Cryptocurrency might be a perfect addition to a financial service practice, if you’re trying to grow and maintain your business.
Why would I say this when we know that most advisers would never tell their clients to allocate more than 5% of their portfolio to cryptocurrencies?
The answer is in the demographics and the investment habits, styles, needs and goals of those that do and might find crypto appealing. Gen X and millennials have lived with the internet most or all of their adult lives. They have become used to having all their services on-demand and having the ability to fact- and price-check everything.
Price checking became the norm with financial advisers over a decade ago, leading to the rise of robo-advisers. I was early in my FA career when Betterment and Wealthfront launched, and I saw the appeal. I already had clients asking me about my fees and how they were justified given the returns.
Other advisers just kept telling themselves – and each other – they couldn’t be replaced by a computer. “Our jobs are too important.” And now, advisers are similarly gun-shy about crypto, at risk of missing the industry’s next disruptive trend.
Robo-advisers currently have over $100 billion in assets under management (AUM), and the average age of the investors is well under 40. Those investors didn’t see the need to pay over 1% to financial advisers who did little more than pass the investing function on to third parties, who charged additional fees, only to underperform the market.
In addition, we have seen the growth of Robinhood, where 80% of the users are millennials, as well as apps like Acorns and Stash that offer a digital-first and highly customizable experience.
The moral here is, if Gen X and millennial investors want a certain way to invest, save or transact, they’re going to find it and they’re going to help dictate the fees and services. It’s likely crypto represents the next frontier of investing.
Let’s look at that group’s attitudes toward investing. According to CB Insights, 33% of millenials don’t think they’ll need a bank at all, and 83% express openness to alternative investment strategies.
Couple those statistics with the fact that this group stands to inherit over $60 trillion in the next three decades and are charted to quintuple their wealth by 2030.
What you have is a group of smart investors with growing incomes and wealth who know what they want to invest in and are wary of paying extra fees.
Crypto gives financial advisors the ability to offer something to those younger investors that many advisors can’t or won’t talk about. Clients want it, and they want help from their advisor. More than half of those surveyed by Grayscale said they would be more motivated to invest in bitcoin if their adviser recommends it.
Crypto can fit in with changing fee structures and service offerings. For advisers who are offering subscription, flat-fee, hourly or project services, crypto solutions fit very nicely. Having conversations about where crypto makes sense, and helping clients understand, buy, safely store and account for their crypto is highly needed by retail investors.
Crypto also gives advisers the opportunity to offer alternative investments to clients that otherwise wouldn’t qualify as accredited investors. From protocol tokens to Reg A+ offerings, crypto investments can be seen as a highly liquid, low-minimum, alternative risk asset, which this generation is much more open to investing in.
While many financial planners shied away from robo-investing because of perceived dangers, it’s important to note cryptocurrencies don’t need to cut into an adviser's revenue stream. For instance, if a financial advisor is using AUM as the main source of fees, that can be maintained either through funds on custodial platforms, or through third-party or separately managed account (SMA) services to manage clients’ crypto allocations.
The main point is this highly sought-after demographic of clients is interested in alternative investments, and in crypto in particular. Being able to at least have conversations with them, understanding where it fits in a portfolio and being able to relate it to their financial lives and goals is a big step toward winning their growing business. The ability to provide different fees and offering structures is even more important as financial services revenue models continue to change.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have had a big year in terms of recognition and adoption. Bitcoin has made significant gains compared to traditional indexes like the S&P 500, while PayPal is readying a crypto payments feature, showing that the industry is not just for dark market trades.
The stories are there for advisers to tell their clients and infrastructure is being built to help make crypto a smart play in financial planning. It’s time for financial advisers to meet the future of digital investments.
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