Digital currencies have the attention of the mainstream. Even America’s oldest bank can’t ignore them.
Bank of New York Mellon , founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, announced last week it will help clients hold and transfer bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. That followed an announcement from Tesla that the electric car maker purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. The combined excitement generated by two well-known companies likely played a role as the price of bitcoin hit $50,000 for the first time.
Many investors may justifiably feel that buying bitcoin or other tokens directly as a way to tap into this momentum is too speculative or volatile. But it may be time for even the crypto-agnostic to start thinking about getting exposure to the emerging ecosystem around bitcoin and other digital assets—not necessarily for the value of those assets themselves, but how finance and banking might evolve because of them.
After all, many longtime crypto proponents are already looking well past bitcoin as digital gold toward other developments, such as the use of crypto in commerce, lending and payments. The shape of this future is hazy: Bitcoin itself could be a major component, or it might be alternatives like so-called stablecoins pegged to dollars, or digital currencies issued directly by central banks. Mastercard said this month it plans to support some cryptocurrencies, particularly stablecoins, directly on its network.
For shares of big global institutions like Bank of New York or Mastercard, it could still be some time before crypto can move the needle more than macro factors like interest rates or consumer spending. So investors for now may be looking for more concentrated or direct exposures. There is a growing roster of listed companies that provide “pick and shovel” services across cryptocurrency and digital assets—though they aren’t cheap.