More than a few experts predicted that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will disrupt finance as we know it today. From a few cents to an all-time high of 65,000USD, Bitcoin has gained price value as well as recognition. Despite its unpredictable nature, many still believe cryptocurrency is the system for the future.

Finance organizations that want to remain relevant in the future, need to understand cryptocurrency; its technological and economic implications.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that allows online payments without the need for intermediaries such as banks and similar financial institutions. Bitcoin is the first and most popular cryptocurrency, others include Ethereum, Ripple, Dash and Litecoin. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts view it as a way to generate and store wealth and stay on the safe side of inflation. 

Cryptocurrencies are generated by mining and every transaction is recorded and verified in a ledger. The records are gathered in real-time so the issue of fake transactions does not occur. Cryptocurrency is stored in wallets, holders can decide to use apps (software wallets) or thumb drives and cards (hardware wallets).

What makes cryptocurrency worth paying attention to?

Love it or hate it, cryptocurrency is here to stay, it seems. The appeal of a decentralized currency system is still strong despite the volatile nature of cryptocurrency. That is evidenced in the large-scale Bitcoin sell-off as its price fell as low as $28,646.65 in May 2022. Investors are worried but many remain hopeful that Bitcoin will regain value and so are buying the “dip”.

Blockchain technology

One reason for this bullish attitude towards cryptocurrency is its blockchain technology. The concept is a distributed ledger enforced by a network of computers. Blockchain makes it impossible to counterfeit or double-spend cryptocurrencies. The technology is being applied to the Metaverse, Web3, payment processing and digital equivalents of fiat currencies.

Recognition

Traditional financial services like loans, savings and asset management now exist for cryptocurrency. Even governments are setting up regulations to guide ethical practices as concerns cryptocurrency. In El Salvador, Bitcoin became a legal tender in 2021. Such strides hint at a future where cryptocurrency is accepted worldwide across industries.

Decentralization

Cryptocurrency is not controlled or produced by any single person or organization. This decentralized system prevents a single point of failure from having global consequences. It also makes it easier and faster to transfer funds between parties.

Why finance organizations should consider cryptocurrency

Increasing acceptance

As of 8, June 2022, about 29,708 businesses worldwide accept bitcoin or operate Bitcoin ATMs. Microsoft, PayPal, Overstock, AT&T and Starbucks are some of the big companies that have embraced Bitcoin as a means of payment. 

Not only is cryptocurrency being adopted, but the infrastructure that makes it compare favorably to fiat currencies is also emerging. As cryptocurrency becomes mainstream, finance organizations need to accommodate the trend.

New market access

One of the key duties of finance executives is to ensure cash flow and continued customer flow is necessary for that to happen. Cryptocurrency can help companies break into new markets and generate increased revenue. A recent study found that businesses that accept cryptocurrency record a 40% customer increase and a 100% increase in order values. 

The implication is that businesses can access previously unreachable audiences by adopting a technologically advanced payment system like cryptocurrency. This peculiar clientele places a high value on sophisticated tech and transparency.

Savings

Banks and other financial institutions will charge processing fees for bank transfers, card payments, savings and so on. Those charges can add up to substantial amounts yearly, especially for large firms. Such transaction charges do not typically occur with cryptocurrencies. 

Fees associated with cryptocurrency transactions usually go to miners or online wallet platforms. The amount is quite small if such charges do occur. That makes cryptocurrency transactions a lot cheaper than traditional ways of moving funds. The finance team can cut back on significant bank charges with crypto transactions.

New assets

CFOs are tasked with investing the company’s resources and cryptocurrency may be an investment option. The volatile nature which makes crypto risky to invest in also makes it an investable asset. It is possible to acquire Bitcoin at a low price and if the market perks up, the investment value increases.

Security and transparency

Cryptocurrency operates on a super-secure and transparent blockchain system. It can lend those qualities to finance dealings. Companies can set up accurate and real-time revenue sharing with programmable money. 

It also means that a company’s cash flow is impenetrable to fraudsters, embezzlement and reconciliation errors. The speed of crypto transactions is also an added advantage. It could ease the burdens of end-of-fiscal period reporting.

Risks and approaches

Cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and holding them as assets pose huge business risks. When the crypto coin value goes up, investors take in huge gains but when it falls, the losses are devastating as well. The digital assets of businesses could become extremely devalued and leave the finance team with difficult liquidity and cash flow problems.

CFOs are still grappling with this particular feature of cryptocurrencies. Two approaches have been observed generally; the offensive or hands-on approach and the defensive or hands-off approach.

The offensive approach

Some CFOs and controllers are positioning their companies at the forefront of the crypto revolution. They hold crypto on their balance sheet and may reap significant benefits. But quite a few risks and technical issues arise with the adoption of cryptocurrency in operations and treasury functions.

They will have to create a cryptocurrency optimized account and finance system and may work with a third party to do so. This new system will address issues like tax and accounting, money laundering prevention, and crypto value loss.

The defensive approach

Other more reserved finance leaders are dipping carefully into the crypto economy. They accept and payout cryptocurrencies, converting crypto to fiat and vice versa. That way they keep cryptocurrencies off their books. 

The company still attracts new customers and doesn’t lose if a major business partner goes pro-Bitcoin. Companies adopting this hands-off approach typically rely on third-party vendors. They usually do not need to make big changes to their finance and accounting systems.

Conclusion

Finance organizations are not very popular for flexibility, however in a world that’s changing so fast, moving with the times is key. The right approach to adopting cryptocurrencies would depend on factors like business goals, costs and benefits. Of course, government policies are an important consideration as well.

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Meet the SVP Finance – Interview Series – Mike PolahaWebinar Thursday, July 7

This interview in the series will feature Michael Polaha, SVP Finance Solutions and Technology at BlackLine, and former SVP Finance Technology at Fortune 500 Johnson & Johnson, and member of the Controllers Council Advisory Board. Controllers Council Board Executive Director Neil Brown will moderate.