Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin will usher in a new wave of 'technology-driven markets', a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has claimed.
The 17-page primer, released by the firm's Financial Services Institute this month, says it is no longer a question of if cryptocurrencies will transform financial services, but when and how.
The report reads:
PwC, a 'Big Four' advisory firm which operates in over 157 countries worldwide, has spent over two years monitoring the sector.
The report, Money is No Object: Understanding the Evolving Cryptocurrency Market, is one product of the 'cross-functional team' the firm assembled to evaluate the impact of cryptocurrency technology.
Others in the 'Big Four' have dedicated a number of resources to the emerging technology, with rival Deloitte revealing last month it was trialling blockchain systems in its client audits.
"On the consulting side, I think we'll see the ecosystem adapt and change and move toward blockchain-based solutions," Deloitte's consulting principal Eric Piscini told CoinDesk at the time.
While cryptocurrencies may threaten government control in the financial markets and revenue from transactions, PwC says, there are a number of opportunities too.
These include cheaper transfers and blockchain-based solutions for both the retail and financial services sectors.
The question of success, PwC says, will depend on how fast cryptocurrency markets – and startups – can grow.
"As with most groundbreaking markets, the combination of ingenuity and speed to market is likely to distinguish the market leaders," the report reads.
It also identifies five market participants – consumers and merchants, developers, investors, financial institutions and regulators – that will create so-called 'credentialising moments' that will jolt cryptocurrencies further towards mainstream adoption.
Chief among these are consumers. While other stakeholders will help legitimise cryptocurrencies, "[their] full potential ... may be realised only when the market makes the leap from the hands of investors into the hands of consumers," it reads.
Before adoption can happen, PwC outlines a number of near-term challenges that cryptocurrencies must overcome.
Bitcoin, for example, is simultaneously a currency, a financial asset and a technology protocol. Because of this, there is a danger the industry could 'splinter' in different directions, and fast, the report says.
This classification issue is also likely to discourage larger, risk-averse firms from using cryptocurrencies, as they will want to avoid violating SEC, CFTC or IRS regulations.
In conjunction with its report, PwC released the results of its survey of US consumers. Some 83% of respondents said they were 'slightly' or 'not at all' familiar with cryptocurrencies, while only 3% had used them in the last year.
This is in line with other surveys, which indicate cryptocurrencies are yet to appeal as a user-friendly service. In an poll on payment methods, 38% of respondents ranked bitcoin as more inconvenient than checks.
A Goldman Sachs report published in June found that over half of US Millennials would never use bitcoin.
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