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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

FinovateFall 2022 Takeaway: ‘Cryptocurrencies Have No Utility’

By W.B. King

Nirvana Money’s CEO Bill Harris didn’t mince words about cryptocurrencies when addressing a nearly full crowd at FinovateFall 2022, which took place Sept. 12-14 at the New York Marriot Marquis in Times Square.

“Crypto is useless—it literally has no utility as a payment method,” Harris said. “Crypto payments represent one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent of all global payments. It is the most volatile and unsafe asset available.”

Bill Harris speaking at FinovateFall 2022.

Prior to founding the Miami, Fla. –based Nirvana Money, which is scheduled to launch in late 2022 and will offer a challenger digital credit card, Harris’s career highlights include CEO and executive vice president at Intuit, founding CEO of PayPal and founding CEO of Personal Capital, among other posts.

While blockchain does create an immutable historical record, it is only secured by the private key, he cautioned.

“Blockchain takes us back to the bad old days of single-factor authentication. Bitcoin takes between 10 and 16 minutes to complete a transaction. Most crypto transactions cost dollars not pennies,” he said, adding that a Coinbase transaction costs one dollar for a $10 transaction.

“Bitcoin can handle seven transactions per second, while Visa can do 65,000,” Harris noted. And to operate the blockchain, he said it takes thousands of computers—calling it the “least efficient computer architecture” imaginable.

“Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as Argentina. It should be outlawed on climate change grounds alone. It generates no intrinsic output, revenue or profit,” he said, adding that crypto is accepted “almost nowhere” at a “vanishing small number of merchants and businesses.”

No Governing Authority

Perhaps most troubling, Harris offered, is that since there is no governing authority over crypto, there is no recovery mechanism. If your blockchain key is lost or stolen, your money is “gone forever.”

And for those who contend that crypto is still in the “early days,” Harris said it’s been “13 years,” which he noted is an “eternity” in the technology business.

Harris offered some crypto fast facts:

  • Crypto ownership and profits are intensely concentrated amongst the wealthy in the wealthiest countries. “Who got rich? The rich. Who got poor? The poor.”

  • The vast number of crypto owners put their trust in centralized crypto exchanges or third parties, which are notoriously plagued by fraud and failure. “Scams and scandals are endemic.” Due to scams, he said, over $30 billion dollars has been lost over the last five years.

  • Crypto disproportionally affects the people who can least afford it. People who take payday loans, for example, are two and half times more likely to buy crypto as opposed to the general public.

  • Crypto owners are 70% male and 80% are under 45 years old.

  • One out of 10 Americans who received a stimulus check bought crypto.

“More important than the money is the emotional impact. Stress, particularly money stress, is killing us. Stress is the emotional pandemic of the developed world. Money stress dramatically impacts longevity,” Harris continued. “In the U.S., the very richest live longer than the very poorest—ten years longer for women and 14 years longer for men. As an industry tasked with helping people with their money, let’s remember the priories. First, do no harm.”

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