In this Market Foolery podcast segment, host Mac Greer is joined by Aaron Bush and David Kretzmann of Motley Fool Supernova and Rule Breakers to discuss the public attack JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon made on the whole concept of bitcoin. Blockchain technology, he likes. But the popular cryptocurrency that's built around it he called stupid and dangerous. Does he have a point, or is he missing the point? The Fools weigh in.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Sept. 13, 2017.
Mac Greer: Let's move on to bitcoin, a subject that we all know evokes some very strong opinions for and against. Speaking at an investment conference on Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon called bitcoin a "fraud." Dimon said he supported blockchain technology but said that bitcoin was "stupid" and "far too dangerous." So guys, what do you think? Bitcoin, digital currency. Is it a fraud? Is it the next great thing? Or is it somewhere in the middle?
Aaron Bush: I think it's definitely not a fraud. And I think even if bitcoin exactly isn't the next great thing, its creation was the start of something great. No, I don't think it was a fraud. And as I think back over what Jamie Dimon says, Buffett at one point called the value of bitcoin a mirage. Howard Marks has been all wishy-washy on it, too. My personal opinion is that they're all wrong. I think there definitely is hype in the market, there definitely is, beyond a doubt. But at the same time, there is true value in what bitcoin has done, creating a decentralized network without a central authority that can shift money around with complete trust. That's a huge breakthrough.
And I think what people are underestimating, and these are people who are good at finance but aren't necessarily great at understanding the computer science -- I think they're understanding what can be built on top of it. As you add Layer 2 functionality -- that's the equivalent of saying, on the internet, we create an HTTP, bitcoin would be similar to something like HTTP, but now think about all the things that we've built on top of HTTP. I think we're going to start to see more use cases and applications be built where we can use bitcoin.
And honestly, people solely talk about it as a currency. And I think that's how it was created. It was created to be a peer-to-peer payment platform. But I think it's evolved to be more than that. So yes, it can be used as a currency, but the reality is, people don't trade things that go up, so they're holding on to it, which has made it a store of value. So I think the best metric for measuring bitcoin isn't transactions of volumes; it's just the number of believers. And whatever these guys say, as long as the number of believers is going up, the value of bitcoin should go up, too.
David Kretzmann: Yeah, looking longer-term, I think it's inevitable that this technology will be implemented and utilized in some shape or form, whether it's bitcoin or ethereum or some other concoction that hasn't even been created yet. That's impossible to say. But over the long run, I think it's inevitable that the world goes this direction.
With that said, in the short term, from an investor's lens, it really seems overheated to me right now. I have a lot of friends who, fairly regularly over the last couple of months, will come up to me, and these are people who probably aren't even invested in stocks yet, and they're asking, "What do you think about bitcoin? Is there something there?" And to me, it's reminiscent of the '90s, when everyone was talking about tech stocks -- "you just have to get in on this." So I think a lot of people right now are looking at it through more of a short-term lens. They're trying to buy it and make a quick buck. They're not actually interested in using it as a currency.
Longer-term, I think we'll have some sort of correction or crash where it weeds out some of that, similar to the days of the dot-com bubble, where you had some legitimate businesses and visionaries like Jeff Bezos and Amazon and eBay that got punished hard during crash, but they managed to come through it and ended up really revolutionizing the world. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some similarities there with bitcoin and cryptocurrency and the blockchain and all of those different buzzwords right now. But in the short term, it's very speculative, so I wouldn't put anything in bitcoin that I wouldn't be willing to lose.
Bush: Yeah, I kind of think of the entire cryptocurrency industry in a stage where the internet was in the early '90s or so. The difference is that this industry is moving a lot faster. It's developing a lot faster. It still isn't perfect. There's still a lot of lacking infrastructure out there. The developer experience isn't great yet, and the user experience still is kind of limited to only techies who know how to move around money in this way who can really figure this out. But that will change in time. And added infrastructure will make it more usable.
Lastly, I'll just say that the whole idea of tokenization is essentially the creation of a new asset class that works differently from equities, bonds. And what we've seen even over the past quarter, there have been a couple ICOs, initial coin offerings, that have raised significant money, like over $200 million each. And even apart from the currency side, just blockchain, all of these big finance businesses and non-finance businesses are coming together under these consortia, and the largest consortium raised, I forget, it was like $100 million or $200 just last quarter. So even if it's hype, the fact that it's hype and there's so much money coming in, and there's so much focus here, it's improving the ecosystem at a really quick rate, and there will be value made from that.
Kretzmann: I think, as investors today, if someone really wants to scratch that itch, I could understand putting 1% or less of your net worth into bitcoin and ethereum, just to get some exposure and follow along, as long as you're in a position where you recognize there's a chance that it could go up 10 times in value over the next year, or it could go to zero potentially. You just have to recognize that it's very speculative at this point.
But it'll also be interesting to follow more established companies like Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, even the exchanges like Nasdaq or CBOE Holdings or Intercontinental Exchange, to see how they find different ways to implement this technology or give people access to these cryptocurrencies that are coming out.
And one quick thing on ICOs, and the reason I think right now it's a little bubbly and speculative for my taste, even Paris Hilton is promoting initial coin offerings right now and cryptocurrencies. So it's me --
Greer: And you don't trust her? You don't see her as credible?
Kretzmann: I mean, maybe with fashion. But when it comes to cryptocurrencies and ICOs and all this stuff, when Paris Hilton is getting in, I wonder if maybe that's a sign of at least a shorter-term peak.
Bush: Yeah, I would say that if you're interested in investing in this space, whether it's bitcoin or something else, it's important to know what you're doing. The skill set is different for investing in cryptocurrencies than it is in stocks. It's a much more interdisciplinary form, I guess, of investing in my opinion, just because you have to add the extra layer of understanding programming and computer science. A lot of these projects are pre-product, essentially, so you really have to get into the code and the white papers to figure out if there's any value there.
Greer: Yeah, and even if you're not interested, I would say sprinkle that acronym, ICO, throughout your conversation, because that sounds credible.
Kretzmann: You'll sound so smart.
Greer: You'll impress your friends at a cocktail party. "Hey, can you believe what these ICOs are doing?"
Kretzmann: And just remember to thank us when you sound super-smart at parties.
Greer: That's right. Someone is going to correct you like, "Don't you mean IPOs?" And you'll be like, "No, I mean initial coin offering. What part of that do you not understand? Come on!"
Bush: "It's 2017!" [laughs]
Kretzmann: "I listen to Market Foolery!" [laughs]