Blackrock CEO says crypto 'may become a great asset class' but is no substitute for currency

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Larry Fink said he hadn't been seeing great institutional demand for crypto within Blackrock's circles.

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Blackrock CEO says crypto 'may become a great asset class' but is no substitute for currency

Despite the successful rollout of Coinbase's stock on Wednesday, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink still expressed some concerns over the institutional adoption of crypto.

In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday, Fink said he was "encouraged by how many people were focusing" on crypto and the narrative surrounding it, but he seemed to imply his views were largely unchanged in the wake of a major cryptocurrency exchange going public. 

"[Crypto] may become a great asset class, and I do believe this could become a great asset class," said Fink. “I don’t believe it’s a substitute for currencies. [...] I don’t believe we should think about crypto as a substitute of currency."

The Blackrock CEO was seemingly more bullish on the idea of stablecoins — referring to them as “cryptocurrencies of dollars.” However, he added that the asset manager hadn’t seen rising interest from institutions around the world, saying climate risk, the national deficit and inflation were getting more attention in his circles than crypto.

"We’re studying it, we’ve made money on it, but I’m not here to tell you that we’re seeing broad-based interest by institutions worldwide. [...] We've had very little interconnectivity on the conversation on crypto other than a fascination."

The CEO has previously referred to Bitcoin (BTC) as an untested volatile asset within "a very small market" that has yet to prove its long-term viability. However, the firm’s chief investment officer, Rick Rieder, said in November 2020 that “Bitcoin is here to stay” and that the crypto asset would likely “take the place of gold to a large extent.”

Asset manager BlackRock has indirect exposure to Bitcoin through its ownership stake in business intelligence firm MicroStrategy. The company made an initial $425 million investment in BTC last summer and has since added thousands more BTC to its holdings. Following the price of Bitcoin reaching an all-time high on Wednesday of more than $64,000 as Coinbase’s shares opened on the Nasdaq, shares of MicroStrategy surged more than 10% to an intraday high of $770.

Despite the seemingly mixed messages from Blackrock executives on crypto, the firm may be exploring the possibility of getting more directly involved in the industry. In January, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission's website showed a pair of prospectus filings for two of Blackrock’s funds. Both mentioned potentially using Bitcoin derivatives and other assets as part of its investment scheme.

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