Wedbush Securities issued a new report today in which it examines how bitcoin evolved in 2014 and why, despite challenges, it believes the ecosystem will bolster its still nascent infrastructure in 2015.
The 13-page report is the latest from the US financial services and investment firm, which has been among the more outspoken players in the finance industry on the subject of digital currencies.
Though wide-ranging in its analysis of the bitcoin ecosystem, perhaps the most notable comment from Wedbush addressed the ongoing outage at leading US dollar bitcoin exchange Bitstamp, which it argued shouldn’t color perception of the industry as a whole.
Authors Gil Luria and Aaron Turner wrote:
“Weakness in unregulated foreign-domiciled third-party providers such as Bitstamp should be viewed as such, not as a weakness in bitcoin or the underlying technology.”
Luria and Turner went on to voice their opinion that the incident underscores the need for bitcoin trading to migrate to “regulated, robust, liquid and secure venues” in 2015.
The comments notably echo sentiments Wedbush expressed at the time it completed its first investment in the bitcoin ecosystem via bitcoin marketplace Buttercoin.
In its public comments, Wedbush lauded Buttercoin as a necessary step in the maturation of the bitcoin market, noting its “reliable trade execution” and established US banking relationship.
However, the lion’s share of the report focused on bitcoin’s accomplishments in 2014, as well as what it sees as a path the technology will travel on in the year ahead.
Bitcoin already ‘quietly mainstream’
In contrast to some observers who it acknowledges try to paint the ecosystem as a niche community, Wedbush argues in its report that bitcoin already went “quietly mainstream” in 2014.
The report stressed the integration of the technology at leading payments companies as evidence of bitcoin’s overall success.
“We believe the integration (not acceptance) of bitcoin by a range of companies from old guard NCR and First Data to Silicon Valley leaders PayPal and Intuit serves as the ultimate validation of the impact of the technology, not to mention the broad positive commentary from other industry participants,” the report reads.
In this light, Wedbush argues that bitcoin has the potential to disrupt legacy financial institutions “over the next few years”.
Price conversation evolves
Another topic the paper discusses is the relationship of the bitcoin payment network to the price of its native currency, and the tendency of observers to correlate the performance of the price with that of the ecosystem.
“We find investors continue to (mistakenly) view the price of the bitcoin currency as a forward indicator for the success and impact of bitcoin blockchain technology,” the authors write.
Wedbush voiced its belief that the technology’s innovation is likely to continue regardless of its price, using analogies to more traditional markets to underscore the point.
“2014 has shown that bitcoin prices are only related to the success of underlying technology as gasoline prices are related to car sales,” the report notes.
Instead, Wedbush suggested a more suitable metric for the overall performance of bitcoin could be the adoption of the technology.
For example, it compared the number of merchants enrolled by bitcoin processors BitPay and Coinbase, claiming that they have added more consumers than Apple Pay, the tech giant’s mobile payments app introduced in September.
Use cases to take hold
While much of the ecosystem’s focus will be on developing and improving its infrastructure, Wedbush predicts that bitcoin will begin to disrupt certain areas of commerce in 2015.
More specifically, the report named microtransactions and remittances as areas where it expects bitcoin to gain traction.
Elsewhere, the report concluded, bitcoin’s technology can be expected to continue its slow but steady development:
“We expect 2015 to mostly continue the hard work of building venues, settling regulation, and integrating into the existing financial services environment.”
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