The “Accessibility Premium”: How Coinbase’s Overseas Expansion Could Affect Crypto Prices

The accessibility premium refers to the affect on a cryptocurrency’s price when it is added to Coinbase. The $8 billion valued exchange is now looking to expand beyond its U.S-based institutional trading business to offer institutional services worldwide. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin may end up being the greatest beneficiaries. These cryptocurrencies could gain from increased accessibility; the new “Coinbase Effect”.

In 2018, as the exchange added more cryptocurrencies, some writers wrote about a perceived “Coinbase Effect”, like Ari Paul. They theorize about an “accessibility premium”, in which those crypto-assets that are more accessible rise in price. With Coinbase bringing crypto to worldwide investors, it could bolster demand for those coins that are listed on the San Francisco-based “Goldman Sachs of Crypto”. They would be more accessible. When a new cryptocurrency or token hit the exchange, traders might expect a bump in price. 

On May 3, 2017 Coinbase integrated Litecoin, resulting in a 30% increase in the price. When Coinbase listed Bitcoin Cash on December 19, 2017, trading on global exchanges skyrocketed. Bitcoin cash closed at $4,000. Two days prior, its price had been $2,200. Volume increased from $2.5 billion on December 18 to nearly $12 billion on December 20 for a 380% increase.

Coinbase added Ethereum on July 21, 2016, resulting in a modest 14% rally. Things changed when Brave browser’s token, BAT, launched on Coinbase. It declined in price. Further data is needed to know the truthful dynamics. By the time BAT was listed, the price of crypto had long since started a consolidation, leaving sentiment low.

Fast forward Q1 2019, and Coinbase is expanding overseas. It is laying down infrastructure for the long-term as it looks towards Asian markets, amid moves to attract international institutional money to cryptocurrency trading. (Coinbase’s product GDAX offers US-based institutional trading) New traders might find Coinbase’s familiarity welcoming. Higher volumes would be to expected for the cryptocurrencies offered by the Silicon Valley giant. 

So, the popular exchange is undergoing an extensive expansion. Coinbase customers residing outside of the U.S. can now trade without a domestic bank account. This could be a boon to the prices of cryptos offered by Coinbase, led by Bitcoin.

There has been discussion about the correlation between simplicity and demand. Opinions on the effect ease of use has on demand are not entirely aligned. As Donald Norman says in his book “Living with Complexity”:

… the so-called demand for simplicity is a myth whose time has passed, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more.

Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that features mean more complexity. You do too, I’ll bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, feature by feature, and preferred the one that did more? …

Would you pay more money for a washing machine with fewer controls? In the abstract, maybe. At the store, probably not.

Ultimately, Norman argues for managed complexity. But, the demand for simplicity – or at least clarity – seems logical in a chaotic, complex world. In a blog on their website called “The Customer Demand for Pervasive Simplicity”, Cisco writes of this perception, and how it tailors its products towards this end.

A bastion of crypto-simplicity, Coinbase has long courted institutional investors in the U.S., but now its targets are clearly set on a global institutional book. The stage is set for crypto’s first truly global exchange, though Coinbase will need to first successfully assimilate into new countries, with their unique business practices languages, laws, and regulations. Currently, differing regulations in different countries keep crypto’s exchange ecosystem quite regional.

Coinbase holds 5 percent of all bitcoin, 8 percent of all ethereum, and 25 percent of all litecoin in circulation in cold storage. Its success overseas would likely underpin their prices if the “accessibility premium” holds true.

Marcus Hughes, recently appointed as lead counsel for Coinbase in the United Kingdom, has been tasked with overseeing cross-border expansion: “Coinbase takes the long view on bitcoin and wider cryptocurrency prices,” Hughes said, “We need to move beyond the speculation phase of bitcoin and cryptocurrency to the utility phase.”

He added: “The utility phase will mean bitcoin and crypto becomes more widely accepted and understood.”

This solidifies bullish sentiment from the exchange which will be strengthened should it be successful in its bid to attract ‘big money’, not just from a core user base in the U.S. but also from thriving crypto markets in countries such as Japan.

Coinbase reports that, “In the past twelve months, hundreds of crypto-first hedge funds have launched around the world, and many hundreds more traditional institutions have begun [actively trading digital assets]. High-volume clients across Asia will now have access to Coinbase’s flagship trading platforms for institutions. As part of this rollout, we now support inbound and outbound international (SWIFT) wire transfers, allowing Coinbase clients in Asia to fund their accounts from non-US bank holdings.”

Coinbase predicts a bright future for digital currency in Asia, it says, and looks to enter into a market that could help it to cement a role as one of the global leaders in crypto trading. But there remains a big question mark over cryptocurrencies, prominently over how regulation is going to play a role.

Marcus Hughes opines that this year will see a “massive change” for global bitcoin regulation. He says that Europe will gradually lead the way out of a “crypto winter” into regulated digital currency markets with more potential for long-term stability. But, in the short term, irrational trading might paint an entirely different picture. 

As we see Coinbase invest in the long-term it bolsters confidence in a currently inhospitable climate for bitcoin. Should prices continue to fluctuate market sentiment may dip, but it is the notion of institutional money that may serve to give cryptocurrency markets much-needed price stability. 

Image: David McBee, Pexels

Justin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.