This week I am joined again by the fantastic team at Privalgo. Not only have I been lucky enough to be in the company of Matt, Spencer and Ryan but I also have the privilege of being joined by Zeb Bham, Co-Founder and Director at Privalgo Ltd.
Last week’s conversation prompted debate and interest from clients and staff alike. Acclaimed for the team’s honesty, these refreshing conversations with some of the best minds in Forex will be a stable for the future.
This week we discuss the use of digital currencies and address the changing laws on Petrol and diesel cars.
The Use of Stable Coins
What is a stable coin and how does it work, why do the ECB dislike crypto currencies such as Facebooks libra?
Zeb: A stable coin is either pegged to a strong currency or a basket of assets, this is designed to reduce the volatility of the price of the coin and see it more as a payment mechanism. With Facebook, they have a massive eco system of customers and advertisers, if they used their own payment mechanism the effect on users and revenue could be huge, it would fit really well into their overall business. However, Facebook has a history of coins and to date they haven’t been that successful.
Matt: I think they have stopped with Libra now.
Zeb: They have held congressional hearings about Libra. There is the worry about the lack of underlying security to the coin and because of that it hasn’t gained a lot of traction.
The ECB and other central banks have commented that they are worried about Libra and cryptos.
Zeb: I think that all the central banks are concerned about the rise of virtual currencies. Currently, central banks control the movement of currency around the world. These virtual currencies are a direct threat to that because the uncontrolled movement of funds and the central banks have no control over the value.
Matt: it was after the 2008 banking crisis that virtual currencies were developed to replace the use of central banks and other institutions, there was a select group of people that saw the need to overturn the establishment. I think that Crypto’s are here to stay, it will be a long time before they are popular with the masses but as a speculative instrument it seems somewhat embedded.
It’s interesting to hear Central Banks are developing their own form of virtual currencies, it’s definitely a move forward. What also is significant is that PayPal are now accepting Bitcoin, which we really must consider to be a major step forward into the mainstream for crypto.
How can Bitcoin be considered a “stable” form of currency? How can it be rolled out to a wider market and will Privalgo ever trade Bitcoins?
Zeb: You have to look at this in two different ways. Bitcoin is two things, one, an asset class in its own right. And two, a payment mechanism. Bitcoin investors would argue that the coin price is stable and it’s the currency markets such as the USD which are unstable. Which in my opinion is quite short sighted; the value of Bitcoin is driven by supply and demand as the availability is finite.
Matt: Well the amount is fixed, the total available will never change. They will continue to divide and split coins to create availability.
Zeb: You are right, the end point of Bitcoins supply is fixed, and it is increasingly difficult to mine as the algorithms are getting more complicated. It is a distributed ledger, with the idea that this is the main security behind the coin, rather than one supercomputer the risk is spread out over all the developers mining the coins, thus using a mass of computer power to create a network of security.
Bitcoin as payment mechanism can firstly be seen to have an extremely secure network but also a great speed of transfer. The speed of transfer is probably the main focus and principal benefit, we actually have payment systems that are equally as quick and the central bank controls, so if the central banks invested more into this area, they could far surpass the speed of Bitcoin. As an example, Faster Pay is designed to create the instant payment, currently its not cross border like Bitcoin, but it is getting there. The basics of a cross border scheme is in the SWIFT network. There must be 80% of banks on the system already, if there was a commitment to innovate, to shorten these transfer times, there would be less need for virtual currencies.
Increased Investment from central banks into payment methods like swift, would that stop the need for things like Bitcoin?
Zeb: I think the Central Banks see it differently, they need to have more control over the international payment schemes. I am not sure of the value of the underlying assets to digital currencies, but it must be a pretty big number. The Central Banks normally control monetary policy through the control of money supply, so if they have less control over the supply of money due to an increase in digital currencies, they have to innovate and counter that by creating their own.
Ryan: The whole concept of bit coin is decentralisation; Central Banks manipulate the value of their economies through printing money. The supply of bitcoin is fixed, the amount available cannot be altered. Central banks are concerned about relinquishing their control over monetary policy, they may well lose their biggest weapon for controlling their economy.
