Like all of us who follow the payments industry, I’ve been watching the evolution of digital currencies with great interest. The big question that everyone is asking: Will digital currencies stay on the fringe or will they go mainstream—and if so, how soon?
While digital currencies certainly have had their supporters and detractors, there is no denying that they are a market disruptor that could impact such core banking areas as payment processing, deposits and foreign exchange among others.
A look at consumer usage trends and digital currency infrastructure investments happening in the market today suggest that digital currency is clearly in play—and that usage is only going to grow.
Consumers are adopting digital currencies
Our recent 2014 North America Consumer Payments Survey offers some compelling insights about consumers’ use of digital currencies. Surveying 4,000 consumers in the United States and Canada about payment preferences, Accenture learned the following:
- Consumers are using digital currencies today. Eight percent use digital currencies today, and 18 percent expect to in 2020. This 10 percent increase in use is the largest projected rise for any payments instrument.
- Consumers are extremely interested in using digital currencies by 2020. Twenty-eight percent say they are extremely interested in using digital currencies in the future. Among Millennials (people age 18 to 34) that number is 35 percent.
Consumers point to a number of reasons for using digital currencies. Data indicate that the most common reason is the protection of personal identity and anonymous transactions followed by lower cost transactions and no government interference or third-party intermediaries.
Infrastructure investments are on the rise
While our survey data tells a compelling story about growing consumer interest and confidence in digital currencies, this interest is not isolated. The projected increase in usage is being reinforced by continued infrastructure investments of all kinds.
Consider that in early 2014, there was not one retailer with more than $1 billion in revenue that accepted Bitcoin. That number has grown to ten in less than a year. This is according to a fascinating interview with Coinbase co-founder Brian Armstrong.
A scan of the headlines shows a range of activities, from the launch of the first live cashless ATM machine in Australia to the introduction of the first regulated platform for Bitcoin derivatives.
Momentum will continue
These trends suggest that the market will continue to see momentum around digital currencies—and more so as consumers become more educated about them.
Not surprisingly, as we talk with our clients across industries, they are increasingly interested in finding ways to use and take advantage of digital currencies. We’ll continue to monitor the trends to determine the most relevant offerings and approaches.
It may still be too early to crown digital currencies as the next big thing in payments. However, we do know now that the payments landscape will never be the same.