J.P. Morgan may be highly skeptical about the prospects for bitcoin, but at least one financial research firm is behind the virtual currency. Institutional brokerage Wedbush Securities has become the first to accept bitcoin payments in the US.
Los Angeles-based Wedbush has thus far published two reports on bitcoin through its Wedbush Equity Research operation. At the start of December, it released “Bitcoin: Intrinsic Value As Conduit For Disruptive Payment Network Technology”. It followed this up with “Digitizing Trust: Leveraging the Bitcoin Protocol Beyond the Coin” a month later.
Gil Luria, managing director of Wedbush Securities, traditionally covers payment systems, and regularly monitors eBay/PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard. He decided to make these reports available for bitcoin to demonstrate his support for the payment protocol, he said.
“We decided that bitcoin and its associated technologies are a very important trend and will be an important part of the future of how financial services are doing,” he explained. “So we wanted to get involved as early as we can, and in as many ways as we can”.
The firm normally sells its services and reports exclusively to institutional clients, which can pay tens of thousands of dollars each year, Luria pointed out. However, individual customers paying in cryptocurrency can purchase these reports for just 0.1 bitcoins.
That’s quite the discount. Such a move is unlikely to be entirely altruistic. Luria admits that he is paving the way for other opportunities that may emerge in the bitcoin space. Essentially, he is building a list of useful bitcoin advocates who are interested in investment opportunities. He declined to say what those opportunities might look like, however.
“We will learn about who’s interested enough to buy a report,” he told CoinDesk.
Swimming against the tide
Bitcoin may be a young asset class, but Wedbush is an established firm, having started in 1955. It is one of a handful of financial services firms interested in the technology – and its pro-bitcoin stance stands in stark contrast to that of some larger institutional players. Earlier this week, investment bank J.P. Morgan published a scathing report on bitcoin, calling it “vastly inferior” to fiat currency.
“At this point in time, the bigger institutions have a negative knee-jerk reaction. A distinction I would point to is that Bank of America and J.P Morgan had published reports through their currency analysts, and that points to a misunderstanding of what bitcoin actually is,” he argued. “It’s a payment network faith a series of innovations that are far reaching.”
That attitude is manifest in another bitcoin-focused Wedbush report published today, titled “Watch the Innovation, Not the Price”. That’ll be available for bitcoin customers on Monday. Luria explains that bitcoin’s position as an asset class is almost incidental to the value of the decentralized payment network. When you buy bitcoins, you’re effectively investing in Satoshi’s innovation in creating that decentralized consensual structure, he argued.
That asset class is itself relatively unique, because it isn’t pegged to any particular market.
“It creates this side effect where it looks like a currency and acts like an asset class. Investors have been struggling to find asset classes that are uncorrelated with the market and many are reaching out to gold,” Luria argued. “If BTC was to live up to its potential, then it becomes an interesting asset class because it becomes uncorrelated with the market as a whole.”
Wedbush will be taking payments through Coinbase, which will convert the bitcoins instantly to dollars. The investment brokerage may take a financial position in bitcoins in the future, Luria said, but he had no firm timeline.
There will be future reports on the cryptocurrency, he promised. When they appear, they will also be available for a nominal fee, payable in bitcoins.
Analyst report image via Shutterstock