Saxo Bank CEO and co-founder Lars Seier Christensen made headlines in his native Denmark earlier this month when, in his typically outspoken fashion, he revealed his support for bitcoin in an interview with online news site Business.dk.
It was then Christensen acknowledged he has not only bought bitcoins, but that his online investment company is currently exploring bitcoin’s potential use. Unsurprisingly, the announcement that set forth a flurry of conversation about the potential impact Saxo Bank’s stance could have on the perception of bitcoin in Europe and abroad.
However, while some in the bitcoin community were quick to view Christensen and Saxo Bank as potential industry leaders that could expand the popularity of the currency, Christensen is eager to take a more moderate view.
Speaking to CoinDesk, Christensen indicates that he and his company are only trying to analyze bitcoin with an unbiased mind:
“I wouldn’t say we’re taking a lead on it. I’ve taken a personal interest in understanding the space better. […] We haven’t made that decision yet, but at least we’re not dismissing it out of hand for regulatory reasons or other reasons that banks would completely ignore it.”
Saxo Bank offers customers the ability to trade 179 forex currency pairs, more than 2,500 investment funds and futures contracts in currencies, gold and oil, among other offerings. Founded in the early ’90s as service broker Midas, Saxo Bank had a market value of about $3.6bn as of 2011.
Though the original report suggested Saxo Bank may be experimenting with bitcoin, Christensen indicates that its plans are currently in an exploratory phase. Saxo Bank’s interest in bitcoin, therefore, extends presently to analyzing whether it could be the next area of interest and innovation.
Christensen said the bank has no plans yet to adopt bitcoin into its platform, though he seems to recognize the potential of such a move:
“I think there’s an opportunity there for banks that are early adopters. […] The bitcoin community is fairly enthusiastic one, so I’m sure there’s some business to be won and some goodwill to be achieved, plus some interesting opportunities for other clients.”
Due to his libertarian leanings, Christensen indicates that he was aware of bitcoin as far back as two or three years ago, though he didn’t pay much attention to it until the financial crisis in Cyprus last year.
Said Christensen: “I thought what happened in Cyprus was a pretty shocking thing and probably an omen of what is to come more and more often in the future. So, it was interesting to see the attention bitcoin got around the time.”
Christensen later purchased bitcoin through BitcoinNordic, a Denmark-based bitcoin buying and selling service, in order to gain “practical experience” with the digital currency. However, Christensen suggests he was more intrigued by the novelty factor of the technology, noting that it has so far led to several interesting dinner conversations.
As an investment, Christensen reports that he hasn’t had much luck with bitcoin, noting that he quickly learned bitcoin was a two-way market. Christensen notes he bought in prior to the bankruptcy of major Japan-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, and the subsequent decline in bitcoin’s value.
Overall, however, Christensen said he believes there is a lot about bitcoin that he finds personally appealing. This includes the 24/7-style of the market, which he notes doesn’t exist elsewhere, as well as its position as a currency free from central bank control.
“I think it’s a bit of a paradigm shift. I was in Israel [recently] and they had this beautiful historical collection of coins, and it struck me that this model has been the same for several thousand years so that it might be time for something new to come by.”
Christensen also added that he sees the political appeal of bitcoin: “At the end of the day, my general observation is that the private sector is a lot better at most things that the public sector, so why shouldn’t that also be the case with money?”
The comments suggest that though Christensen indicates his company isn’t “close to doing anything with bitcoin”, this stance may be subject to change.
Christensen image via Saxo Bank