Zeb: It also dilutes the value of a currency. If you take the U.S Dollar for example, commodities around the world are denominated in USD and most international trade is processed in USD, that gives the perception of ‘value’ in that currency, that’s why it’s the reserve currency of the world. If those underlying connections change i.e. if commodities were valued in Bitcoin, then the value of the USD would diminish. This would apply to every other currency and the associated Central Bank.
I think that Central banks would be worried about the use of the money, the speed in which it could be moved, if they lose control over the paper chain and the initiation of a currency then it would ultimately diminish the value of a currency.
I personally don’t like the idea of digital currencies.
Matt: The decision for Privalgo to start trading Digital currencies would be determined by two things, demand from our clients and the adoption of the currencies by Banks. Only then can I see it being a viable step forward for the company.
Do you think at some point we will see international currencies replaced by digital versions?
Matt: I am not sure that will happen, certainly not in the short term. I don’t think it can ever replace a fiat currency.
Ryan: I don’t see Digital currencies replacing standard currency.
Zeb: I think there will be a push for Central Banks to get the highest level of adoption for their own digital currency. That being said, these digital currencies will still need to be converted into different currencies. That’s why I see Swift acting as a great conduit between them, providing its developed further.
Matt: Digital currencies are definitely on the radar of tier one Banks like JPM for example. I think it’s really interesting to see how the use of these currencies are being developed.
Ryan: As a stand-alone asset class, one interesting thing to note is these Digital offerings are starting to be recognised. Money managers and IFA’s are starting to advise that investors should hold digital assets as part of a portfolio.
Do you think Bitcoin has been used as a safe haven whilst we have endured Covid?
Matt: I think investors are chasing yield’s and return’s, so Bitcoin has benefited from the volatility in the stock market and anyone who invested in Bitcoin at the start of Covid, will have done very well indeed.
The ban on petrol and diesel cars
Will there be enough vehicles to supply the market and is this plan even feasible?
Matt: I am an early adopter of the electric car; I think it is the start of the green revolution. The government has more than just the ban on petrol and diesel cars on the agenda, they have a whole ten-point plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050. It’s a really ambitious plan and we all have to embrace the objective. I am not quite sure we are there with the infrastructure. As it stands there are still not that many electric cars on the road, the obvious restrictions still remain. Cost, range and the ability to charge. To replace 17 million cars is a huge undertaking, not just on the manufacture of the vehicles but on creating the infrastructure. If you can park on your own driveway and charge your vehicle, then it’s not too bad, but what if you can’t. What if you live in a city, or a densely populated housing estate?
This plan only affects the sale of new cars, I am not sure when the plan encompasses older vehicles. The other consideration is the impact on taxes, the overall duty on petrol and diesel will diminish and that shortfall will have to be clawed back somehow.
Zeb: That is something they have already thought of, it will be as simple as having a black box that records, miles travelled, time of day and journey type, that will be the bases of the tax modelling. My points of concern are thus, I agree with Matt, will the charging infrastructure be suitable? Is it feasible to achieve such a task? And finally, will we be able to generate enough electricity?
Matt: Being an owner, I have found the biggest issue to be the range of the vehicles. I wonder, with the current technology, how heavy goods vehicles will cope with this. There will need to be some big advances in batteries.
Ryan: If you look at what technological advancements have been made in the last ten years. I don’t think the tech will be the issue, ten years is a long time in tech.
Spencer: I have recently read that nuclear energy will provide all the necessary power. I am not sure I like the idea of that.
Zeb: Before alternatives can be developed and sustained, nuclear power is surely the most viable option.
Spencer: Over the last twenty to thirty years we have moved away from nuclear power, the fear of radiation has been of great concern, Is this really a good thing?
Zeb: The waste that nuclear power plants create is the issue, the plants themselves are very safe.
Matt: Generally, it worries people because they think of accidents like Chernobyl. In this day and age, the risk is extremely low. My concern is directed to the environmental impact in mining the Lithium and manufacturing the batteries. in addition to this the batteries themselves cannot be recycled.
Spencer: I don’t think this has been that well thought out, and is it not going to be too expensive?
Zeb: The Government needed a headline, something that was hard hitting and created impact. The cost should reduce as manufacturing becomes more efficient. The more we produce the cheaper they will become.
