Already, the frenzy over WallStreetBets and GameStop is beginning to fade. In its wake, financial markets should be reminded that the most enduring retail investing mania over the last few months has focused on bitcoin.
Much has been written about how institutional investors propelled bitcoin
to spectacular highs, with the crypto asset gaining as much as 400% from the beginning of 2020 to its peak in early January 2021.
Payments giant PayPal
now offers bitcoin services. BlackRock
the epitome of institutional money, is set to offer clients exposure to crypto futures through new funds. But retail investors form a crucial part of the bitcoin trend.
It is retail investors targeted by tabloid headlines suggesting that bitcoin will hit $1 million. They are the same investors warned by regulators that they “should be prepared to lose all their money” from crypto investments.
And according to a bitcoin-focused U.K. fintech with tens of thousands of users, women and older investors are largely staying out of the crypto frenzy, leaving young men to be significantly overrepresented.
which provided data on its user base to MarketWatch, allows users to buy and trade bitcoin as well as hold the crypto asset in an interest-generating account.
The overwhelming majority of people using its app are men, making up 79% of users to just 21% women. Compared with the most recent data from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics, or ONS, this makes the gender divide among Mode’s bitcoin holders even wider than with other investments.
In the tax year 2017-2018, 2.3 million people had an Individual Savings Account, or ISA, with stocks and shares. ISAs are the popular tax-free account available to residents of the U.K. Of those, more than 1 million, or 44%, were held by women.
The data from the ONS are very consistent with investing demographics in the wider population, according to Lisa Kramer, a professor of finance at the University of Toronto and an expert in investor behavior. Mode’s demographics aren’t.
Kramer said that when she looks at the differences between the ISA numbers and Mode’s user base, she wonders “if part of what we’re seeing isn’t driven by investor overconfidence.”
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This is linked to gender, Kramer said, pointing toward a landmark piece of behavioral finance research from 2001 titled — very aptly — “Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment,” written by University of California professors Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean.
Barber and Odean found that men trade stocks 45% more frequently than women, which is a symptom of overconfidence because overconfident investors trade excessively.
In 2001, these findings…