Traditionally, most people have approached bitcoin as a digital currency. Although that is one of its principal uses -- and arguably the most mainstream -- it is far from its only application.
Despite its speculative nature, bitcoin is emerging as a viable alternative asset class for institutional and retail investors alike. It has an enormous amount of investment potential and is unlike any investment product in the world today.
On the fence on bitcoin? Here are three arguments that may push you to the investing side.
Investing in bitcoins offers exposure to a global technology used by thousands of companies across dozens of sectors worldwide, and the ecosystem is only growing.
At the heart of bitcoin is the blockchain, a technology that renders bitcoin a truly innovative product. The blockchain is a trustless, decentralized, public ledger of all transactions in the network whereby any transaction is verified within 10 minutes. Compare this to the lengthy verification times of credit card transactions or domestic and international wires. Further, the blockchain stands as immediate, incontestable proof of all transactions and creates a permanent, immutable database.
Blockchain's applications have the potential to stretch far beyond bitcoin, and companies and individuals are already leveraging the technology to modernize key products and services across a variety of industries. Remittances, payment processing, personal banking, auditing, secure data transmission, information hashing, securities settlement/clearing and traditional financial trading are just a handful of examples of its possible applications.
Some of the largest financial institutions in the world have already taken note.
In April, UBS (UBS) announced plans to launch a technology lab in London to explore the potential uses of blockchain technology in financial services. Citigroup (C) is said to be testing three blockchains and a cryptocurrency called "Citicoin."
Spain's Santander (SAN) coauthored a report this year that estimated the technology could reduce banks' infrastructure costs by $15 billion to $20 billion per year by 2022. Both Barclays (BCS) and Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ) are reportedly experimenting with it as well.