Ryan: I wonder how much of a coincidence that the passing of this bill coincides with the change of power in the U.S.
Zeb: I really want to pick up on Matts point about the environmental impact. I think this is somewhat ignored, driving electric cars will still have an environmental impact, we still need to generate that electricity. If you consider the raw material, even just mining the lithium takes a lot of power.
Ryan: I would like to think that all these issues have been considered. The environment is a global issue and we all seem to be heading in the same direction.
Zeb: If all the current vehicle owners adopt electric cars, how much lithium will we actually need.
Matt: One of the key drivers behind all this is clean air. You are right, electric cars will increase the consumption of electricity and this will need to be powered by something, however, Clean air is what counts and that is undoubtedly the goal.
Zeb: Renewables would be the best route, powering the house and car via solar panels and wind energy would be the best route forward.
Matt: That’s the dream of Elon Musk, install a battery on the side of your house, collect energy via solar panels and store what you create to use later.
Spencer: Let’s just go back to the infrastructure, this is a ten-year plan. My only point of comparison to such a large objective in infrastructure is cross rail, which has been marred with issues and continually increased in cost. I agree Zeb, I think it’s a headline.
Maybe the ban could further the drive to make people use public transport.
Spencer: That is definitely possible, and I agree with Matt, people not having the opportunity to charge their cars all that easily may encourage people to use bicycles and catch public transport.
Zeb: If everyone is working from home there will be less need to travel to work.
Currently we have one power station under construction in the UK. There is the suggestion of building smaller localised power stations. Do you think that these plans are all interconnected? The demand for electric cars increases and therefore so does the demand for electricity, how can anyone object to creating more clean energy solutions?
Zeb: Definitely. We do need to look at wind power and our commitment towards other alternatives though. Did you know that one of the largest investors in UK wind farms is the Queen? In the UK we have an ability to create a lot of energy from wind farms.
Until we have developed our renewable resources though we need to consider nuclear power, if you can manage the waste then it is an exceptionally clean energy. It has to form part of the UK’s power strategy.
Spencer: I struggle to see how we will have these plans passed at a local level. Comparing projects, the additional runway at Heathrow has been blocked time and time again, it will be incredibly hard to seek approval for nuclear powers plants.
Matt: The advantage with nuclear energy is that it can be stored, unlike renewable energy. We are going to have to revolutionise the way we generate, store and supply energy to the country, it’s a massive job.
Ryan: Before we consider how we revolutionise the production and storage of electricity we need to consider and revolutionise the consumption. If we can decrease our consumption the supply needed will be less. There needs to be huge focus on using less and electric cars are a big step towards that.
It is always enlightening to be around individuals that are honest and open with their opinions. Privalgo promote this philosophy of free thinking and development. Continual training, support and conversation seems to be a mantra that senior members of staff encourage and reward. I look forward to many more meetings with these extremely well informed individuals.
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Please look out for the next live Podcast with Privalgo.
MEET THE TEAM
Matthew Clarke | Director & Founder
A classically trained Historian with a diploma in Technical Analysis, Matt has been in the FX industry for over 13 years and takes a keen interest in the Markets. Committed to growing his knowledge of the industry, Matt is a member of the Society of Technical Analysis.
Zeb Bham | Director & Founder
A frequent foreign exchange market commentator, Zeb has over 13 years working in financial services and FX. With an BA (Honours) in Economics from UCL London, Zeb has expanded his knowledge to poses a deep understanding across a wide variety of financial sectors and industries.
Spencer Nixon | Senior Relationship Manager
Since the beginning of the century, Spencer has been delivering exceptional service in the Foreign exchange space, working at every level in the industry managing around £1.5billion in FX per annum. Spencer is a CF30 qualified financial services professional with experience that spans from private clients to running an institutional desks Spencer’s knowledge is limitless.
Ryan Hallahan | Senior Relationship Manager
Ryan is a CF30 level qualified financial services professional and has been working in the deliverable foreign exchange and business development space for almost a decade, his personable nature and his exceptional knowledge and professionalism has given him the ability to gain extensive experience and build relationships with SME’s and large corporations helping them effectively manage their foreign exchange and international payment requirements.