinking along those lines. I mean from a professional standpoint, trying out new things, investing in yourself, trying to learn as many things as you can I think is the best investment you can do. Just looking at cryptocurrency in particular as well, I was working for an e-commerce business that I really started investing some time outside of work, just to learn about it and start practising it.

Investing, in moving money around, reading about the technology itself. And six, twelve months down the road, I joined, and it was a great opportunity for me. So, I think investing in yourself and trying new things, continuous learning I think is the best investment you can do I would say from a professional standpoint.

But also if you look at a personal standpoint, it's also important to spend as much time as you can with your loved ones. I mean time flies by, and I think it's also a worthwhile investment.

Philipp: No, absolutely, I agree with you on both actually. I try to also tell people, I have always interns working with me as well, and they come they're young, and I said hey look, try to learn as much as possible while you're here, but go try different things. You never know where life takes you, and that's really important. I like to say that if you become obsessed about something and you can learn as much as you can about especially with the Internet giving you so much access, you can really find your way in life through that [10:00]. So, thanks, Eric for sharing your story there, that's super interesting for the audience. So you already started talking about it a little bit, I do want to switch gears, and we go to today's episode’s topic which is cryptocurrencies. And the first time I had heard about crypto was not so early from when it was started. But it was in about probably 2014, I never really followed it much then. But I heard it just through some clients, I had clients down in the Bay Area, and some of them were playing around with it. But I kind of like brushed it off and said okay, well nothing for me to do there. But then I was living with my wife in India, we lived there for two years, 2016 and 2017. And after the crackdown, the demonetisation of the rupee notes there, I really paid attention to it. Because people around me, like friends I made in India, everyone was worried about demonetisation and people started to get more and more interested in cryptocurrency. And obviously, I moved to Singapore in the summer of 2017, and then we had that big run-up in crypto. 

And when my dad started calling me from Germany and asked how he was able to buy Bitcoin, I knew there was something going on. So I think a lot of people had this experience, but my dad is 60 plus years old, and he doesn't even invest in the stock market. So when he was calling me and said oh, how can I open an account? Do you know how it works? I started paying more attention to it. And obviously being in Singapore and being in the fintech scene, there is a lot of that here in Singapore, which you can attest to by having lived here.

So what I wanted to do is for the audience to get a better understanding, how about we take them back a little bit in time and maybe you can tell us more about the history of cryptocurrencies. And then we can [12:00] kind of move that conversation on from there. It doesn't have to be, I know it's a long history, but at least give a small overview so that people can understand it a bit better.

Eric: Of course. I think if I look at digital currency more broadly, I think it really emerged I'd say in the early 80s. And there were precursors like eCash or Digi cash that came out to the market. But it's really until late-2008 that we had our first true decentralised cryptocurrency, which was Bitcoin that people are quite familiar with. And this was really a revolutionary peer-to-peer cash system that paved the way I would say for the entire category.

And then following that, quite a few years after that, we had all these exciting protocols that were built like Ethereum or Litecoin or even the chain as well. So I would say that's kind of the genesis, and what cryptocurrency is really is enabling movement of value over the Internet without having any central authority that approves or validate things, it's fully decentralised. And this is this big ledger that is there; it's a public ledger where all the transactions are recorded that you cannot alter, and that is visible for everyone to see.

So it's a very fascinating invention, and I recommend anyone to go and read the Bitcoin white paper, and that was published in late-2008. And that explains a bit how the Blockchain works. And it's very fascinating on top of the tech; it's also the incentive mechanism to make sure. 

Although, we don't have a central authority to validate that this is a valid transaction. There are the right incentives in place, a bit of game theory there. To make sure all the actor participating in the network behave properly. And ensure when the transaction is, the value is moved it's the correct amount, you actually have the amount, and there are no things like double-spending, and it's kind of bad behaviour. So this is fascinating.

