For the tech world, 2021 has started off on a rather strong and unusual note.
Perhaps it was a long time in coming, but the world seems to have suddenly taken a turn toward personal accountability and control over their data.
The updates effectively allowed Facebook to have direct access to data from messages that private users send and receive from businesses through the platform. Although the update doesn’t affect the privacy of messages that users exchange with friends and family, distrust over Facebook’s handling of personal data seems to have hit an all-time high.
Therefore, when Elon Musk recommended users switch from WhatsApp to Signal, downloads of the app exploded. Downloads of Telegram, another privacy-focused messaging app, similarly skyrocketed.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
The WhatsApp-Musk debacle also closely coincided with major concerns over the power that big tech companies have over the distribution of information on the internet. Citing concerns of further violence, a number of social media platforms made the decision to unilaterally ban US President Donald J. Trump from their platforms.
While it may be that deplatforming Trump did help to quell further violent protests in the United States, citizens and politicians on both sides of the aisle are concerned that power over the American narrative has become too centralized–and too privatized.
Desires for privacy and control in fintech present a strong case for crypto and DeFi
While neither of these incidents were directly related to the fintech world, the desire for privacy and personal control over information has never been stronger.
Therefore, the case for cryptocurrencies as an actual means of transacting value (rather than just a speculative investment) seems to be on the rise.
In a series of tweets on Twitter’s decision to ban Trump, chief executive Jack Dorsey briefly wrote about the power of Bitcoin’s decentralized model as a possible solution for concerns over Big Tech’s centralized power.
“Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement,” he said. “Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.”
“The reason I have so much passion for #Bitcoin is largely because of the model it demonstrates: a foundational internet technology that is not controlled or influenced by any single individual or entity. This is what the internet wants to be, and over time, more of it will be.”
Indeed, the case for decentralization is stronger than ever. However, Douglas Horn, Chief Architect at Telos Blockchain, told Finance Magnates that the road ahead may not be an easy ride.
“The most important developments in fintech will be broader adoption [of crypto], and reduced fees by moving to chains with lower transaction costs,” he said. “Pent-up frustration about rug pulls, hacks, misrepresentations about governance and other hijinks will lead to a backlash that is likely to rage for a while then move on without really changing much.”
Additionally, Horn predicts that “‘certifying agencies’ will pop up and become the next group of companies with their hands out to crypto projects for certification fees, similar to exchange listing fees. And by the end of 2021, at least one significant player in traditional finance will move into DeFi in a big way, leading the charge for more.”
The power of choice is stronger than ever
Because these themes of privacy and control are most present in the public conversation than ever, individuals may be more likely to gravitate towards fintech platforms and services that put these things at the core of their mission.
And, as Veem CEO Marwan Forzley told Finance Magnates, fintech users have more choices than ever in 2021.
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“Fintechs will provide more choice,” this year, Marwan told Finance Magnates. “Financial technology, and fintech as it relates to payments in particular, are expected to double down on the customization they extend to their users.”
“Whether it’s optionality in routing or more integrated services, fintechs are optimizing customer experiences intended to provide the most choice as possible through personalization, integrations, and user preferences to fit their needs.”
Forzley explained that The growth in the number of choices available in the fintech sphere has largely been fueled by necessity. “COVID-19 has fueled the acceleration of e-commerce and online business services as well as remote labour markets — increasing overall fintech adoption,” he said.
“This trend is not temporary, and is expected to grow even post COVID-19 as fintech reduces friction and strengthens online buying experiences. Financial technology enables small businesses to quickly hire and mobilize their remote workforce, and set up regional supply chains, through a faster and more convenient payment and payroll experience.”
As financial conditions continue to change, retail traders are entering financial markets in droves
The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought an unprecedented amount of interest in retail asset trading–a trend that many believe will continue to grow and develop in 2021 and beyond.
Indeed, Milind Mehere, CEO & Co-Founder at Yieldstreet, told Finance Magnates that “in 2020, the power of technology provided access to investments beyond the stock market, including alternative assets and digital currencies. In 2021, we believe the most important development will be the mass adoption of alternative investments by everyday investors.”
Additionally, Mehere believes that “The modern portfolio structure for retail investors could evolve after being decades of gospel.”
“Generally speaking, the traditional 60/40 portfolio no longer provides the kind of benefits it once did. Equity markets are trading at, or near, some of their highest valuations and have become increasingly more volatile with large sudden swings.”
COVID-induced changes in monetary policy could drive interest into alternative assets and fundraising models
This shift in portfolio structure conceptualization is likely in part due to the fact that monetary policy in the United States has changed considerably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The dollar seems to be growing increasingly weaker; many believe plans for further QE and stimulus spending could send it to its lowest point in decades.
