The latest Global Investor Survey by Monex Group has found that bitcoin still has plenty of room to grow when it comes to retail investors using the digital currency as a form of payment around the world.
The international financial services company, which is located in Tokyo, looked at customers within Monex Inc., Monex Boom Securities Limited and Tradestation Securities Inc., from Japan, Hong Kong and the U.S. respectively. Conducting the survey from 29 May to 5 June, 2017, in total 872 responded in Japan, 300 in Hong Kong and 122 in the U.S.
Interestingly, while the use of bitcoin is certainly growing as it becomes a more popular currency to invest in, it seems that the number of retail investors offering it as a payment method is low. This is understandable in Japan considering it was only in April that the government changed its regulations regarding bitcoin and now views it as an acceptable and legal form of payment.
However, according to Monex, it states:
“The results showed that the percentage of retail investors actually investing is still low, with only 3% of retail investors in Japan and the U.S., and only 10% of retail investors in China (Hong Kong) answering that they had already invested in virtual currency.”
Another interesting detail that the survey highlighted was the fact that over 20 percent of retail investors in the U.S. and China responded that they are ‘not familiar with virtual currency.’ This figure is compared to the less than three percent that Japan responded with. By saying this, it sets the U.S. and China apart from retail investors in Japan, who, even though they haven’t made many investments with bitcoin, are more familiar with it.
Of course, saying that, in Japan the survey found that just under 60 percent of respondents were ‘not interested in virtual currency,’ compared to 51 percent and 40 percent from the U.S. and China respectively.
Increasing Number of Retail Investors in Japan
From the high number of respondents from Japan, the Monex survey appears to be primarily focused on the Japanese market and its interest with digital currencies.
This survey comes at an interesting time for the country. Considering only three percent of people who answered the survey said that they had invested in digital currency, trading in bitcoin is on the rise. BitFlyer, Japan’s largest digital currency exchange by volume, has seen an increase in trading. So much so, that in May, trading of bitcoin in Japanese yen is reported to have increased by 31 percent, according to data acquired from research site CryptoCompare.
According to Yuzo Kano, founder and CEO of BitFlyer Inc.:
“People gained a lot of confidence in bitcoin as a legal currency. We see new joiners on top of existing buyers.”
Another reason why there has been a sudden surge in interest with bitcoin in Japan is because of BITPoint Japan, the company behind Peach Aviation Ltd., announced it would accept bitcoin for flight ticket purchases. It’s also planning on permitting other Japanese retailers to accept the digital currency.
Xiao Lei, a bitcoin expert and chief analyst with online gold trading platform G-banker, is reported in the South China Morning Post as saying that:
“I do not see any sign of traders’ appetite for the digital currency abating and the price of bitcoin may remain robust if more and more overseas investors become involved in the industry. The biggest uncertainty in this industry is the possible tightening of rules by China’s government, who always take measures to curb the overheated market.”
Bitcoin’s Usage Remains in Question
And yet, while its clear that the use of bitcoin as a form of payment among global retail investors still has room to grow, is it possible that it will become a widely used payment option?
WordPress, Time Inc. and Dell Inc., are just a few major companies that once accepted bitcoin; however, they have since stopped taking the digital currency. Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, ceased taking bitcoin in 2015, claiming that usage of the currency was ‘vanishingly small.’
However, in a report from the Japan Times, the recent price surge of bitcoin when it reached $3,000 for the first time is helping to boost the currency’s use somewhat.
Since April 2016, BitPay, a payment processor, is reported to now handle around $2 million in transactions each day, up nearly threefold. Whereas Coinbase’s volume has doubled since the beginning of 2017 and Overstock.com, an online discounter, is now taking in about 100,000 bitcoin transactions each week compared to 30,000 when it initially started accepting bitcoin as a payment option in 2014.
These examples clearly illustrate the positive steps that bitcoin is taking and where it is being used within many industries. But the issue of volatility raises the question as to whether it can ever be a stable asset as a payment method.
When it comes to shoppers using bitcoin to pay for goods and services, it’s not always as easy as it may seem. If you’re using a digital wallet that is not on a platform that’s processing the payment, a transaction fee is incurred to transfer the bitcoins. The fee in question can vary depending on its size, network conditions and how fast you want the payment to be processed. According to BitInfoCharts, the median transaction fee on 19 June was $2.04.
Yet, while there may be hurdles in the way with the use of bitcoin remaining low among shoppers and the merchants who accept it, that isn’t stopping the Japanese nation from embracing it within their stores.
Peach Aviation Ltd., has already announced that it will be accepting the digital currency for ticket purchases by the end of 2017. While it’s expected that a further 300,000 Japanese stores are to accept bitcoin before the year is out. Not only that, but around 1,400 hotels and inns around Japan are to start accepting bitcoin by the summer of 2017 after BITPoint partnered up with Japan’s leading online travel agent Evolable Asia.
“The aim is to enable customers to exchange bitcoin to Japanese yen at hotels and inns across Japan, including at Airtrip Exchange stores and 1400 contract facilities in the Evolable Asia Group. This service will begin this summer.”
Of course even if the digital currency doesn’t become the global payment source many are hoping for, it will still be a viable alternative for people particularly for savings investments in a bid to escape low-savings rates. A rising number of mom-and-pop investors in Asia are already turning their attention to bitcoin for just this reason.
Featured image from Flickr via Lib.