Philipp: Yes, absolutely. I think that it is a super fascinating topic, [14:00] right? And again I mentioned, in the beginning, it's a quite a polarising topic. You have a lot of people; I think it's getting more to the fact that I think in the beginning people were saying oh, it's just this bubble, it's just going to go and pass away, the governments will crack down on this because it's decentralised. They want it obviously under their control, these kinds of things. But now 11, 12 years onwards it's still here, right? And it seems it’s here to stay.

Eric: Definitely. I think we've matured I would say from the experiment stage, and it is now an important technology trend that is here to stay, I would agree with that statement, yes.

Philipp: So with that being said, so it's a technology, but it's also seen as an investment, right? So what makes cryptocurrency an interesting investment vehicle, in your opinion?

Eric: Sure. I mean, first of all, it's a store of; some of the cryptocurrencies are stores of value. So they do maintain a certain value throughout time. Also, they provide a certain form of de-correlation with traditional assets. So not all and not necessary all the time. But in general, they have a strong de-correlation versus stocks or some of the traditional products. And having some of those in your portfolio can actually reduce your risk overall, your portfolio risk.

So we've seen a lot of whether it's retail investors or hedge funds or even family offices starting to get one, two, three or up to five per cent of their allocation in these digital assets due to that de-correlation aspect. And then I would say it's still an early-stage asset class, and the usage is still relatively limited. So there is high growth potential definitely in terms of more people learning about it, and investing into it.

Philipp: And I was actually going to go to that allocation question later, what do you think, your ideal asset allocation, but we will get to that later. But you kind of alluded already what some other bigger institutional players are [16:00] doing, so that's quite interesting.

Eric: Yes. And I think the very important point, but it's not relevant to all retail users necessarily. It’s the fact that because there's no central authority, it is what we call censorship resistance? So you have full control over those assets. And even if there's someone who really wants to, a bad actor, essential actors that want to take your funds out, they can't do it; it's yours.

And so having that form of control, especially in countries where maybe government don't have that great of a track record or other actors that have control over your assets and your properties. It is a safe haven in that sense to have those stores of value like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in a protocol that you have control over, and that is not at the mercy of the very few.

Philipp: No, I think all of those were really interesting points that I want to get a little bit deeper in. The first one you talked about, low correlation to some of the traditional asset classes, right? In the space of cryptocurrencies, there are also different ones that you can choose from. It's not just Bitcoin which most people know, right.

So what would you say like the pros and cons of crypto in relation to traditional currencies? And then we can also look at it as I guess you mentioned store of value. So a lot of people when they think of store of value, they think of Gold, right? Which traditionally has been used in portfolios to be that pillar.

And again, also we can look at crypto in relation to other alternative coins, because if you go on any kind of website or CoinMarketCap you see hundreds or thousands of coins, right? So there's so many. So how about we start with just the pros and cons in terms of in relation to traditional currencies. What is your opinion there?

Eric: Sure. I mean if we look at the pros, maybe we'll overlap a little [18:00] bit with the previous question. But maybe I'll start with something which is around mobility; it's very easy to move money around across borders with cryptocurrency. Some are faster than others, and so you look at Bitcoin, it will take maybe an hour to have the Bitcoin transferred to another address across the world.

Which if you compare to traditional banking, it may take two to three up to five days sometimes. So it's still much better, but you have also currencies that do it in seconds. So, in general, having the ability to move money around in a very secure and fast way across the globe is a very strong value proposition that cryptocurrency offer that traditional currencies don’t.

Philipp: This would be a really good one for the future too in payments, right? And everything. The instantaneous thing. Because I think this is still, especially for me as a foreigner in Singapore, and having to move money sometimes around between my U.S. accounts and Europe accounts and everything taking forever, right? And sometimes you don't even know where the money is for days.

Eric: Yes, it becomes stressful.

Philipp: And you become worried. Yes, every time I know how it works. But hey, if you're paying someone and it's an account that you've never transferred money to before. It's quite stressful for a few days.

Eric: True. I think if we also compare to stocks and bonds and things like that, the difference in having cryptocurrencies is also the liquidity. Those are assets that you can liquidate instantly and use. Maybe the depth of the liquidity is not yet, of course, to the level of the stock market.

