Tales of bitcoin’s intense growth have dominated the headlines. The cryptocurrency did, indeed, make impressive growth in 2017 but set against the wider landscape of cryptoasset trading, it’s a long way off the top spot.
In fact, bitcoin’s dominance is declining. At the start of 2017 it accounted for 80 per cent of the total value of cryptocurrency trading, whereas now it accounts for 30 per cent.
Ripple XRP, another form of cryptocurrency, utilises blockchain to allow banks and other financial institutions to send money globally, processing customer payments “instantly, reliably and cost-effectively”. It has outdone its crypto competitors by some mark with growth of 36,018 per cent in 2017. Following it is NEM, with growth of almost 30,000 per cent, and down at number 14 is bitcoin at 1,318 per cent.
Different figures tell a different story. Despite its epic growth, at the time of writing Ripple XRP is trading at $2.89, whereas bitcoin is trading at over $15,000. However, Ripple unlike bitcoin has attracted the attention of banks and financial institutions, including the likes of Santander, American Express and UBS, attracted by its low prices and security compared to other currencies. The backing of financial heavyweights gives Ripple a legitimacy that other crypto currencies could be accused of lacking.
Ripple’s CEO Brad Garlinghouse highlighted the company’s approach to liquidation and speed as central to their success. “The liquidity needs of banks today is managed with literally ten trillion of float that sits in these nostro and vostro accounts. We believe very strongly this is an inefficient model. You can use digital assets to fund liquidity, and Ripple is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that. Bitcoin takes four hours to settle a transaction. XRP takes 3.6 seconds.”
So what next for crypto trading and companies like Ripple? Venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who lost 90 per cent of his net worth in the dot-com bubble in 2000, warned in September that “the big crash will happen. I don’t know when it will happen and I think it may be some time before it does”. Is he being overly cautious?
Many claim that what we are witnessing is a huge bubble, with very little real value, that is heading for a gigantic crash. But, as billionaire investor Mark Cuban pointed out, the value of many assets is based only on supply and demand. The abstract nature of cryptocurrency does not mean it’s destined to fail. Whether it will continue to make such shocking gains in 2018 is another matter.