More than half a million Belgians own cryptocurrencies

Investing in cryptocurrencies remains primarily a matter for small investors, according to a report by the European Central Bank. The ECB warns of the impact of cryptocurrencies on financial stability.

A study by the ECB shows that almost 10 percent of Belgian households own cryptocurrencies. This means that around 500,000 Belgians have bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies in their portfolio. Moreover, that number is probably an underestimation because two or more people can own cryptocurrencies in a household.

Holland’s biggest crypto-fanatics

The ECB surveyed citizens of six eurozone countries – in addition to Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – about their cryptocurrencies. In the Netherlands, digital coins are the most common: around 14.5 percent of Dutch households own one or more cryptocurrencies. The French are much less enthusiastic about it: about 6 percent of households own cryptocurrencies, by far the lowest percentage of countries surveyed. With 10 percent, Belgians are in the European middle class.

The portion of their assets that citizens invest in cryptocurrencies is usually relatively limited. 37 percent of crypto investors say they have invested less than 1,000 euros in digital coins. 29 percent stick to an invested amount of less than 5,000 euros. Only 6 percent of respondents say they have assets of 30,000 euros or more in cryptocurrencies.

The ECB also examined the income of crypto investors. This shows that especially top incomes and people with a fairly low income are involved in cryptocurrency. Middle-income people are more likely to ignore cryptocurrencies.

Explosive growth

The size of the crypto universe has exploded in the last two years. By the end of 2021, the value of all cryptocurrencies, according to the ECB, together was around 2.5 trillion euros, seven times more than at the beginning of 2020. Nevertheless, that amount remains modest compared to the stock markets. The market value of Europe’s 600 largest listed companies is still ten times greater than the entire crypto market. The value of most digital coins has also declined markedly since the beginning of this year. Bitcoin is now trading at around $ 29,000, more than 50 percent below its peak in November.

Cryptocurrencies are not suitable for most retail investors. Neither as protection against currency depreciation nor as a means of payment.

European Central Bank

In a report on cryptocurrencies and risks

Nevertheless, the ECB is concerned about the growing presence of cryptocurrencies. The bank mainly fears the impact of cryptocurrencies on the stability of the global financial system. She points out that there are no ‘shock absorbers’ in cryptocurrencies that can provide extra liquidity in moments of financial and economic stress.

Financial stability

So far, the cross-connection between the crypto markets and the ‘traditional’ financial sector has been rather limited. The explosion of a stablecoin a few weeks ago had little impact on traditional financial markets. But the connection between the two worlds is growing, and this is where the ECB sees the biggest risks. We are approaching a point where unsecured cryptocurrencies pose a real risk to financial stability.

The bank is pushing for “regulation of the cryptoecosystem” and calls for limiting the financial sector’s exposure to cryptocurrencies. While the crypto market accounts for less than 1 percent of the global financial system, it can be compared in value to the subprime mortgage market. That was the root of the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, “reads the warning from Frankfurt.

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