But being able to use those in the real world instantly is a very strong value proposition that you can't really do today with stocks or bonds. And so that form of liquidity and realisation of the value and usage in the real world is something that cryptocurrency offers today.

Philipp: Yes. So that's towards the currencies and also stocks and bonds. [20:00] So, how do you see cryptocurrency compare to Gold? Because I think this is the one where the most comparisons always been made. Where do you see it in relation to Gold?

Eric: Yes. I think both are stores of value, and in some cases, medium of exchange. But to be able to use Gold as a medium of exchange is extremely troublesome. And I think that the great advantage of cryptocurrency is that you just need an Internet connection and Wallet, and you can transfer it everywhere across the globe. Unfortunately, you can't do that with Gold. Plus, Gold can be seized as well, which is not the case for cryptocurrency.

So we've seen it in the past I think in countries where they were impacted by hyperinflation like Venezuela, for example. A lot of people tried to move some of their assets in Gold, and then tried to leave the country, but that Gold was seized as they tried to leave the country, and you can't do that for cryptocurrency. That censorship-resistant and the control you have over it is quite unique, and I think to serve a purpose as well.

Philipp: Yes. And you alluded it to it during the Gold discussion we just had now, as well as doing the when we talked about currencies as well as stocks and bonds. The decentralisation factor. Do you think it's only a pro or does it also have some cons? Because if you don't have any kind of oversight from the government or you don't have anyone overlooking the space, there could potentially also be a lot of fraud.

Which in a market with stocks and bonds, you have the regulators, the SEC in the US, MAS here in Singapore etc. How do you see that evolve over time? Because this is also something that a lot of the retail investors or like my dad would probably question. Because they feel like the government is their safety mechanism sometimes. How do you see that?

Eric: It's fair. When you get more control, you have also more responsibilities [22:00], including being able to do your own research and understand the risk which can be harder for everybody. So what I would say here is the space in general, especially when it connects to the traditional world will be regulated. And I think that's needed, especially when you're touching traditional money or traditional rails like Visa or MasterCard, and you connect them with this new world of cryptocurrency.

It is happening across the globe; Singapore is quite at the forefront on that topic. I think the MAS has put a very thought-through framework to start regulating and providing guidance on digital asset businesses. And so at the same time, let the innovation happen, but protect the citizens of Singapore. So that is happening, and I think as a company, go back to, compliance is one of our first values with security.

And as we connect to the traditional world, it is very important that we applied the right mechanism there to protect the parties involved. So that part is happening, but within the cryptocurrency environment, movement of funds and things like that should be able to move in a privacy-protected way and relatively freely. Otherwise, this whole experiment does not bring much value to users, and we could continue using the traditional way.

Philipp: Correct. Otherwise, you just make it a traditional way, right? So I agree with that, thanks for that explanation. So before we move on to the asset allocation question I have, how do you see when let's say you got me, I would like to get some exposure to the cryptocurrency space.

So, which one should I invest in? Because there are so many different coins. And obviously, there's Bitcoin, Ethereum then you have smaller ones. In terms of the correlation between the different coins, and then also looking just at Bitcoin [24:00] because it's the biggest one. Where do you see people should start with first?

Eric: It's a very good question. I think when I see people entering the space, I always recommend if they want to start the journey investing, and of course, this is not an investment advice disclaimer.

Philipp: Right, we make this quite clear; we have something written as well. So yes, no investment advice.

Eric: Just personal opinions.

Philipp: Correct, personal opinions.

Eric: Yes. I recommend people to start with Bitcoin because it's the oldest one, that's the one that's the most secure out there and has a very interesting money supply and utility that people not only in the retail space, also in the institutional space value. And start small, and start probably with funds that if you were to lose 10, 20, 30% of value on, you'll not be impacted financially. And for sure do not borrow to invest.

Philipp: Yes, we always make this very clear in anything. That's the worst, right?

Eric: So I think it's good to start with something that is familiar, has been there for a long time. Also, move money around, try and feel what the Blockchain is about, how does it work. And start reading about this space, I think that's a good start. And then second, depending on the platform you choose to work with, there may be specific tokens that have utility on that platform.