“The 10-year United States Treasury rate is at, or near, its lowest point and becoming increasingly more correlated to equities, suggesting its benefit of being a counterbalance to equity risk may be diminishing,” Mehere said.
In addition to increased concerns about privacy and control, disillusionment with traditional assets could also be a driving force for cryptocurrencies and other alternative assets: “we believe we will see an increase in the adoption of alternatives, which offer returns typically uncorrelated to equities and bonds and can help mitigate overall risk in portfolios,” Mehere said.
Douglas Horn also believes that blockchain-based fundraising options could become more popular as a result of changing monetary policy.
“If past patterns hold, there will be a lot of stimulus money, but much of it will be distributed through banks which will fail to deliver the amounts intended to the intended recipients,” he said. “Small businesses will be in serious financial trouble and unable to get traditional loans.”
Therefore, “for survival, a number of them will turn to new funding structures like tokenization. It won’t be a large number in terms of total businesses, but from the blockchain adoption and normalization standpoint it will be enormous.”
“This will further drive adoption and reduce the drive towards harsh regulation since it will likely save many businesses where the government programs will have failed.”
As fintech takes over traditional finance, VCs could pour big money into small companies
At the same time, however, VC funding could save the day for many small fintech companies.
Veem CEO Marwan Forzley told Finance Magnates that “I think fintech funding in both the public and private markets will continue to trend upwards in 2021.”
“The IPO market is poised to dominate in the first half of 2021, with anticipated IPOs from Affirm, Robinhood, Better.com, SoFi, and Marquette,” he said. “In addition, venture capital funding trends will likely accelerate, given the dry powder and capital raised in 2020.”
“Political and economic uncertainty weigh on the minds of many. Equity markets trading at their highest valuations raise concern for a 2000’s-like bubble burst. If that event does take place, the public markets may experience a correction, and we’ll see valuations come back closer to earth.”
“However, I would not expect private funding to be affected by a burst for 12-18 months, and we should continue to see the current deal flow trends we experienced in 2020.”
Korean Government To Levy Taxes On Bitcoin Capital Gains Starting 2022
As cryptocurrencies continue to pick up steam and encompass the features of regular asset classes, governments have likewise imposed taxes on capital gains from digital currency. South Korea is the latest country to adopt this initiative. Its Ministry of Economy and Finance said it will levy taxes on cryptocurrency profits from next year.
The South Korean government is going ahead with its proposal to tax cryptocurrency returns after several reconsiderations. A local news agency, Yonhap reported in December that the National Assembly’s Planning and Finance committee deliberated on the amendment of income tax laws and individual consumption tax laws.
As part of the income regulatory initiative, cryptocurrency traders and investors are mandated to pay 20 percent if they earn more than 2.5 million won (almost $2300 at the present exchange rate) from bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Gains below 2.5 million won will not be taxed. The law was initially scheduled to be implemented in October this year, but it will now be enacted in 2022.
According to the new report, bitcoin gains will be filed under ‘other income.’ Cryptocurrency investors will report their gains through an income statement and will pay taxes in May every year.
A turn of proceedings saw South Korea become a burgeoning cryptocurrency market. In 2017, the government announced that it would strictly regulate cryptocurrency transactions and even shut down exchanges in the country after Seoul-based exchange, Youbit, was hacked.
Bithumb Tax Saga
This is not the Korean government’s first attempt at bitcoin taxation. Korea’s National Tax Service asked cryptocurrency exchange, Bithumb to pay its foreign customers withholding taxes to the tune of 80 million won in 2019.
There were uncertainties surrounding that. It was unclear whether the cryptocurrency industry was subject to withholding tax. Bithumb filed a complaint to the tax tribunal over what is referred to as a “groundless” tax imposed by the NTS. It also argued that cryptocurrencies were not recognized by South Korean law and should not be taxable.
The industry has evolved since then. Cryptocurrencies are bridging the gap on conventional assets, and emerging laws classify them as taxable properties.
Vice President of Nigeria Tips Cryptocurrencies To Challenge Traditional Banking
The Nigerian cryptocurrency community was shaken to its core when the country’s apex bank released a circular warning financial institutions to desist from enabling cryptocurrency transactions. The Central Bank made arguments to justify the decision, with several notable figures weighing in on the subject.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is the latest to share his view on the ban. In his keynote address at the CBN Bankers’ Committee Economic Summit, Osinbajo tipped digital assets to fiercely challenge traditional and reserve banking in the future.
