The big news on the Bitcoin front this week is about Greece, but I had my say on that subject a couple of weeks ago, when I suggested that trading dynamics rather than direct buying from Greece would push the exchange rate for Bitcoin higher against major currencies. That dynamic is still in place and further gains are possible, but from a longer term and more existential perspective, there was some interesting news last week that probably didn’t get the press it deserves.
Goldman Sachs (GS) published the results of a survey on the financial habits and tendencies of millennials. As one would expect the focus was on their spending patterns and investment strategies, the traditional areas of focus for a Wall Street bank. What makes this survey relevant to those in the Bitcoin community, however, is that they included a few questions on the subject of cryptocurrency, or more specifically, Bitcoin itself. Inevitably the Bitcoin focused news sites picked up on that, but the reporting of the results was, to me at least, somewhat strange.
What the survey showed was that 51 percent of respondents indicated that they had never used Bitcoin, nor did they intend to do so in the future. On the other side of the coin (if you’ll forgive the pun) 22 percent said that they had used Bitcoin in the past and intended to do so again, and the same percentage indicated that they hadn’t used Bitcoin but were open to doing so. 5 percent reported having used the digital currency, but not intending to do so again.
"Most Millennials Won't Use Bitcoin" trumpeted the headline at CoinDesk, while NewsBTC went with “Majority of Millennials Still Wary of Bitcoin”. I guess both of those headlines are correct as 51 percent is a majority and does equate to most of the respondents, but is that really the story? It seems to me that the fact that 44 percent of respondents indicated that they had or would use Bitcoin is the real revelation here. I know that this was a survey of millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000), but the fact that nearly half are aware of and prepared to use a technology that is so revolutionary is encouraging for those that support Bitcoin and should sound a warning bell to those, including Goldman, who have something to lose if adoption continues to increase.
The fact is that, outside of certain financial and tech related channels and an occasional article in the mainstream media, nobody is promoting Bitcoin. There are no TV or press ads for the currency. Most people’s casual awareness of it is based on the fact that there was a huge bubble a couple of years ago. The growth that has been seen so far is based largely on word of mouth and on those that have researched and used the currency reporting their experiences to others, others who are then intrigued enough to find out what it is about. Given that, a 44 percent reach, even among a target audience, is pretty impressive.
Even more telling in many ways is that the researchers at Goldman chose to include questions on the subject at all. That should come as no real surprise to those that follow Bitcoin-related news; Wall Street stopped dismissing peer to peer currencies a while ago and began to dig around for information. It is an interest that many, including me, cautiously welcome, while others feel that it presages some attempt to co-opt the idea. I have no doubt that Wall Street firms are looking for ways to profit from Bitcoin, that is their job after all, but their current interest seems to me more about not getting left behind than any takeover.
Whatever their motive though, the simple fact remains that Goldman thought that Bitcoin was relevant enough to millennials to include the subject on their survey. I would say that the indication that nearly half of those surveyed were not just aware of Bitcoin, but seemingly in favor of it, is the real news here, and that that bodes well for the future of the digital currency.