And I think usually utility token is probably the next step for investors, especially on the retail side to actually get value and utility of their investment. Not from a pure speculative standpoint, but actually rewards, benefits, access to specific products. So if you look at for example the CRO token, which is the chain token, if you are to buy some of it, and you stake it, so you deposit it for a certain period of time, then you get discounts on events.

You get reduced fees when you trade [26:00] on the exchange platform, or when you pay your friends, or when you buy at a merchant online. So it gives you benefits, and there are a few reputable utility tokens out there that have proven to deliver value on top of the potential speculative value that they may have.

Philipp: Yes. You alluded to a couple of nice points there because one of the next things I want to talk about is how do people actually get access to crypto? Because I think this is also one of the - it's getting better - and I think you guys do an amazing job. And you can explain that a little bit better of how you guys help people get access to it. But I feel like this is still one of the areas in the cryptocurrency space that is quite, it's not necessarily difficult, but people are afraid of it.

Especially if you don't have any kind of technical knowledge. You go to an exchange; you hear all the news about exchanges, your money is not safe, that you should move it to a hardware wallet. Then you can go one step further, you buy a hardware wallet, and now it becomes really complicated to a lot of people. Not for people like us in the fintech space, but for my parents, or friends who have nothing to do with technology in their day-to-day job. I think for them it feels overwhelming. To buy and then move the money around. Maybe if you forget one piece of the wallet address, it's gone forever. So it makes it feel overwhelming. So could you maybe allude a little bit to that, like how do people get access, our listeners to crypto in a more easy way or what's the safeguards that they should at least have in place, right? Because it's their money, right? So they hold value, and you want to be sure that they're safe.

Eric: Definitely, I mean you're right on point. I think as we give more control for individuals, especially around their money, and this comes with great responsibility and managing your own security of your funds is not easy. And until today, it is still not trivial. [28:00] And that's probably why I don't recommend for people are just starting in their journey to go that full journey into managing fully their assets in terms of security because it's quite challenging.

And I think they can do it progressively. So usually, the first step is good to go on a platform that can help you manage that. Of course, you have counterparty risk, but it's a good introduction to the space, and you don't need to put too big of investment there as you get more familiar to it. It's what we call custodial platform, so basically they are the custodian of your funds.

And here I think you need to look out for a few things. With any platform you put your money in, you still need to do a bit of research, even if they're helping you manage the custody and then simplifying things. I think you need to look, for example, at the certification that the company has in terms of information security, in terms of data privacy. In terms of their ability to manage and control, let's say credit card information if you use a credit card. So those certification or even licenses are very fundamental for you as a first check.

Also, as a new category, do they have any insurance in case something happens? So insurance coverage is something also important to look at. So at, we have the highest coverage in the industry, up to $360 million dollars of asset that are insured. And so those are the things to start with when you look at this kind of platform.

Then you can check the team profile, their credential and who they work with. They have a global and deep partnership with a recognised player in the space like Visa or other types of serious actors. Then it's also a good sign that the platform is running properly.

Philipp: Especially because those partners will have done their due diligence as well, right?

Eric: Yes, and then also insurance, yes. At, we’ve gone through that journey, and I can tell you the level of due diligence that is required for us to get some insurance coverage is extremely advanced. So those are signs that the company is [30:00] investing in managing the funds, the processes, the security in the right way.

So you've done a bit of due diligence on your side, you can go with the custodial platform maybe first. you can log in in two minutes, you have an account, and then you can buy crypto with three taps, and you have your first Bitcoin. So that's very easy to do. But it's important that you do those checks in advance because this is money and this is value.

Philipp: No, it is exactly right. So, for example, you guys and other players, it's becoming easier to get your toes into the water of cryptocurrencies. So that's why when I heard about it in 2014, it was so difficult and so overwhelming to do this on top of your normal day job, to then spend significant time, and it was very frightening to do the first transaction ever on the Blockchain.

