Crypto’s Watershed Moment Could Be Q1 2019

If there’s one thing that the 2018 cryptocurrency market has taught investors it’s that you have to be able to see the forest from the trees. Even as the bitcoin price remains approximately 70% from its peak, Fidelity Investments and Bakkt have proven that the industry infrastructure that has been missing has begun to take shape. Today the bitcoin price is hovering at $6,542 on modest volume of $3.2 billion. In order for any gains to take hold, however, trading volume will have to strengthen to more robust levels.

Meanwhile, market strategists like Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee are sticking to their bullish price forecasts of more than $20,000 by year-end while Galaxy Digital’s Mike Novogratz has revised his outlook to the downside. One thing the market seems to agree on is that institutional capital will be a catalyst for gains, and if you ask traders like BKCM’s Brian Kelly, the tide has already begun to turn.

“I would expect over the next three months, six months you start to see the proverbial herd really start to turn in this direction,” he said, adding that based on anecdotal evidence from his hedge fund clients, the plans of big investors to enter crypto are afoot.

The first quarter of 2019 is largely expected to be a watershed period for crypto, as not only are big investors expected to enter the market but according to Kelly, it’s also when traditional retail brokerage houses could unveil their crypto trading solutions to the market.

Fidelity Investments is a first-mover, but their product leaves out individual investors. In an interview with CNBC, Kelly suggested that Schwab and E*Trade could already be working on crypto solutions for retail investors that could be introduced as soon as Q1 2019. Kelly pointed to crypto trading apps like Robinhood, which was able to attract 1 million users to its crypto trading app in a few short days while traditional competitors missed out.

Satoshi’s Vision

But not all of the crypto community is anxiously awaiting institutional adoption. Jackson Palmer, who created one of this year’s best-performing cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin (DOGE), warned that “the institutionalization of crypto will heavily recentralize both power structures and token distribution. So you can say goodbye to much of the original vision for the technology.”

Indeed, Satoshi’s vision was for a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”, and as the launch of bitcoin futures has proven, the impact of institutional trading products could have negative consequences. But as Kelly pointed out, the industry needs “fresh capital.” And institutional involvement is also a sign of a maturing Bitcoin network, one whose adoption is likely to increase as recognizable brands continue to enter the space.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock 

Gerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.