UBS Chief Executive officer Sergio Ermotti says that wealthy investors are curious about bitcoin and other crypto assets but are not ready to make significant investments in cryptocurrency.
Ermotti told Bloomberg that the exceptional year-to-date performance of bitcoin, ethereum, and other crypto assets has piqued the interest of wealthy UBS clients, but he has not noticed any “meaningful desire” among clients to actually invest in the burgeoning crypto economy.
“People are more curious than really willing to invest,” Ermotti said in a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s any meaningful desire by high net worth individuals to take big bets on this kind of phenomenon.”
He stressed that it’s “premature” for billionaires and other high net-worth individuals to invest in cryptocurrencies, especially because UBS anticipates that governments will eventually adopt blockchain technology to issue their own, fiat-backed digital currencies.
“We believe existing currencies may move into becoming more of a crypto-currency,” Ermotti said. “We don’t really believe there’s much room for the creation of new currencies if there is no real backing for a hard and credible issuer of that currency.”
However, legendary hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz stated yesterday that he believes “the herd” of institutional investors “is coming” to the crypto markets, potentially carrying the bitcoin price above $10,000 within the next six to 10 months. He is currently preparing to launch a $500 million crypto hedge fund aimed at those same investors Ermotti says are not ready to invest in crypto assets.
Ermotti is not the first UBS executive to express skepticism about bitcoin. Last week, UBS chairman Axel Weber denied that bitcoin could serve as a store of value or a means of payment. It “is only a transaction currency,” he said.
Meanwhile, UBS is developing its own blockchain-based digital currency token — dubbed the “utility settlement coin” — intended to help financial institutions make cross-asset swaps without needing to use cash as an intermediary. At least nine major banks have joined the working group, including Credit Suisse, BNY Mellon, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays. UBS has planned a limited release for its settlement coin in 2018.