But also empowering because after that you can say “Oh, it's not that bad”. It's actually a super interesting topic that I like to do a lot of research on myself. So, thank you for the explanation on how it works and the things that the listeners can take away when they do their own due diligence, of starting their crypto journey. Based on what we just discussed, before we go into some of my future of crypto questions.

I do want to see if you have an ideal allocation, let's say I have an investment portfolio, I have stocks, bonds, maybe you own some real estate, some cash. What percentage would you say is a good way for an asset allocation to put towards the crypto space?

Eric: Well that's a tough question, and it really depends on your risk profile as well. But in general, I recommend up to 5% for people that are new to this space. And then depending on your risk appetite, and what are your goals or so that you want to achieve, you can start expanding from there. [32:00] But we recommend you to do it progressively and learn more about the space, stay informed before expanding further.

Philipp: Yes. And I think it's also about time horizon because - you quickly mention it earlier - put money in that you might be willing to lose on paper - at least 20, 30 percent. So I think in the crypto space, you still have, on Bitcoin if we just take that, you still have a lot of volatility. So yes.

Does it have average returns? Good. But the daily volatility or weekly volatility is still quite high. So people need to understand that and stomach that. But if their long term goals 10, 20 years away from now, they definitely need to take that into account, and that way smooth out their returns as well.

Eric: Yes, you're right. I think the space and the asset class is still nascent, and it is growing, it will be volatile for some time, and the volatility will go down later. But for it to grow, you need volatility and people need to be able to, as you said, stomach that. Because sometimes on a daily basis, it can be quite wide. So I think if you have those long-term goals, it can help you navigate.

Philipp: Yes. Are there ways already to - because at StashAway, we always advise people, especially with longer-term goals to do your monthly deposits towards savings and you can dollar-cost average into the market. Do you guys already offer tools, or are there already in the space tools where you can dollar-cost average into the market automatically?

Eric: I think it's a very important feature; we're actually working on it - recurring buy, so we're bringing that to the market in the coming months. I think it's a nice way to get regular exposure and grow your portfolio while mediating some of the big price movement.

Philipp: Yes, exactly. You take a little bit of, automatically take advantage of. Because the problem is that with any kind of investment, it's always if you wait, [34:00] the market goes up, then you think like oh now it's too high, I'm going to hold off on it. And even though your goal is very far away.

And then you wait two weeks, and it's higher even than that. So when should you have bought? And I think that having that dollar-cost averaging into the market is actually a nice tool for most people to be disciplined about their long term goals. 

Eric: Completely agree.

Philipp: Yes. So, thank you again already for all this information, it's super interesting to the listeners. But to wrap it up, I have a couple of questions. And they're more about the future. So we've talked a little bit about the past, we talked about the present and how we get exposure and what the benefits are.

But there are a few things that are developing now. You hear more and more governments talking about issuing coins. And in particular, I wanted to understand how initiatives such as the Chinese government's digital yuan or the Facebook Libra even impact the outlook of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. Do you have a view on that?

Eric: Yes. Those are the two major trends that we're seeing in the space in terms of things that will impact adoption globally, and I believe in a positive way. The first one you mentioned is what we call CDBC - central bank digital currency. China is leading the way on that front, but there's also a lot of governments in Europe, and the US is looking into it that are already making good progress, consulting with actors.

We actually as a company respond to those consultation papers, and then provide ideas on how those can be built, or how can they be distributed to retail customers. This is a really big trend; it is happening. In China, it's already been tested in a few provinces. It introduced a notion of digital money or digital currency to users. It will have some drawbacks and won't be as decentralised as cryptocurrency, especially in the first version that they come out.

But people will start being more comfortable [36:00] with this concept of cashless digital currency, and will get some exposure to cryptocurrency, and will see the difference between the two. So I think it's very positive for the space that central banks and government are looking into providing digital currency. And I think in terms of the difficult times we're facing now with the COVID-19 pandemic, the cashless trend that we're seeing in society is being accelerated.

