Allianz chief economic advisor Mohamed El-Erian said Tuesday that he believes cryptocurrencies will become more “widespread” but as part of a broader ecosystem.

During his appearance at CoinDesk’s Consensus: Invest conference in New York, El-Erian said he thinks cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are commodities rather than currencies, reiterating a view he has expressed in the past.

“There were two confusions made,” El-Erian said. “People called it a currency or an asset class. What it is, is part of the commodity complex.”

“I think cryptocurrencies will exist and will become more and more widespread, but they will be part of an ecosystem,” he went on to remark. “They will not be dominant as a lot of the early adopters believe they will be.”

Speaking to why cryptocurrencies have appeal, El-Erian drew on the late-2000s global financial crisis that paved the way for bitcoin’s creation, highlighting the “loss of trust” in the decade since.

“Yes, we have a big trust deficit,” El-Erian remarked, going on to add:

“I don’t think we’d be up here on stage today if there had there not been a shock to the trust in the way the economy works.”

During the session, moderated by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, El-Erian also spoke about his view on the question of institutional investor interest in the industry, commenting that “certainly there’s a lot more interest on the institutional side.”

That focus led to a question about comments like those issued in the past by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who said in May 2018 that bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.”

El-Erian framed remarks like that as a response to a rapidly escalating price, saying that “when people saw it was going straight up and saw who was getting sucked into this phenomenon, they started warning. And I do think those were appropriate warnings.”

El-Erian went on to reiterate his belief that cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

“I do believe this is not, you know, going to disappear. It’s just finding its place in the ecosystem.”

Photo by Stan Higgins for CoinDesk

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