Cryptocurrencies study from City regulator both positive and 'terrifying': reaction

An estimated 2.3 million UK adults now hold cryptocurrencies after a jump in interest but investors should be prepared to lose all their money.

The figure is up from 1.9 million last year, according to the City regulator, which has warned of the risks associated with holding such investments.

While ownership of cryptocurrencies has increased, understanding of them appears to have decreased, according to the findings from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). On average, people have about £300 invested.

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The FCA suggested that a strong increase in the price of Bitcoin when research was being carried out may have influenced consumers’ responses to its research questions. Prices have since fallen back, it noted.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have even found their way into automated teller machines. Picture: John Devlin
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have even found their way into automated teller machines. Picture: John Devlin

Attitudes towards cryptocurrencies, or cryptoassets, which exist electronically and may be held by people as investments in the hope that prices will increase, appear to have changed, according to the research.

Some 38 per cent of crypto users regard them as a gamble – down from nearly half (47 per cent) last year.

And 78 per cent of adults have now heard of cryptocurrencies, up from 73 per cent in a year. Recognition of Bitcoin far outranks any other cryptocurrency, the FCA added.

Enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies appears to be growing, with just over half (53 per cent) of crypto users saying they have had a positive experience so far and are likely to buy more.

Cryptoassets are largely unregulated. The FCA said most consumers recognise that crypto investments are not protected, although 12 per cent of users believe otherwise.

Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell, said: “The FCA’s latest research on crypto paints a broadly positive picture and shows most consumers are using crypto sensibly and moderately.

“However, there is a dark underbelly lurking in the figures, which suggests there is still potential for widespread consumer harm. The fact that 14 per cent of crypto buyers have borrowed to invest is simply terrifying.”

Sheldon Mills, FCA’s executive director, consumers and competition, said: “The research highlights increased interest in cryptoassets among UK customers.

“However it is important for customers to understand that because these products are largely unregulated that if something goes wrong they are unlikely to have access to the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) or the Financial Ombudsman Service.”

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