Calls For Knowledge-Based Actions That Will Prove Beneficial
The ban on cryptocurrencies has continued making the rounds in Nigeria. Several weeks after, it has finally forced reactions from the upper echelon of the government. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo bared his views at a summit organized by the Central Bank earlier today.
He admitted to the disruptive capacity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, stating that they could well displace existing banking systems in the coming years.
Cryptocurrencies in the coming years will challenge traditional banking, including reserve banking, in ways that we cannot yet imagine, so we need to be prepared for that seismic shift. pic.twitter.com/tbIR8eah2s
— Prof Yemi Osinbajo (@ProfOsinbajo) February 26, 2021
He further opined that emerging technologies like blockchain must be adopted strategically, before praising the regulatory bodies for being ‘very articulate’ with their measures. He called for initiatives that will enable people to enjoy the benefits of blockchains and cryptocurrencies while keeping the adverse effects in check.
Prior to Osinbajo’s remarks, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele publicly defended the ban, saying that cryptocurrencies were created “out of thin air”. He further described cryptocurrencies as being “used to describe the activities of players in an electronic dark world”
Many Nigerians have taken the Vice President’s comments with a grain of salt. They urged him to use his influence to turn the tides instead.
Waging War Between Cryptocurrencies and Nigerian Banking System
Industry enthusiasts in Nigeria interpreted the CBN ban as a direct attack on cryptocurrencies. Speculations emerged that the apex bank was rattled by the traction gained by the digital assets and the fact that they were gradually displacing conventional banks.
A Nigerian economist shared a shocking statistic that bared the Nigerian Stock Exchange trading volume and how it measured against the trading volume on Binance.
How important is crypto in Nigeria? On binance today the value of BTC/NGN trades was worth N13.4bn. For context the volume of trade on the Nigerian stock exchange today was N5.6bn. And binance is just one exchange.
— Nonso Obikili (@nonso2) February 5, 2021
In all of these, it is widely rumored that the adoption of bitcoin in last year’s protest against police brutality was the last straw to break the camel’s back. Activists spearheading the protests started accepting bitcoin donations after the Central Bank issued orders to freeze their bank accounts. The recent ban allegedly signals the central bank’s intention to maintain a stronghold on the country’s monetary system.
Entrepreneur and investor, Victor Asemota believes that banning cryptocurrencies is self-defeating and does not address the deficient banking system. He tweeted :
“I have predicted the demise of traditional banking institutions in Africa for a while now until things accelerated during the pandemic and agent models became prominent. The cost structure of old banking Africa do not make sense. Community banking and cooperatives make more sense. What happened to Nigerian remittances during the pandemic was that people discovered more efficient channels to send money home as bank branches were closed. We now had multiple FX exchanges as people became aware that it was lucrative. Crypto is not the problem, it is banking.”
Stellar, BitTorrent, DigiByte Price Analysis: 28 February
The cryptocurrency market has had to face increased bearish momentum in the past week and with Bitcoin dropping to the $45k price range, many of the market’s altcoins too have followed BTC and traded lower. At the time of writing, Bitcoin was trading at $44,474 with a 24-hour trading volume of $42.9 billion.
For altcoins like Stellar, DigiByte, and BitTorrent such has been the case and an immediate recovery looks unlikely given the current market conditions.
Stellar’s price fell by over 15 percent in the past week and currently trades at $0.41. According to CoinMarketCap’s list, the coin has a market capitalization of over $9.3 billion and occupies the 10th spot. The coin’s price has tested the support at $0.37 in the past few days and is now making slight gains towards its immediate resistance at $0.54. If the present support would fail, XLM may even drop down towards the second support at $0.27.
The Bollinger Bands for the coin have contracted and show less volatility in the coin’s price action. The RSI indicator looks bearish at the moment as it heads closer to the oversold zone.
BitTorrent’s price fell by over 28 percent in the past 7 days and is currently valued at $0.0011. The bearish pressure is visible as the coin’s price plummeted by over 8 percent in a day’s time. The coin is currently testing its support level around its current trading price and if this support fails BTT is likely to undo all its recent gains and trade around the $0.0004 price range. There is significant resistance around the $0.0014 range if an uptrend were to occur.
The RSI indicator for the coin is falling steadily as it heads into the oversold zone. Interestingly, the EMA ribbons have settled below the coin’s trading price and are offering support for the coin.
DigiByte is currently trading at $0.051 and has a market cap of over $730 million. In the past week, the coin’s price fell by 33.6 percent and currently finds itself close to the support level at $0.049. If the downtrend were to continue there is another support around the $0.035 price level that could help stabilize the coin’s price.
The MACD indicator and the RSI signal increased bearish pressure for DGB. The MACD indicator has undergone a bearish crossover while the RSI continues to move into the oversold zone.
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