By guest Columnist Brian Quigley
They say fortune favours the brave – or the bold, or the strong, depending on which version of the proverb you grew up with. Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist, had his own take on the phrase, with the quote ‘in the fields of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind’.
I was reminded of these phrases when I read recently that Bitcoin’s value has risen eight-fold in the last year. Fuelled by increasing acceptance by mainstream investors and companies [most recently, Tesla], that’s a huge return on your investment if you were brave enough, bold enough or strong enough to take the plunge a while back.
Many people are like myself, that is resistant to or reticent about change. As most change these days involves technological advances, this hesitance could be described as borderline technophobia. It’s a fear of taking a chance, a fear of the change not working out. In the case of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, it’s a fear of the virtual currency being too big a shift from banks and coin-and-note money.
The fear that money is only real if you can touch it and put it in your wallet is easier allayed for the hesitant than the uninitiated might think. We have all used online or phone banking apps in recent times, probably more than ever in the last year due to the pandemic. We go to our bank branch less and less because we don’t need to, and the impending closure of the Bank of Ireland branches is a natural progression rather than a cause for lament.
I was never a brave investor. Or am I? I work in Pharma and am used to taking a portion of my bonus in company shares. Essentially I’m investing in the company and its products doing well, even if I don’t think of it in these terms [taking the bonus in shares rather than cash is just seen by many as a way of avoiding giving half your bonus in income tax]. I may not view myself as an investor but I am, I’m investing in the products I’m making.
Investing in something beyond your field of interest is fine so long as you have the cash to spare in the first place. If this is the case and you want to invest speculatively, then why not invest in something you believe in. Maybe cryptocurrency, or renewable energy, or green technology or even hover cars if you want to be really fantastical [Sean Ryder said they are the future, so they must be on the way!].
Another aspect to the steep rise of Bitcoin in the last year is the fact that this surge overlaps with the COVID pandemic. In the same way that COVID has brought forward things were on the agenda anyway – home-schooling, home-working, flexible working hours, reduced carbon footprints – perhaps it has stepped up the debate about the future of money.
These are interesting times we live in. Scary times and challenging times for sure, but these challenges have the silver lining of new opportunities to consider. The upside to the pandemic, if you like. I’ll invest in that.