We don't want to be exchanging cash notes today. We still want to retain the value of what is cash, but make it in a digital way. And so that is also helping move forward on that front. That's for central banks digital currency, the second one you're referring to is I would say corporate or big tech layers starting to participate in the cryptocurrency space by offering a cryptocurrency purchase to their users or launching their own cryptocurrency.

So we've seen that, for example, for the offer with Square in the US, and they're offering Bitcoin to their users, and it's a great way to get adoption in the space. We are seeing it with new protocols like Libra by Facebook as a way to bring a new set of value that can be exchanged across that platform. And Facebook, they have almost 3 billion monthly active users. It's a huge reach, and I think that's great for the space that more people get exposed to technology, that are linked to digital currency and close to cryptocurrency. And so people get awareness, and they start experimenting. And so I think it's overall very positive.

Philipp: Yes. I do agree with the adoption and everything, but if you think about what we talked about earlier, like the decentralisation piece of Bitcoin being very valuable. Now you're putting it into the hands of the government, isn't that exactly the opposite of what was wanted from Bitcoin? So I see people getting more comfortable with holding it, [38:00] but will that not have a direct impact on Bitcoin prices or the value of Bitcoin?

Because if people then trust the government again. Or Libra, Facebook Libra because they have the reach, like you said. People would be super comfortable using all the different Facebook channels that they own to transact with their currency, and then what is it exchangeable to? Is it exchangeable to the Bitcoin or to dollars? Fiat currencies, what's your view on that?

Eric: I actually don't see it as a negative for Bitcoin. It is definitely a positive because those CBDCs, the digital currency that are coming up from corporate players or other governments don't have the same properties as Bitcoin, and that reinforces the value of Bitcoin. Being fully decentralised, secure, censorship-resistant that is not going away. And actually, in contrast to those other types of digital currencies, I think it highlights the value even further of what Bitcoin and some of the other cryptocurrency out there are offering.

And the awareness journey of digital currency is progressing well, but the usage is not. So we still need more education from different actors. And even if what they're promoting is not exactly cryptocurrency, it's broader; it's a digital currency with slightly different properties. It does educate people about digital money, and they can look also at what Bitcoin and other currencies can offer and see the difference.

Philipp: I agree with that. That's an absolutely valid point, and I appreciate you sharing them. Because that was something that I was personally wondering how you stand with that. Because there's a lot of discussion around that topic. So thank you for that, and again thank you so much for being part of our podcast, we really appreciate it. This has a lot of good educational value to our users and listeners.

And I hope we can have you on again because I think we could go on and on with other questions that I had written down, but I'm being mindful of our time as well. [40:00] So to wrap it up, is there any other than you going on for users to learn more. Do you have any maybe favourite podcasts or websites that users can get some more information on this topic about?

Eric: Sure. We invest in education a lot because we need to grow the space. And as you mentioned sometimes, there is a bit of complexity we need to explain. So we have what we call the University, which gives kind of basic introductory articles about what is Blockchain, what is Bitcoin and how to buy your first crypto or things like that.

So I recommend your audience to go and check it out. We also have the Research, which is a little bit more advanced, that goes into more details if you've kind of past that initial stage, and you want to learn more. I listen to a few podcast, I really like the one by Laura Shin: Unchained. But there's quite a lot out there, and it's good to explore and try to see what you can learn from them.

Philipp: Awesome, thank you so much, Eric, really. Again, I appreciate it, thank you for being on here today, and I'm sure we'll be speaking again in the future. So until then, have a good rest of the year and again thank you.

Eric: Thanks, Phillip

Episode notes

In this episode, we dive into the world of cryptocurrencies with Eric Anziani, Chief Operating Officer of He walks us through the history of cryptocurrencies, and how cryptocurrencies have evolved since the invention of Bitcoin. Eric also reveals why cryptocurrencies appeal to both investors and users alike. And, if you’re wondering how you can invest in cryptocurrencies, Eric shares with us some ways you can start investing.

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Episode contributors

  • Philipp Muedder (Head of Financial Planning at StashAway)
  • Eric Anziani (Chief Operating Officer at