An (Institutional) Investor’s Take on Cryptoassets

John Pfeffer
Dec 29, 2017 · 3 min read

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This document is intended for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this document are not, and should not be construed as, investment advice or recommendations. Recipients of this document should do their own due diligence, taking into account their specific financial circumstances, investment objectives and risk tolerance (which are not considered in this document) before investing. This document is not an offer, nor the solicitation of an offer, to buy or sell any of the assets mentioned herein.

Amidst the indiscriminate speculation, sensationalist and mostly misguided media coverage and roller-coaster price volatility, this paper sets out to consider cryptoassets from the perspective of a rational, long-term investor. As investors, we look for things that generate sustainable, ideally growing economic rent — an economic surplus that will accrete to us. This paper evaluates the extent to which cryptoassets offer the foregoing. It aims to assess the potential future value of cryptoassets at mature equilibrium, on the assumption that they develop successfully and achieve widescale adoption. By design, it does not dwell on the significant risks that a given cryptoasset could fail, for technical, regulatory, political, or other reasons. These risks are very real, and are well documented elsewhere. Temporarily setting them aside allows for an objective analysis of the potential value of different kinds of cryptoassets and their use cases.

I write not from the perspective of a trader, but from that of an investor who believes the long term is easier to predict than the short term. The paper thus focuses entirely on long-term equilibrium outcomes and investment strategy rather than short-term price movements. It also assumes the reader has some familiarity with the topic.

Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt a number of industries and to create significant economic surplus. The open-source nature of public blockchain protocols, combined with intrinsic mechanisms to break down monopoly effects, mean that the vast majority of this economic surplus will accrue to users. While tens or perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of value will also likely accrue to the cryptoassets underlying these protocols and therefore to investors in them, this potential value will be fragmented across many different protocols and is generally insufficient in relation to current valuations to offer a long-term investor attractive returns relative to the inherent risks. The one key exception is the potential for a cryptoasset to emerge as a dominant, non-sovereign monetary store of value, which could be worth many trillions of dollars. While also risky, this potential value and the probability that it might develop for the current leading candidate for this use case (Bitcoin) would appear to be sufficiently high to make it rational for many investors to allocate a small portion of their assets to Bitcoin with a long-term investment horizon.

Read the full paper here.

John Pfeffer